SGU Episode 724

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You're listening to The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

Hello and welcome to The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe.

Today is Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019, and this is your host, Steven Novella.

Joining me this week are Bob Novella.

Hey, everybody.

Jay Novella.

Hey, guys.

Evan Bernstein.

Good evening, folks.

And we have a guest rogue this week, Rob Jacarusso.

Rob, welcome to The Skeptic's Guide.

Thanks, Steve.

Thank you.

So, Rob, yeah.

What are you doing here?

What's happening?

Why are you here?

I started listening to The Skeptic's Guide about 18 months ago.

I found it totally by accident.

I was listening to all my normal technology nerdy podcasts and ran out of them to listen

to, and it suggested The Skeptic's Guide.

I clicked on it.

Got to level with you.

I did not know anything about The Skeptic's Movement, even so much that it existed, until

I listened to you all.

Of what?

That's sort of my first entrance into this whole area.

You are your gateway drug.

You guys are totally my gateway drug.

I fell in love with it and have been listening ever since.

I'm not much of a science guy.

I was a liberal arts major.

My science credentials consist of listening to The Skeptic's Guide.

I have read every volume of The Magic School Bus twice, and I've taken most of an MCAT

practice question that I found online.

I didn't finish that one off.

But it's really interesting to me, and even just the type of – the process of thinking

is something that I fell in love with.

I found that it was pretty much the complete opposite of what you're taught to do in

law school, which is all motivated reasoning, which is kind of why it was such a nice break

for me to find this.

That's cool.

As you progress through your – you're finishing your education and you get started

with your career, I would love to hear from you in five years and see if it helped you

with your job.

You know what I mean?

Because to me, I look at it like it's like a toolbox that anything, any career can benefit

from, right?

Any endeavor can benefit from.

I've never specifically heard from a lawyer saying, yeah, I use it to do my job.

It's other types of people that I typically hear.

You're absolutely correct.

It's not something that is really taught in law school.

I took one class in law school where this would have – had I listened to you all before

I took that class, it would have been really helpful.

It was law and psychiatry.

It was taught by a professor who somehow weathered both law school and medical school.

It was a lot about the intersection of medicine and law.

The one thing that I took away from it is how truly different those two schools of thoughts



I think it's also – it's a cool thing that you mentioned like you came to us and

didn't have a scientific background but it was the actual critical thinking that attracted


Because I think with me, I was such a fan of science and science fiction, was learning

little bits and pieces of critical thinking without knowing I was learning about it.

But then when I finally found out about it, it was like, oh, yes, of course.

This is all like part of like the things that I enjoy.

But with you, you're like saying you didn't have a strong science background and you were

just kind of attracted to the logic, logical thinking, right?


I love learning about science.

It's all new to me, which is probably one of the reasons why it's so interesting.

But it really is that process of critical thinking that I think is at risk as society

moves forward and you have kids in school that are learning almost entirely off stuff

on the internet.

Media literacy isn't being taught I think as much as it should and you see a problem

in this generation with just a lack of problem solving, which I think at its core is a lack

of critical thinking skills.

And it just it's something that can help you not just in your professional life, but

also in your personal life, too.

You know, when you're dealing in interpersonal relationships, being aware, even though you

may not necessarily be able to stop them, but being aware of your own biases and that

being open to the fact that you need to question yourself and your perspective in all areas

of your life.


Mm hmm.

It's funny.

When I when I argue with my wife, you know, we get into a marital argument, it could be

about anything, but I'm a hyper emotional person, you know, and my logic pretty much

just switches off when I'm in an argument, you know, like that's why it's very difficult

for me to maintain my critical thinking when I'm heated, you know, especially if my blood

is up.

And that's what I work on.

I'm constantly like talking to myself, like, you know, think critically, be logical, don't

let your emotions rule you.

Even at my age, you know, it's still a very difficult thing.

But it's a cool thing to notice because I have like this other part of my brain that's

watching me at all times that's kind of telling me to cut it out.

I mean, it's just weird.


No, I'm the exact same way.

And it's not something that I even thought to notice before I started listening to The

Skeptics Guy.


And the book was awesome, too.

Anyone out there who hasn't bought that yet, do it.

I bought it.

I listened to it.

I took notes when I listened to it and bear to say that, but I did because it's just so


Oh, thanks.


We're quite proud of our book.

Yeah, we are.

Yeah, if you haven't purchased or read it yet or bought 10 for your friends, we recommend

that you do it.

It's intended to be, you know, a primer on scientific skepticism and a reference, a resource

for people who are already into scientific skepticism.

I think it works well in those two roles.

And, you know, being involved in that project was humbling for me because at one point we

were doing the book tour and Steve was asking us questions from the book.


So this is the book that we just spent a year and a half writing and creating and spent

20 years before that filling our heads with the information to write the book.

You can't retain all this information, you know, like I'm like, wow, I got to I need

to read the book that we wrote because it's so it's so, you know, information dense that

I can't retain all of it.

It's just it's you can't your brain is constantly losing information.

So I have to be humble and just remind myself, like, I'm not going to remember even everything

that we wrote about and researched because it just doesn't stick.

Yeah, but I specifically chose little details.

I know, but it still sucked.

I know.

It was almost embarrassing.

It was fun.

It was fun.

All right.

No, it was fully embarrassing.

There was nothing almost about it.

All right.

Rob, you're going to talk about a news item a little bit later in the lineup, but we're

going to I wanted to chat a bit about two people who died this week, where I guess one

was last week.

The first is Stanton Friedman.

You guys know who Stanton, Stanton Friedman is?

I knew he was.


He died at 84.

Good age.

He was one of the most famous UFO enthusiasts in the world.



I mean, he was what would not be kind of UFO nut, I guess.

He got a lot of play because he was a nuclear physicist who decided to leave the world of

physics and to join the world of UFO hunting.

And he firmly believed that not only were aliens visiting the earth, but that there

was a huge government coverup of those visitations.

And he was you know, he was just a terrible investigator.

He represented everything that's wrong with gullibly following your belief.


Talk about critical thinking skills.

But you know, he he had the credentials as a physicist.

It shows you that you can be a scientist and not have any critical skills.

You know, you can compartmentalize.

Gosh, he might have been he could have been the poster person for for that very thought.


Now, did he I think he wrote some books, too, right?

Oh, yeah.

Oh, wrote books.

Seven hundred lectures he gave worldwide.

He was on, you know, name the UFO TV show he wasn't on.

That's probably a much shorter list.

He was ubiquitous in the UFO movement, especially on television.

They loved him and lauded him.

He had run ins with Phil Klaas way back in the day.

So this, you know, his he's been he was around for many decades doing this and built himself

that reputation.

But still, he just like all of them, it's like when you ask for the evidence, show evidence,

show us what you got.

Sorry, Stanton, you and everyone else came up short.

I mean, you just did on every occasion.

I think part of it really boils down to their absolute desire to believe.

You know, UFOs are like I could just see this is an educated person.

This is someone that was willing and capable of putting the money down and getting a high

level of education and having to go through the rigors of all that.

And still, it's humbling to look at it and say even someone like like him, like, you

know, fell into that the snake's mouth, you know, and he couldn't couldn't get his way

out because he probably wanted to be there.

So here's a we'll leave this topic with a quote from him recently on a radio show where

he was being interviewed and he was asked about evidence, Evan, and his comment was,

I've never seen Australia, but it's there.

Oh, gosh, that is the argument from ignorance, folks.


It's also a false analogy, you know, because there's plenty of other evidence that Australia

is there.

You know, even if you've ever personally seen it, it would be an amazing thing if Australia

weren't there.

The flat earthers use this argument all the time.

I mean, this is, you know, a nuclear physicist resorting to that sort of commentary on this

subject is, is frankly stunning in itself.


Just a quick mention.

Do you guys know who Dr. Leonard Bailey is?

Dr. Leonard Bailey.

This is a super trivia question.

Rob, any idea?

Got nothing on that one, man.


He is the surgeon who put the baboon heart in the little girl.

Oh, no way.


He died at age 76 this week.

You guys remember that whole thing?

I do.

This was in the early 80s.

How long ago was that?

That was a while ago, wasn't it?


How did that end?

She died.

It didn't survive very long.

Was it predicated on a certain medical theory that any primate's sort of, you know, a primate

I guess of similar size would…

This was Stephanie Faye Beauclaire.

I'm sorry, it's 1984, yeah, I don't know if it was Baby Faye, you guys remember Baby


She had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and then she was the first heart xenotransplant,

received a heart from a baboon, but did not survive long.

She died within a month of the procedure, it says within a month of the procedure.

I don't recall that being attempted again afterwards.


Was it deemed such a cataclysmic failure that it was written off entirely, like there's

nothing to be had?


I mean, well, first of all, it was a failure.

You know, I think just scientifically, it's just hard to prevent rejection, you know,

and there was an uproar about it, you know, there's a big ethical controversy, a legitimate

ethical controversy about it, and just scientifically didn't pan out.

Like I said, I don't have much of a science background.

Why would he choose a baboon heart?

I know that they've used pig valves, I think, in people, but what was the reason to select

a baboon heart?

Well, see, valves are different because you could basically kill them.

The tissue doesn't have to be alive, and then that prevents rejection, but the heart muscle

has to be alive and therefore could cause rejection.

The reason for a baboon is because it was the right size, you know, it had the right

configuration for a transplant into a human, and, you know, it was genetically as close

as you can get, you know, in terms of it being another primate.

A chimpanzee would be closer, I guess, but still a baboon's pretty close, you know, much

closer to humans than pigs are, for example, but now what we're trying to do is we're trying

to genetically engineer pigs with human immune systems so that we could use basically pigs

with human hearts.

That's what we're trying to do, immunologically speaking.

And you wouldn't have to worry about rejection in that case.

Well, the rejection would be less, you know, wouldn't be nothing.

Even a human-human transplant can cause rejection, right, but at least you would get rid of the

xenotransplant part, it would still be within the same species, and then they could go further

and try to give it, try to minimize the expression of proteins that would stimulate rejection,

you know, like try to make it an immunologically neutral heart as much as possible, universal

donor type stuff.

So they could minimize rejection, but ideally, you know, they could use your own DNA, CRISPR

the pig, to basically grow a genetic heart that is yours, that has your immune system.

You know, if you could survive long enough, you know, for the pig to grow big enough,

you know, to transplant the heart, which a lot of people do.

A lot of people are on a waiting list for years, you know, for a heart transplant.

While that is happening, they could just grow one in the pig that will have zero rejection

because it'll be genetically theirs.

That's the holy grail for transplants, just grow them in animals that have been genetically

altered to be you, not just human, but you.

But until that happens, is it too much to ask for it to have a cool robot mechanical


What happened?

I mean, 20 years ago, I thought, man, we're getting close and now you don't even hear

about it.

Well, first of all, there are mechanical hearts, they exist.

There are machines that are like left ventricular assist devices, LVADs.

The problem with a purely mechanical heart is that it's too destructive to the blood

cells, right?

Because it dramatically shortens the lifespan of the blood cells themselves because it's

destructive, you know, the pumping, the mechanical pumping.

The heart sort of gently squeezes the blood cells, whereas a mechanical heart, it's more


So we basically need a soft robotic heart.

Yeah, it's one of those things, Bob, like you say, something seems close, but if there's

a hurdle we can't get over, that hurdle can last indefinitely until we figure out how

to solve it.

And you can't predict that sort of thing.

It's not inevitable, you know what I mean?


Well, every now and then, I still see news items talking about the new soft robotics.

So hopefully that is something that can be turned into a soft mechanical heart.

That would be great.

It does seem like one of those things, like it's probably one of the simplest, in a way,

organs in the body.

It's a pump, right?

It's a pump.

It's not like a liver that has to do biochemical reactions.

Isn't it the seat of knowledge?

Your body is like, your heart is making fine adjustments all the time to how hard it's

pumping and the speed that it's pumping.

Yeah, you know what, Jay?

When you do a heart transplant, you lose all that anyway, because you cut all the nerves

to the heart.

Yeah, but it's not functioning.



So what happens?

What if you get a heart transplant and you run?

What happens?

Yeah, your heart does not increase in rate.

And Jay, think about a pacemaker.

What do you think is happening when people use a pacemaker?

They're at one pace, dude.

You lose all of that, the heart speeding up or slowing down or pumping faster or stronger

whenever you have to use a pacemaker or transplant a heart or whatever.

Whoa, I never realized that.

Yeah, you don't have the nerves.

So your endurance and cardio ability is shot permanently.

Yeah, but they're keeping you alive.

That's the trade-off.

Well, that's nice.

That's nice.

It's the trade-off for being alive.

I didn't think that there was that much of a trade-off.

Yeah, so having a mechanical heart, in fact, if you could have a computer chip in it that

it may be more reactive than a transplanted biological heart.

The question is what would be feeding it the information?

How would it know when to speed up or slow down?

There's an app for that.

You dial it up on your app.

You dial it up on your app.

How fast your GPS signal is changing, like, wait, I'm in a car, I'm not running.

Well, it could be like when you breathe harder, it beats faster, who knows, or it just could

be measuring pressure, measuring pressure to your head, and that's basically what we


We have pressure sensors in our carotid arteries that feed back to the heart.

A little external wearable, you just turn up the dial or whatever.

Well, how does your body know how hard your heart should be pumping?

Is that like a crazy complicated system?

Yeah, there's multiple feedbacks.

As I said, there's one thing is, for example, you have pressure sensors in your carotid

arteries in your neck.

When the pressure goes up, your heart rate goes down.

When the pressure goes down, your heart rate goes up.

That's one feedback loop.

We could read these things.

We could someday have machinery that's reading those pressures and whatnot.

Yeah, sure.

Get on it.

That's a little unreasonable.

What's happening?

As Bob was saying, it's taking so long.

We're not there yet with the soft robotic technology.

We're getting there, but we're not there yet.

Until then, it's tricky.

There's significant downsides.

It's still better to get a human heart transplant than a mechanical heart.

All right, Rob.

We're going to have you work on that.


Wouldn't that be nice if we get to the point …

I'm taking notes.

I got it.

All right.


If you just replace your heart with a mechanical heart that worked perfectly well and could

pump for decades, that would be great.

Oh, gosh.

Buy yourself a lot more time.

We still need a way to interface tissue with non-biological.

We need some substrate that …

We need super smart material.

Hot glue, man.

Hot glue fixes everything, right?

What about spam?

Would that work?

Yeah, sure.

It would not work.

Basically, we need robotic parts that mimic muscles that are soft and contract similar

to muscles and can basically interface with tissue, as you say.

That's what we need.

Smart organs.

That's what they'll be called, I'm sure.

Trademark that, Ed.

Hurry up.

Got it.


Oh, wait.

Rob, you take care of that for us.

Trademark that.

I've got like three quarters of it done already, guys, by the end of the show.

Oh, good.


Side there.

I will have it.

New triplicate.

New triplicate items with an attempt to detect life on Mars.


Well, you could call it that.

I feel like I need George Rob here because we're talking about like how big the universe

is and George wrote a great song about that.

It's really far.

You guys know that song?


Like to hear it go.


But the fact is the universe is so … It's so fantastically big and there's so many

stars with planets revolving around them that alien life should exist.

I'd like to think it does exist, but we don't have any proof of that yet.

We might be able to get information from viewing other planets' atmospheres.

I don't think that it's going to be proof either way.

We might be able to say, yeah, that seems like there could be … It's a telltale sign

of life type of thing, but we're not going to like be looking at colors coming from planet

atmospheres and say, yes, there's definitely life there.

The only thing I thought of, Bob, I was thinking of when you were saying if we found … What

do you call when they encase the sun in the thing?

What do you call that?

Dyson sphere, Dyson swarm.

Yeah, Dyson sphere.


If we found a Dyson sphere, that would be pretty much it.

We would know for certain that there's alien life out there, but in the foreseeable future,

the only place we really can look is inside our own solar system because it's close.

Jupiter, like Jupiter's upper atmosphere or the oceans around some of Jupiter's moons

could be good places, but we also think that Mars is a good place to look for life.

We're lucky because Mars is damn close.

I mean, it's our closest neighbor for the most part, right?

There are times when other planets are closer, I believe, right, Steve?

Venus is closer, and you're not including the moon.

The moon is the closest celestial body.

That's no moon.

Unlikely to be like … Mars is the closest place to us that could

potentially harbor life.

Yeah, and it's close enough.

On the outside, I think the quickest we could get there is six months and the longest a

trip could be is over two years.

But six months is pretty good for another planet in our solar system.

What do we know about Mars?

Well, we know a lot about Mars.

That's the other good thing about Mars.

We've sent rovers there.

We've had a lot of instruments reading Mars and satellites going around Mars, but we haven't

built anything that's gone to the surface and actually collected soil and then studied

it for life, for microbial life.

We haven't built a machine to do that yet, but there is one in the works right now, and

this is really cool.

So the European and Russian space agencies are designing a probe that's going to essentially

look for microbial life on the surface.

So they're equipping the probe with a laboratory that's going to be able to pull the soil in

and do a few different experiments on it to detect microbial life.

And then it's also got a cool drill on it that's going to drill down up to two meters,

where we think in that two-meter spectrum of the Martian regolith, there could be microbial


If there is microbial life, it's likely to be within those first two meters anyway.

So they're going to drill down and get samples from different depths, and that'll be really

cool because this is going to answer the question.

This is going to give us like, did they find microbial life or not?

Now this probe is supposed to land in 2021, so it takes off in 2020 and will actually

be set to work in 2021 to start doing this mission.

And I think this is really cool.

I mean, we're sending the probe to a place where we know water once existed.

They've selected a place called the Oxia Planum.

Is it Planum or Plunum, Steve?




Is it P-L-E-N-U-M?

It's P-L-A.

P-L-A, but you know.



Sounds Latin to me.

Anyway, so they said that it's about 18 degrees north of the equator, which means that it's

in what you would consider to be a warmer area of Mars.

Very cool.

Now check this out.

There is something about the soil in Mars that is really interesting, and I did not

know this.

So there is a molecule that is partly made of oxygen, and it's called perchlorates.

So perchlorates are a molecule that are partly constructed of oxygen, and the problem with

it is that it's toxic to humans.

All of Mars is toxic to humans.

How about that?

I've never heard that before.

It's true.


That would be a major problem if we try to colonize Mars, that the soil is not really

... You couldn't plant shit in it.

It's not really-

Can't really, right.


You just get everywhere, and then we have this toxic perchlorate dust in everything.

Did they handle that in the book The Martian?

I don't think they mentioned it, no.


Well, that would have been interesting.

I mean, I don't know how we're going to neutralize the toxicity, or we're just going to shield

the people who travel there from it.

I know.

I have to process the soil and take it out.


But NASA is really good at turning bad stuff into good stuff, right?

So they're saying, well, okay, it's got oxygen in it, so we could use the soil to possibly

create fuel and oxygen.


Well, these are two important things, and I think that's fine.

It might be a blessing in disguise if you think about it, but still, it sucks, because

that's one of the things.

Another thing that I have to deal with is that the soil itself could... It's not like

killing you like it won't eat through your space suit.

I think it's more like you can't breathe any of it in.

Well, Jay, you didn't mention the other thing about the perchlorates is that, while they're

toxic to us, they're actually food for microbes.

Oh, yeah, you're right.

It fits the bill as a microbial food, that there's enough stuff in it.

There are bacteria on Earth that eat perchlorates.

And so having a soil that has a good energy source, a good food source for microbes in

it, that could increase the probability that there are microbes living deep in the soil

on Mars.

Well, I was thinking about that, Steven.

I think one thing to mention here is that, yeah, if it's the kind of life that we are

accustomed to, right, because we could potentially find something that could eat other things

that we would never think could be a fuel source.

I guess on the microbial level, there's only certain types of energy exchanges that we

can come up with that are viable, but still, we can't really predict what we're going to


I think some people are thinking it might be like microbial life that we have on the

planet, you know, on Earth, which we're accustomed to, like I said.

But again, I asked the question again, let's say we find life on Mars.

What does it mean?

What's going to happen?

I think there's two things here that we have to consider, like one, if it's similar to

life on Earth, then wow, like then it opens up all this whole avenue of questions like,

can we determine like how long ago it may have, you know, was the microbial life come

from Earth and go to Mars?

Did it come from Mars and go to Earth?

If it came from Mars, you know, what are the differences?

Like how much has things changed on Earth since then?

You know, what kind of DNA are we going to find?

You know, what kind of information are we going to be able to pull out of that?

And then the infinitely more profound way to go is that what if the the Martian microbial

life isn't similar to life on Earth?

What the hell?

That's like that would be a mind blowing thing like, you know, what if what if it doesn't

have DNA?

What if it doesn't do the things that we think we know life to do on Earth?

It functions in a different way.

What that you know, that would be even better in a sense.

I don't know.

I mean, which would you guys prefer?

The more profound would be is if it were independently evolved for two reasons.

One is because then we get to look at a completely different evolutionary course for life.

And then two is two data points, then you have two data points, which is a lot more

than one.

And the other thing is, it means that life is probably everywhere in the universe.

You know, if we're finding it in the first two places that we look, you know, basically

Earth and Mars, then that could potentially have life and life rose spontaneously in both

of those locations.

Again, that's another data point.

Right now, we just don't know how common life is because we have a single data point.

You can't do any statistics on that because we don't know what the N is, right?

We don't know.

We don't know one out of how many.

But if you get two, then we could say, ah, well, two in our solar system, that gives

us something to work with statistically.

And we could say it's pretty damn common at that point.

It's scary, too.

Like, there is something so crazy about that.

Like, if we found alien life, true alien biology, on a planet right next to us, what the hell?

I mean, that just blows everything right out the back of my head.

Like, I hope I'm alive to see something that profound come to pass.

And I wonder what would happen on Earth.

Like, what are people's reaction going to be to that?

We see the reaction when there is literally no evidence yet of life elsewhere.

So I can only imagine what it would be if we get even just the slightest bit of evidence

that there actually might be alien life.

Oh, right.

You know, yeah, the conspiracies are going to fly.

Oh, my God.

And then there's one more thing, and I will put it to each of you.

And I'll start with Rob.

If we find microbial life on Mars, morally, what's our obligation?


That's a tough one, man.

There is no right or wrong answer.

It's just you got to pick one.

Well, I would say nuking the planet would be a wrong answer.


You know, I was going to go with that until you said that.

So I'm going to say that I don't think we have any other choice other than to proceed

business as usual and just treat any other life that we find as the same – in the same

way that we do with life on Earth and microbial life on Earth and all that.

And as far as though contaminating the environment, you know, I don't know.


It's a trick question because you can make a good argument both ways.

I mean of course there's going to be people that are saying like we should not pollute

the other planet with our bacteria.

And I can understand the reasoning behind that.

But then there's the 180 on that is, well, if it's just microbial life and nothing

has come of it yet, you know, and there's this other planet that just happens to be

close to us, like do we really need to stay hands off?

I mean don't we deserve to explore that planet and potentially populate it?

I honestly don't know the correct answer to this question.

I mean I think the reach of – it comes down to the question of, you know, how far is or

should the reach of, you know, humankind go?

I mean we invade different environments within our own Earth all the time.

The humans, we overtake them and the oceans and all those other places.

So, you know, does the ability to maybe further the human race and does that stop at Earth's

atmosphere or does that extend out in other planets?


It's hard – I mean I think our choices are either we don't go – we completely

stay off Mars to avoid contamination or we do go to Mars but we make, you know, extreme

efforts to remain isolated, you know, in specific areas and avoid contamination.

I think we're going to contaminate it no matter what we do.

People living on Mars, you know, you have a base on Mars, we're putting boots on the

ground, like where are we going to literally be shipping poop off the planet?

I don't think so.

But you can have a closed system.

You can have an entirely closed system.

Steve, if they hit a blowjob in the Oval Office, I'd believe you, but –

Gerald, listen to the – here's like one recommendation, for example.

Imagine if you have a space suit is connected to the outside of your vehicle or your base

or whatever, right?

So the space suit, the inside connects to the inside and the outside is on the outside.

So then you crawl into the inside of the space suit and then it closes up and then you leave.

So the outside of the space suit never comes into contact with the inside of your base.

Does that make sense?

Yeah, that's – no, it does.

It's really cool.

Did you make that up or did you read that somewhere?

No, I read that.

I read it.

That's cool.

But that – dude, that sounds like a hundred years from now.

Oh yeah, we're all talking about a hundred years from now in my opinion.


We're not going to Mars anytime soon.

Let's face it.

It's not happening.

I truly hope not.

I don't want to be –

Moon first, baby.

I don't want to be – and look, it's good that NASA is making moves and other countries

are making moves to do that.

But I really don't want to live in a reality where 10 or 15 years from now, somebody sends

people to Mars and we're just listening to these people die.

I don't want that.

That's horrible.

That's a nightmare.

No, we should take our time.

We should take our time with Mars.

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All right, guys.

Let's get back to the show.

All right, we're going to circle back to the moon actually at the end of the new science

where we're going to take a detour first through a few medical items, starting with stem cell


This is a topic that we've talked about before.

I've written probably a couple of dozen articles over the last decade.

One of them, my first articles on neurological was about … on neurological was about stem

cell tourism to China.

It's still an issue and it reflects so much about science-based medicine and what is wrong

with the regulation of medicine these days.

So this was prompted by a review article, an investigative piece in the New York Times

focusing on a company called Regenexx.

They are selling … setting up clinics and selling treatment mainly for knee arthritis

where they inject stem cells taken from the patient, so their own stem cells harvested

from either the blood or bone marrow or fat, right?

Those are sort of the three sources.

So I think mainly what they're doing is bone marrow and then they're transplanting

that into like … they're injecting that into the knees of patients with degenerative

osteoarthritis of the knees with the idea that the stem cells are going to regenerate

the cartilage and help rebuild the tendon and rebuild the knee joint.

Insurance mostly doesn't cover it, although the company has convinced companies like big

companies that are self-insured to cover it.

So there is some coverage for this, but mostly people are spending five plus thousand dollars

out of pocket to get this procedure done.

And here's the problem.

The problem is this is not a proven therapy.

So let me quickly review the evidence for you.

The most recent systematic review published this year covers 17 studies, not a lot.

But here's the thing.

Eight of those studies involved bone marrow, six adipose tissue and … six were adipose

tissue-derived stromal cells and two were adipose tissue-derived stem cells and one

used umbilical cord blood.

So even though it's 17 studies, it's four different treatments in there, eight, six,

two and one.

It's not a lot of studies for each kind of stem cell that they were using.

And what they showed is that the evidence is preliminary, that maybe there's some

benefit here, but you basically can't tell with the existing research.

The clinical outcomes remains limited.

So we're in this preliminary phase where we're doing mostly like phase one, phase

two studies.

In this stage, even promising research usually doesn't pan out.

Most of the studies that are looking like, eh, maybe it's positive at this point probably

won't hold up when you get to rigorous clinical trials, right?

So it may work, there's nothing impossible about it, but we're not there yet, right?

We need another 5, 10, maybe 20 years of research before we're going to be able to know exactly

what we're doing here.

Dave Asprey So why are they allowed to offer this?

Dr. Steven Connelly Exactly.

That's a good question.

That question is also related directly to how the FDA regulates these types of products

right in the US.

So if you take cells out of a person and inject those cells back into that person, that is

not a quote unquote drug according to the FDA that falls under their purview for regulation.

That's just a procedure, right?

I mean, the FDA does not regulate procedures or the practice of medicine, they regulate


Dave Asprey Are they shirking their responsibility by

making that kind of determination?

Dr. Steven Connelly No, I think that's reasonable, but we got

to put this into context.

But if, however, you manipulate those cells to a certain degree, and this is where they

just make a judgment call, beyond a certain point of manipulation, it does become a drug

because now you're not just doing a procedure, you're creating a new product out of those

cells, right?

You're doing genetic manipulation or chemical manipulation or whatever, you're doing something

to turn it into something else.

So like, for example, when we do immunotherapy for cancer, which is working really well,

where you take the immune cells out of a patient, and then you alter them so that they will

be highly active against the patient's cancer cells and inject them back into them, that

has to be FDA regulated, right?

Because now it's more like chemotherapy than just a biological procedure.

Dave Asprey I see.

Dr. Steven Connelly All right, so you manipulate the cells.

It's a drug under FDA regulations.

If you don't, the FDA basically said, all right, we're going to give you guys a few

years to sort your stuff out, we're just going to keep an eye on you, but we're not going

to really regulate you for now, right?

We'll see where you're going with this.

So here's the thing, in order to get around FDA regulation, companies like Regenexx are

simply not manipulating the cells.

They're just injecting them with minimal to no manipulation back into the patient.

So while that means they can legally do it, it also means that those 17 studies that I

reviewed are worthless, because those were all manipulated cells.

Those studies involved purified cells where they knew what the dose was, they know how

many cells, and they know the quality of the cells.

They know exactly what they're injecting.

And now you can't go from those studies where you know exactly what and how much and what

quality that you're injecting into.

We don't know what we're injecting, we're just pulling, we're aspirating bone marrow

or whatever, we're taking the adipose tissue, but they're not in any way doing the kind

of manipulation that you really need to do in order to know what you're injecting.

So from injection to injection, they don't know.

They don't know what's in there, they don't know how much.

So the research that they're often citing to justify the procedures they're doing aren't

applicable because they're not doing those procedures, they're doing what they're allowed

to do by the FDA, which means they're not quality controlling the product itself.

Dave Asprey That sounds like fraud to me, Steve.

You can't go referring to studies in promotion of your product when the studies have nothing

to do with what your product is actually doing.

Steve Asprey Yeah, but it sounds like it has something

to do with it unless you know what you're talking about.

Dave Asprey I get that.

It's the jargon that they're using.

I get that.

But here's the thing.

So they say, well, they're doing their own research.

They're researching their treatments.

So far, they've only published a single study, which is not rigorous and basically it's uninterpretable.

The quality is methodological quality is too low to really interpret the results.

So they have one uninterpretable study published.

They have a bunch of other studies registered with, but those studies

have either been abandoned.

They've basically stopped doing them or they're not going to be published for years, for two

or three years or more.

So they don't really have evidence.

They have one crappy study, which doesn't show anything.

They have literature, which is preliminary even in the best interpretation.

It's preliminary, but it doesn't even apply to what they're doing because of the way that

they're doing it in order to get around the FDA regulations.

Dave Playing a shell game.

Steve Asprey Yeah, essentially.

So they're exploiting this unavoidable phase of scientific medical research.

This has been going on already for 20 years, right?

And we basically need another 20 years or more, right, Bob?

Like with what we were just talking about with the mechanical heart or whatever.

You can't really predict how long it's going to take to get over hurdles.

So with stem cells, we need to know things like, what are these cells doing?

Are they going to cause cancer?

What are the type of stem cells that we need?

How do we get them to survive and to thrive enough to do what we need them to do, et cetera?

There's a lot of – this is tough.

This is a technically very complex thing that we're trying to do here.

And they're doing an oversimplified version of it.

They're trying to capitalize, in my opinion, on the hype of stem cell therapies by doing

essentially stem cell therapy light or a less charitable way to look at it would be like

fake stem cell therapy.

It looks like stem cell therapy.

Dave Yeah, pseudo-stem, right, pseudo.

Steve Asprey Yeah, it's like pseudo-stem cell therapy.

But they're at this phase where they could point to research, which superficially sounds

like it's promising.

And of course, they have their anecdotes.

And they could say that we're researching it.

We have a scientifically derived protocol, whatever, all that crap, right?

And people have heard it.

We've been hearing about stem cells for 20 years.

It seems about right that there should be clinics that are giving stem cell therapy.

But it just – it always takes a lot longer to do these things than the public attention.

I suspect we're really 20 years away from these kinds of therapies being science-based.

And if you talk to the experts in the field, that's what they're saying.

They're like, yeah, this is all good.

It's all promising.

We're not there yet.

We need to do more research.

We're only in the preliminary stages.

Really, we should only be doing this in the context of clinical trials, not charging people

for it with claims that it works because we can't make those claims.

But we don't have a regulatory infrastructure really capable of protecting patients from

this kind of sophisticated scam, in my opinion.

Patients are just completely vulnerable to it.

And think about the effect this has on the cost of healthcare, right?

Let's say like the odds are the treatments as they're giving them don't work, right?

That's my opinion.

The treatments as they're being given, not purified, not quality controlled, et cetera,

probably don't work, in my opinion.

If that's true, think about all the money that's being wasted on the treatments themselves

and the increased cost of delaying more effective treatment.

And in some cases, the treatments could actually be harmful.

We wrote another author on science-based medicine wrote just last week.

This is a good article by a guest author, David Weinberg, who wrote about stem cell

therapy for eye problems.

And he's reporting on cases of the stem cell injections causing blindness, causing people

with minor visual symptoms to go blind, again, because they don't know what the hell they're


It's just a witch's brew of whatever, you know, but it's not – because if you quality

control it, then you fall under FDA regulations.

So the regulations actually make it so that you could only give poor quality injections.

Isn't that ironic?

You have to do it bad in order to get around the regulations because if you purify it,

suddenly it's a biological product regulated by the FDA.

Then you have to prove efficacy and safety.

But if you don't manipulate it, you don't have to prove safety and efficacy.

It's like – it's ass backwards, right?

Steve, like, why is there so much seemingly bureaucratic bullshit stopping agencies from

shutting this down immediately?

Like, why can't they –

Jay, why aren't we taking steps to mitigate global warming?

You know, why are we –

No political will.

Why can people still opt out of vaccines?

I mean, yeah, the political will isn't there.

Whenever you try to do something commonsensical like this, somebody cries, freedom, I want

to be able to do what I want to do without pesky regulations or whatever.

And because if there's millions or billions of dollars to be made doing something, people

are going to be highly motivated to lobby for the right to do it, to evade regulations

and to find ways to skirt those regulations.

And then once they start to make their millions, billions of dollars, they have political – that

translates into political power which they use to further shield themselves from regulations.

And once – you know, I think medicine has become too sophisticated for the average politician

to have any freaking idea what's going on.

Oh, yeah, definitely.


So they don't have the political will or the knowledge to properly regulate these types

of things.

And then the public is left completely vulnerable.

And it's also an issue with America being a free market nation.

I mean the free market, plain and simple, does not reward safety.

They reward results.

They reward innovation.

They reward all these things but they don't reward safety.

I mean if you look back at everything from the meatpacking industry and the jungle to

the airline industry, the only thing that actually made stuff safer was clear-cut regulation

and we're seeing that now in the technology world too.

The market does not reward safety and security of our information.

It rewards innovation and new features and the only thing that's going to make it safer

is regulation.

I think that applies here as well and it's a corollary to the regulation or lack thereof

in the supplement industry as well.

They skirt the laws and it's all about the money.


I mean the supplement industry is a great example of why the free market does not work

in every case.

The free market is powerful in some ways and we should exploit that power.

But you have to look at, as you say, what is being rewarded by the system.

And if the benefits are too remote or too abstract or too diffuse, if society is benefiting,

the market doesn't reward that.

As you say, they reward the short-term perceivable individual benefits.

And so that is great for some things, not so great for other things.

And historically, it's a slam dunk.

You can see historically, the market forces, as you say, they never fix the big things

like safety or the environment or whatever.

They encourage things like externalizing costs, for example, pushing costs off onto other

people or more diffuse entities.

So the whole pharmaceutical industry was snake oil until there was regulations.

It was basically the snake oil industry until we had good regulations and then it became

an evidence-based, science-based pharmaceutical industry.

And now, we're getting back to the snake oil industry with supplements because it became


You can't argue with that.

That's the fact.

And I would argue that there isn't a single product marketed under the dietary supplement

regulation in this country that's actually of benefit to the health of Americans.

It's just a multi-billion dollar scam on the public.

That's where the free market of supplements has led to.

It's so shitty.

It seems like something like the right team of people could determine what the right path

should be for these specific things, like this whole thing that you're talking about.

They should be like, okay, we've talked about this.

We've researched it.

We know exactly what's going on and we need to shut this down now.

Then they move on to the next thing.

The states are supposed to do that, right?

So individual states regulate the standard of care and that's exactly what they're supposed

to do, have panels of experts determine what the standard of care is and if practices are

falling below the standard of care, they actually can investigate and then act against your


They could tell you don't do that or they could suspend your license or they could just

restrict your practice.

They could say you're no longer allowed to do this.

They have the right to do that.

They just don't have the political will to do it anywhere near where they should be.

So it's not getting done.

Now, some states are passing healthcare freedom laws that are designed to shield practitioners

from being held to the standard of care, essentially erasing the standard of care.

So they don't even legally have the ability to regulate it anymore.

That's the trend that we're heading towards, a total free market of healthcare, of medical

practice where this is what happens, someone is going to set up a clinic and make millions,

billions of dollars selling something that's not quite ready for prime time yet and statistically

is going to cause more harm than good and that's what we're going to get.

Again, that's the snake oil industry.

That's what an unregulated free market of healthcare is.

It's a complete snake oil industry and if you think that patients can perceive the quality

of the healthcare that they receive, then you don't understand how medicine works.

When we do surveys of patient satisfaction, you know what drives patient satisfaction?

Whether or not they got their parking ticket stamped.

Seriously, it's all the superficial stuff about the experience.

It's not about the quality of the healthcare that they received at all.

Healthcare is statistical.

You know what I mean?

It's statistical.

What happens when you try to use free market forces to regulate the quality of medical

care, for example, we're going to rate surgeons on their outcomes.

That's a no-brainer, right?

If you're a better surgeon, you have better outcomes and therefore, you should rank higher.

The free market forces should support higher quality but in reality, what happens is you

take the easier cases and you decline to operate on the patients that are high risk because

they're going to make your numbers look bad.

The practice of medicine adapts to whatever system you put in place to provide that kind

of feedback that if it's simplistic like that, if it's outside the context of expert review,

it takes experts to evaluate experts and you can't just do it by the numbers or by simple

market forces.

It doesn't work.

It's like that Goodhart's law.

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.


If you point to say – and say that I think one of the studies they did was hospital waiting

room times.

They said we need to cut down our waiting room times.

Well, the staff did it.

They cut down waiting room times but they did it by leaving people in ambulances until

they know that they could see them within four hours.

So if the market says we value X metric, the people are going to find a way to achieve

that metric.

You just might not like how they do it.


Schools being rated on tests so they allow students who are not going to do well not

to take the test or to drop out or whatever, they find ways of getting rid of the students

that are dragging their numbers down.

That's why Google's full-time job is keeping people from gaming Google in terms of ranking

websites, right?

They have to constantly be one step ahead.

Whenever anyone tries to do something to game the algorithm, they change the algorithm.

You have to do that.

Otherwise, people will just game it.

So Steve, can we talk more about validating those parking tickets though because that's

really all I care about?

One more medical-ish item, Rob, you're going to tell us about mandatory measles vaccinations.


So, OK, so the measles.

Getting it sucks.

Fortunately, it's 2019 and we've developed a great way to avoid this disease and that

is the vaccine.

Vaccines are effective, cheap, safe, easier to administer and they are being refused by

a number of parents across the country.

One reason for the precipitous drop in vaccinations over the last few years is in part thanks

to a 1998 article published in The Lancet by Dr. Wakefield.

Here, he inferred a causal relationship between autism and the MMR vaccine.

I obviously don't have to tell everyone out there that this theory is wholly unsupported

and falls somewhere between utter garbage and total crap.

The anti-vax charge continues as parents place their children and others at risk by refusing

to have their kids vaccinated.

So they're concerned about everything from fear of their kid picking up autism from the

vaccines to even death, while others claim sort of a more fluid or broader exemption

based in religious or philosophical beliefs.

So this all came to a head within the last couple months up in New York, which is a hotspot

where measles has made a comeback in the US.

The New York City Department of Health was quick to intervene and issued emergency orders

that mandated vaccines.

Parents who failed to comply with this mandate faced fines in excess of $1,000.

In response to the city's actions, a group of parents sued and seeking to enjoin the

mandates of this order.

The NPR article that talked about this did not go into depth about what the parents actually

argued in their complaint.

So I went to the New York State Court's website and I pulled the actual complaint

filed by the parents.

It was strongly worded.

The parents argued everything from the fact that the emergency order was both arbitrary

and capricious and the measures it necessitates such as issuing summons or closing schools

were drastic.

They said that there was insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak

to justify the city's actions.

I don't really know what more evidence you need other than the fact that everyone around

you has the measles, but apparently they consider that insufficient evidence.

They went on to accuse the city of failing to take the least restrictive measures in

response to the outbreak, which they're denying exists in the first place.

The judge did not buy it, which is good.

He refused the parents' request to lift the vaccination order that was imposed by

the city in response to the measles outbreak.

So this got me curious about just how far a state or city could go in mandating vaccines.

Most state laws fall short of simply just forcing vaccines across the board.

They often say things of you must be vaccinated in order to attend school, et cetera.

In other words, they're not saying you have to be vaccinated, period.

They're saying if you want to do X, then you must first be vaccinated.

Setting aside the New York case, which deals with a lot of provisions of New York Public

Health Code that are not necessarily applicable in all instances, I just wanted to kind of

briefly go over some of the challenges the parents make to vaccine laws and how the courts

have historically responded to them and where they might go.

So the first question on everyone's mind, I'm sure, is whether or not you can just

outright be forced to vaccinate your kids.

The short answer is yes.

I found this to be somewhat of a surprise because, as you know, the U.S. tends to take

a particular exception to governmental interference with decisions involving medical care and

matters related to bodily integrity.

We in fact, generally speaking, have a due process right to be free from governmental

input in these decisions, which are often highly personal.

Further, our nation really values our religious freedom and it was also surprised to find

that religious exemptions to vaccines are not a total bar to the state mandating that

you be vaccinated, irrespective of what your religion might say about them.

Just quickly, how we got here and where we might be going.

This is important because, you know, I've said this before, we can have all the medical

evidence in the world, but the fate and the scope of the compulsory vaccine laws are going

to fall squarely in the lap of the judiciary.

Courts don't always rule in accordance with what the science is.

And so this is something that we need to be aware of as these things come down the pipe.

Now, Rob, very quickly, in the New York case, that's largely in an Orthodox Jewish community,



You have religious beliefs against vaccination.

So that's where the religious freedom issue comes up.

But they were making what sounds like largely just a libertarian argument of the government

hasn't proven that it has a compelling interest in forcing this upon us.

But of course, you could set the threshold for that anywhere you like, right?

You know, so you see, how much evidence do we need of a measles outbreak?

How bad does it have to be before you can call it, you know, a crisis that requires

an intervention?

I like what the judge said about it.

He said, you know, if your house is on fire, the fire department doesn't have to get your

permission to put it out.

They can just roll up there and start putting the fire out without having to knock on the

door and check with you.

You know, the part of the reason for that is, you know, first, it's an emergency.

There isn't time to get informed consent.

There's implied consent.

But second, is that, you know, your house can set your neighbor's house on fire.

Yeah, just a little.



And so that's, I think, a good analogy to an epidemic where, yeah, you could pass this

on to other people.

It's not just about you.

It's not all about your rights.

We have a duty to the community.

And that's exactly where the government comes in, right?

That's their job is to look after the community.


I mean, Steve, you hit it right on the head with that, because the New York case and this

particular emergency order issued by the health department was in the context of an outbreak.

The question becomes all the more interesting, though, when there is no outbreak.

Does the state's interest still rise to that level of a compelling interest?

And that's something that in a little bit, once I start talking about the due process

arguments, that standard is a very squishy standard.

And it's applied to a lot of different things.

And it's really hard to come up with.

And the two Supreme Court cases that have addressed this, the first one was in 1905.

And that was in the context of a smallpox outbreak.

And the courts allowed the state to mandate vaccines for adults.

The second case was in 1922.

And that was the question there was whether or not a city can impose a compulsory vaccine

law for all children, even when there is no immediate threat of an epidemic like there

was in the 1905 case.

And the court there also said, yes, there was no problem with that.

The thing was, though, since 1922, the court has been silent on matters related to compulsory

vaccine laws.

And that could be a good sign.

That could be a bad sign.

In one way, it's an implicit statement by the court that we've already addressed this

and it's a done deal.

And this was also reinforced more recently when a decision came out of the federal Second

Circuit, where the judge decided against arguments being made on due process and religious grounds

about compulsory vaccine laws.

The Supreme Court refused to take that matter up on review, which essentially means that

the lower court statement stands.

So the religion part of it is pretty much settled, a frequent objection that parents

try to make to compulsory vaccine laws is that they intrude on the parent's right

to practice their religion, a free exercise claim.

But the court in a series of cases has said about this, that the states do not have to

provide a religious exemption.

The only thing, though, is if they do provide a religious exemption, they have to do it

equally across all religions.

That's really it.

There's not too many other places that someone could go with that, that could argue in favor

of getting rid of mandatory vaccine laws on religious grounds.

But as we move forward, we as a nation are expanding our liberty interests of the individual.

And I think that's a great thing.

Look at the 2015 case of Obergefell, which gave the right to marry irrespective of the

gender of the parties.

Other cases such as Lawrence v. Texas that came before that.

There's a lot of things where the court is recognizing that the government needs to

kind of stay out of our business.

But that can also be a bad thing, because when it comes to vaccine laws, there are implications

beyond just the individual.

The constitutional basis of the liberty right that I'm talking about here flows from the

liberty component of the 14th Amendment's due process clause.

In the Constitution, there's actually two due process clauses, there's the Fifth Amendment

and the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Fifth Amendment applies against the federal government, the Fourteenth Amendment applies

against the state's government.

With compulsory vaccine laws, we're going to be focusing on just the Fourteenth Amendment's

due process clause.

The reason is that I do not see a path by which Congress could pass some sweeping law

mandating vaccines on a federal level.

I just don't think that they have the power to do that.

I think that that is strictly within the area of the states.

Very quickly, due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment reads that, nor shall any state

deprive any person of life, liberty, property, or theft of process of law.

When people think of due process, they typically think of procedural rights.

They think of notice and hearing.

The government, in order to deprive you of things, has to take certain steps.

But there's also another legal doctrine that comes from this and it's called substantive

due process.

Substantive due process doesn't ask whether the government took the proper steps, but

whether the government's – the governmental deprivation of life, liberty, or property

was backed by sufficient justification.

What this means is that the government must have a reason if it wishes to deprive you

of life, liberty, or property, full stop.

The courts only look to ask whether or not the government's reason was good enough

based on the right at stake.

So here again, we're focusing on the word liberty and from this comes a lot of these

different rights, who we marry, who we live with when it comes to blood relatives, whether

or not we use contraceptives, and how we control the upbringing of our children.

That is kind of where we fall into this question with vaccine laws because people are going

to argue that controlling the upbringing of our children includes whether or not we get

them vaccinated and the government has to stay out of that unless they can pass that

strict scrutiny test.

They have to have a compelling state interest and then do so through narrowly tailored means.

No right is absolute.

As fundamental as the right is to control the upbringing of our children, that right

is not absolute.

The government can interfere with it, but they must have a good enough reason.

So Steve, you talked earlier about the compelling governmental interest and that's – I think

that the government does have a compelling interest in protecting children from communicable

diseases which could seriously kill or injure them.

The government also has a compelling interest in protecting others from the spread of those

diseases such as infants or those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

So while that has not been decided by the Supreme Court, I think that a series of lower

court decisions and the sum of the law up until now will clearly show that there is

definitely a compelling interest, then the only question is the narrowly tailored means.

Is forcing vaccines upon everyone the most least restrictive way of achieving that interest

of protecting people from communicable diseases?

In the New York case, their argument was that they could have used other things such as

quarantine, closing off certain areas, stuff that may have restricted people's physical

movement but wasn't forcing them to have something injected into their body that they

did not want there and that's one thing that really hasn't been answered on the

federal level yet or at least certainly nothing that's made it to the Supreme Court is whether

or not forcing vaccines is the least restrictive way of achieving that herd immunity or protecting

people from communicable diseases.

It's kind of an open question.

I think that the argument is good but with the current makeup of the court, you really

never know.

So we don't really know where it's going to go.

But the point is that right now, the state courts and the lower courts are upholding

these vaccine laws.

It's just something that we need to keep an eye out for in the future about where it's

going to go if it does make it up to the Supreme Court.

Oh, God.

Could you imagine if it did go to the Supreme Court, I'm not sure what they would do.

I don't either.

You know, like I said, with the shifting ideology of the court with the different makeup

and people either retiring and being replaced, you just don't know and the thing with that

standard, that compelling interest, there's no definition of a compelling interest.

There's no hard and fast definition of it.

It's just such a squishy standard and it really can go either way.

So it's something that is – and I unfortunately don't know what the answer is.

But it's something that we definitely need to watch out for.

Yeah, I definitely have to keep an eye on it.

But I think the issue of vaccines though, like yeah, it kind of is the only way to create

community or herd immunity, right, almost by definition.

I mean is it enough?

Are we going to have these people living in a bubble?

It's not practical.


So the argument is going to be then is herd immunity necessary or is it that we just need

to stop that person from spreading diseases because they're going to look at what is

the infringement on the right of the individual and how does that compare to the government's


So that individual is sick or if an individual doesn't want to get vaccinated and if they

do get sick, what do we do with them?

It's kind of like you're dealing with preventing something as opposed to acting on something

that's already there.

So it's like how far can the government go to be proactive as opposed to reactive.

All right, interesting.

Meanwhile, I mean there's good news on the vaccine front.

For example, California is in the process of passing a stricter vaccine requirement


We will see if it goes all the way through.

I do think that as these epidemics occur – as we predicted really a dozen years ago, epidemics

are going to come back and then people will get the political will to start doing something

about it.


Once the cow is out of the barn basically, right?



So the horse is out of the barn, but that's okay.

The horse, the donkey.


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All right, guys, let's get back to the show.

All right, Evan, give us a quick update on US plans to go back to the moon.

Yeah, quick update.

I do have an update on this.

I'm not sure I was even supposed to really know about this though because apparently

this is leaked information.

You got to wonder sometimes if these leaks occur accidentally.

They're almost always deliberate.

I would think so.

I would think so, but in any case, yes, we're heading back to the moon folks and you may

have heard vice president Pence talking about it recently about the mandate to get back

to the moon by the year 2024.

So that's not really what this news item is about.

What the news items about goes out a little bit further than that.

Talking about a permanent lunar base on the moon in 2028.

There are apparently plans for this, but it was apparently premature to know about it,

but too late.

We know about it now.

And NASA is calling their project, Project Artemis, which makes total sense.

You know, you had the Apollo mission or the Apollo program.

Now you have the Artemis program in a sense, whereas Artemis was Apollo's sister in Greek


So I very much like this.

And this is a scoop from the website Ars Technica, A-R-S Technica.

They're the ones who scooped this.

So yeah, heading back to the moon and putting a base on there.

It's an ambitious project, moving towards the permanent presence, signaling a new era

in exploration of not just the moon, certainly, but the rest of the solar system, which we've

talked about many times on the show.

It hasn't been, obviously this plan has not been made officially public because there's

a lot of missing parts to this.

There's not been talk of what this plan is ultimately going to cost.

And there's also some issues as far as which companies are NASA going to either partner

with or hire in order to actually get this done.

No matter how you slice it, 2028 is a very ambitious timeline, no matter who's going

to be doing this kind of work.


It's, dare I say, pie in the sky.

But you know, I guess you got to start somewhere with some kind of plan.

The plan is about almost a 10-year plan.

It entails 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, as well as a mix of robotic and human

landers, culminating with a lunar surface asset deployment in 2028, which according

to this flow chart that they released, explaining all of this, they are going to be powering

that station on the moon with, guess what kind of power?

Guess what kind?





Well, yes, nuclear.


With nuclear power.

Certainly self-contained fission reactors.


Wouldn't that be nice?



So hey, if it's good for the moon, I say it's good for us too, but that's another story.

Part of this is also, part of this project, they're dubbing the Lunar Gateway, and that's

going to be a space station orbiting the moon.

It'll serve as a stopgap for the astronauts heading down to the surface, but it also,

who knows, could be the launch point into other parts of the solar system as well, since

you're already out there.

So that's a very exciting thing to think about.

Oh, yeah.

I mean, this is... The idea behind this whole thing is not only just to put people on the

moon and have a real moon base, which we already have the name for, of course, but that space

station-like, or I'm sorry, that orbiting platform is going to be so helpful in ferrying

people to other planets.


It depends.

Here's my problem with the whole thing.

Oh, here we go.

Here it is.

Dr. Downer.

Dr. Downer.


Well, we talked previously about the Trump administration announcing they're moving up

plans to 2024, but they didn't give extra money.

They just told NASA, yeah, just do it faster, but they didn't really... And NASA was like,

what the hell?

Like, how?

Like, do you want us to... It's already an ambitious, as you say, an ambitious timeline.

You want us to move it up?


Give us $9 billion.

You know, we could do what you want, but they didn't do that, right?


There was no extra money.

And of course, the cynics are like, ah, he's just saying move up the timeline so it happens

in the last year of my second term, right?

Just wants it to happen under his presidency, but how about letting the experts dictate

the timeline based on what's safe and feasible and give them the money to do it?

That's what I want to hear, not some just bold plan without specifics and without funding.

That doesn't really help, you know?

Could it be that they're waiting for NASA to tell them, tell the administration what

they estimate the amount is going to be?

I don't think so.

I don't think that's the problem.

And we'll see what happens in terms of future budgets.

They're going to have to... Either they're going to have to take this money from other

projects or you're going to need more money to do this.

Well, that's unlikely it's going to come from any other NASA projects because the unofficial

projected costs for this program, you'd have to increase NASA's existing budget, which

is $20 billion annually, by an extra $6 to $8 billion annually.


It's not like NASA can just shift these resources.

That's impossible.

It really does have to come from somewhere else.


That's what I always thought that that statement from the president was, wasn't it?

No, the president doesn't have the power of the purse strings, it has to come from Congress.

That's right.

The president has no money to give NASA, Congress has to give it to them.


And so there's going to have to be a channel of negotiation happening at some point in

regards to that and where this money's going to come from.

Unfortunately, the climate is such that they're not really getting along all that well, Congress

and the executive branch these days.

In that regard, Steve, yes, I share your pessimism in that politically speaking, I'm not sure

that we have an immediate solution here.

Something that may work a little in our favor though, to give us a little bit of oomph for

a little impetus behind it, is that China's moving ahead.

Obviously, they've got their rover on the moon right now and they are supposedly aggressively

seeking further exploration of the moon in the coming decade.

Let's face it, the space race from the 60s is what ultimately put us on the moon by 1969.

If we had another little competition, little motivation there in regards to China, trying

to get there before China does, well, that could serve as part of the political will

at least to get this done.

I agree.

That's what it would take, another space race.

Yeah, I think so.

But the other problem here is the actual technology itself.

This takes a lot of different components.

A lot of things are just not ready yet, not ready for prime time.

It's going to take a lot more research.

Companies like Boeing and other who have been working on certain space-related projects,

they've been underwhelming in how they've been reporting, not exactly under schedule

and under budget.

It's been quite the opposite.

It's been over budget and taking longer than expected.

Based on that track record, it doesn't look good that we're going to actually be able

to meet this aggressive goal.

I think having a plan that NASA does actually have something in mind here at some level

gives me a little bit of encouragement and gives us some food for thought about what

a program like that would actually take to accomplish and how long it would take us to

actually get back there on a permanent basis.

Yeah, that's the key.

Just going there, we did that already.

We did that 50 years ago.

The key is permanent presence in orbit around the moon and on the surface of the moon.

That's a different beast altogether.

Moon base alpha, baby.

I know.

Our lifetime, Bob, it could happen.

It really could happen.

Lava tubes.

Lava tubes.



That's the key.

Don't get me started.

It started.

Seriously, that's what we got.


Calm down.

Oh my God.

Let's see what happens.

So much better down there for so many reasons.

All right.

Jay, it's Who's That Noisy time.

All right, guys.

Prepare yourselves.

Last week, I played this noisy.

It's scary.

It's kind of moody, isn't it?

It's a ghost.

It's clearly ghost noise.

All right.


Nobody guessed it right.

A demon?


Nobody guessed it right.

A spaceship lady?

Rob, what do you got, man?

I was going to go with ghost also, but I got nothing.

Yeah, Rob.


Well, Andy Thompson wrote in and said, hey, Jay, longtime listener from New Zealand and

I love the show.

I've never managed to guess a Who's That Noisy, but I thought it was time I entered.

This sound is a recreation of New Zealand's extinct giant bird, the moa.




Andy, that's your real name.


So a museum recreated the sound of an extinct bird.

That is cool.

Very, very cool.

A giant bird.

The moa, Steve.

I think you could ride that.

I think if you were to have a bar, if you barbecued a moa, you could feed an entire

block of people.

That would be good.

I wonder if it tasted like chicken.

I'd eat it.

Come on.

So we could eat it.

So another person wrote in and apparently I did not get a name.


No name.

No name.




Ken Swiggett.

Ken Swiggett.

Ken said, hi, this week's noisy sounds like the reentry of a solid rocket booster.


That is not correct, sir.

But I do understand what he was getting at.

He said the noise we hear is the air rushing by it creating different tones depending on

the orientation of the booster's body as it falls back towards Earth.

The tones change because the booster is rotating through the air.

That's a really fun, cool guess, but it is incorrect.

And I'll give you one more since there was no winner.

I'll read one more incorrect guess.

This is Ellie O'Dare.

Ellie, were you teased?

Did people say, I dare you?

Dare you, Ellie.


And you're sick of hearing that.

I just did it again.

Ellie says, hey, y'all never guessed before, but this week's Who's That Noisy reminds me

of the sound of Charlotte Motor Speedway during a NASCAR event heard from UNC Charlotte on

a day with a temperature inversion.

The inversion can bounce the sound of the cars down miles away from the track.

And the change in tone is the Doppler shift of the pack of cars going around in circles.

Love the show.

I've heard this noise, not from this specific place, but I have heard that NASCAR sound

from a distance.


And it's similar.

And that's why I read Ellie's last because she did hit on the fact that this was a car


But that's no car because that actually is a fake noise.

It's a fake car noise.

This is the car noise that they're going to make for electric cars to let people know

that there is a car near them.

Oh, artificial noise.


This is the Hyundai Kona electric car.

I don't like it.

You could read about it, but it's really not supposed to be like a pleasing noise.

It's supposed to be a noise that will capture your attention so you know that there's a

car near you because I've heard electric cars go by and the only freaking noise they make

is when the tires.

Tires on the gravel or on the pavement.




You said it.

If there's a little loose rock here and there, you're here a little bit.

So listen to it again now.

Again, this is a noise that the car makes.

I guess apparently the tone will change depending on the speed that the car is going as well.

I would imagine that this sound could get very odd with a lot of cars making it.

Well, here's what's going to happen, Jay.

People are creative animals.

They are going to come up and program their own noises for their car and you're going

to be able to put in whatever the hell you want your electric car to make.

Like if I want the Samford and Son theme to be playing, I'm driving my car down the road.

This is the noise, guys.




I'm buying that car just for that noise.




That is funny as hell.



I mean, that is so much more pleasing and also like, yeah, there's a car and it does

give you a Doppler effect, right?

So you get a sense of cars.

That's cool.

I love that.

I have another noisy, guys, a brand new noisy.

This noisy was sent in by Jerry Jurnage, Kelleth.

I won't say anything else.

I'll just play you the noisy.

And here it is.

What is that?

All right.

So if you think you know what this week's noisy is, or if you heard something cool in

your garage, maybe your basement at work on TV, people talking and weird noises and clicks

and whistles.

Do anything.

Send me something today.

Send me just, Jay, how you doing, at WTN at the skeptics

All right.

Thanks, Jay.

All right.

We have an interesting email.

This comes from Dave Hampson from Pullman, Washington, and Dave writes, the past few

episodes you have skirted about the subject of Jevons Paradox.

For example, when discussing more efficient LED lights, we use the efficiency savings

to light up more areas.

More generally, this is an example of the rebound effect, and that name may be more

appropriate in this case, only becoming a paradox when the increase in lighting costs

more than it did previously.

This concept is about 150 years old and could make a great discussion on its own.

I read an article a long time ago that throughout history, economies have always spent about

1.7% of their GDP on lighting, whether it's oil, acetylene, or electricity.

Yeah, it's very interesting.

I've done a lot of reading about it, so it does go back quite a way.

It goes back to an economist, William Stanley Jevons, 1865.

He observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal led

to an increased consumption of coal because it became cheaper.

That was the original observation, but it has become more of a general concept in economics,

but it's a bit controversial.

Let me explain the critical elements here.

The basic concept, which I think could be more appropriately called the rebound effect,

whenever you increase the efficiency of any resource, it doesn't have to be lighting or

energy, then it becomes cheaper, and then that, of course, decreases cost, decreases

use of resources, et cetera, but then because of the decreased cost, people are going to

use it more, and that takes away some of the improvement in the efficiency, right?

There's a little bit of a rebound, but it's not the same for everything, for every industry,

for every technology.

It depends on a couple of variables.

One is what's called the elasticity of demand.

What is the demand elasticity?

In other words, if demand is very subject to change, then a lowering of price will increase

demand significantly, but for some technologies, demand may be relatively inelastic, meaning

that people's use of it isn't really driven by the cost.

It's driven more by need or by something else, and so people aren't going to just start doing

more of it, maybe there are inherent limits on utilization, or the use of it is not really

terribly voluntary, for example.

That has a dramatic effect on the magnitude of the rebound effect.

The debate, the controversy among economists is not whether or not this rebound effect

exists, but how, what is the magnitude of it, and how widespread is it across different

industries and technologies?

Is this a minor effect affecting a minority of things, or is this a dominant effect that

we always have to take into consideration whenever we take any steps to, at conservation

aimed at improving efficiency?

But there's another aspect of it that I found very interesting, and that is considering

short-term versus long-term effects.

When you improve the efficiency of, let's say, something like automobiles, you make

cars twice as, give them twice the mileage, so now it basically costs half as much to

get from point A to point B, driving a vehicle, burning gasoline.

The immediate rebound effect might be that people are going to drive a little bit more.

Maybe you won't think twice about taking that long trip because the price of gas isn't

going to be as much in the less efficient vehicle.

But there's a late rebound effect whereby the greater efficiency of vehicle traffic,

of motor vehicles, increases many aspects of the economy.

Now, trucking is cheaper, so the cost of all stuff that gets trucked is now cheaper.

The efficiency, in terms of cost saving, gets spread throughout the economy, and that increases

economic growth.

Economic growth overall is the most important driver of use of resources.

The broader observation is it's not just that there's this immediate rebound effect, that

if you look at the overall civilization, overall society, the economy, that improvements in

efficiency over historical time eventually lead to increases in productivity and growth,

et cetera, of the economy, which ends up using even more resources than the way things were


Does that make sense?

A little bit.

If you look at, for example, energy usage in the world, it's of course going up, right?

It's going up more than just in proportion to the population, but that is primarily being

driven by countries which are currently industrializing.

It's not necessarily universal.

So I looked up, for example, just energy usage.

How is that changing over time?

Between 1990 and 2008, so that's an 18-year period there, 1990 to 2008.

That's basically before the internet revolution and then after the internet revolution.

What do you think was the change in per capita energy usage for Americans?

I would imagine it goes up.

Yeah, you might think that.

It decreased by 2%, negative 2%.

Because of efficiency?

Yeah, so think about it.

So yes, we're all using electronic devices, but has there ever been a time where you watch

something on your phone instead of on a TV?


Yeah, so that is a massive increase in efficiency.

So even though we're utilizing more electronic devices, those electronic devices are much

more efficient.

LED displays, as opposed to those old cathode ray tube CRT screens that we were all using

in 1990, right?

I remember those.

Yeah, now we're using all LED and we're using smaller devices.

We're using more devices, and we're probably consuming more media, but the net effect has

still been this small reduction.

In Europe, it was just a plus 1%, so if you consider North America and Europe together,

it's basically a wash.

So there really hasn't been a dramatic increase.

But if you look at China, 111% increase, the Middle East, 79% increase, India, 42% increase.

The developing nations are shifting to this much higher energy usage economy.

And so I'm sure they're getting much more efficient at doing what they're doing, but

as their economy grows, they're using more energy.

So it depends.

It depends on where you are in the technology curve, right?

There's no one answer for everything.

What all of this means, and there's some really great analysis, a lot of people like to write

very thoughtful articles about the Jevons paradox because it brings up so many issues.

And there was one article that I thought was very interesting, and they basically are making

the point that if you have a complex adaptive system, you can't really predict what the

effect is going to be of introducing a new technology that has greater efficiency.

Because whatever analysis you do is going to be immediately obsolete, because almost

by definition, the introduction of the new technology is going to evolve this complex

adaptive system into a new state, and you can't always predict what that state is going

to be.

All right, guys, it is time for science or fiction.

Each week I come up with three science news items or facts, two real and one fake, and

I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fake.

We have just three regular news items this week.

Are you guys ready to hear them?

Yeah, let's do it.

All right, here we go.

Item number one, scientists have created the highest temperature superconductor on record

at minus 23 degrees Celsius, 50 degrees warmer than the previous record.

Item number two, astronomers have discovered a new regular period comet, which they believe

has extrasolar origins.

And item number three, astronomers now believe that Pluto has a liquid water ocean under

its icy crust and have an explanation for how that is possible.

Okay, Rob, as our guest, you get to go first.

See, how am I supposed to steal everyone else's answers if you make me go first?

That was my whole plan.

That was your strategy, huh?

That was my strategy.

That's what they taught us in law school.

I'm going to say that scientists have created the highest temperature superconductor on

record at negative 23 degrees Celsius is the fiction and only because I'm going to try

to break into your strategy here and say that the discrepancy is in the numbers and not

the concept itself.

So that's the one I'm going to go with.

I'm going to say that the superconductor one is the fiction.

Okay, Jay.

So okay, so the one about the superconductor, you're saying here that the new temperature

is minus 23 degrees Celsius, which is 50 degrees warmer than the previous record.

I mean, if that's science, that's pretty significant.

I don't know.

I really can't dig any deeper on that.

I haven't read about superconducting in quite a while.

I mean, I'm not even sure if Steve's numbers are correct, meaning if the old number was

minus 73.

I hope that one's true, though.

Okay, the second one here about astronomers that discovered a new regular period comet.

That's really cool.

I doubt it's going to be, you know, it's not like we're all of a sudden going to have a

new comet that we could see with the naked eye or anything.

I would imagine it's something that you need equipment to see.

But that's cool.

I didn't hear about it, which is not surprising because Steve is good at finding things that

we haven't yet found, but they think it has extrasolar origins.

All right.

That's not that big of a oh, my God news item.

I mean, it's cool, but I can totally buy it.

And the last one here.

Astronomers now believe that Pluto has a liquid water ocean under its icy crust.

What doesn't have an ocean under its icy crust?

I can believe that one, too.

That one doesn't seem that big of a deal to me.

I mean, the fact that there's liquid water out there and Pluto is so small troubles me

because what's making it liquid at that point, because how much solar energy is Pluto actually


Well, there is something about the first one that bothers me, so I will go with Rob and

say that there's something wrong with the superconductor one.

Okay, Evan.

Oh, the problem with the superconductor one is that I think if this were true, Bob would

have been blabbing about it.

He would have found it.

He's all over this kind of stuff.

I mean, I can't wait to hear what his thoughts are on this.

I'm tempted to go with Jay and Rob on this one.

Although the only other one that I think would have a chance of being the fiction would be

the regular-period comet, extrasolar origins, interesting.

I've heard of extrasolar asteroids but not comets before, so this would be totally new

and I definitely didn't hear anything about it.

But I'll put my nickel down along with Jay, along with Rob.

Well done, Rob.

I'll say it's the superconductor one that is the fiction.

And Bob.

The temperature superconductor.

Yeah, I mean, 50 degrees is a nice bump, it's a good-sized increase, and it's getting good


I mean, minus 23 would be wonderful.

I suspect that it's probably a high-pressure material.

It's under a high pressure, so it's not like you can just have it on your desk right now

unless you're compressing the crap out of it.

So that's what my suspicion would be.

But to me, that's not this like, holy crap type of scenario.

I mean, it's getting good, but it's still not that close to room-temperature superconducting


So let's go to the other one here.

The other two, god, I'm not nearly as confident on these other two.

Let's see, a regular-period comet, extrasolar, I mean, how do they know it's extrasolar?

Probably because it's trajectory, but I mean, how long have they been observing it?

To know that, oh, this couldn't have come from the Oort cloud, it had to come from beyond

the sun.

I guess it wouldn't take too much of an orbit to determine that.

I mean, look what they determined that the, what was that goofy thing, that thing that

they thought was a spaceship, but it was definitely not from this.

A moomoom.


They thought that was a comet, and they fairly quickly determined that it could not have

come from within our solar system.

Let's see the third one here.

Pluto has liquid water.

Ah, so frustrating, because I did read something about, some title, some article I saw.

I didn't read the whole thing, but I have two memories of reading.

One was saying that it might have it, and another one was saying, yeah, that was basically

it, that Pluto could have it, but they weren't nearly as confident as Steve is saying here.

So how do you, how do you define a regular period comet, Steve?

So in other words, it's in orbit around the sun.


It's not passing through.

Yeah, based on that, I'm going to say that the comet is fiction.

I think that they wouldn't know quite yet whether, especially if it's coming closer

to the inner solar system, then you don't know what the other, you know, the impact

the other planets would have on its orbit.

What the hell, I'll say that one's fiction.

Go ahead.

So you guys all agree on number three, so we'll start there.

Astronomers now believe that Pluto has a liquid water ocean under its icy crust and have an

explanation for how that is possible.

You all think that is science, and that one is science.

Good job so far.

So yeah.

Well, yeah, that must have been the horizons data.

Yeah, it was obviously a result of New Horizons.

And Jay, the meeting addressed what Jay said, he said, oh, this, the sun, yeah, the sun

could have an impact.

But for me, it, one of the things that would allow for liquid water underneath would be,

you know, nuclear reactions like, like nuclear decay, which is still happening on the Earth,

although I wouldn't suspect there'd be much of that at all at Pluto.

But so yeah, I'm not sure exactly how that would stay liquid.

So it's not tidal forces.

There's nothing really nearby.


I don't know.

That's right.

So it's not tidal forces.

It is really far away from the sun.

It's cold out there.

It's a small world.

Why hasn't it frozen solid?

How could there be liquid water underneath the ice?

So there's two pieces of information here.

One is that it does have a liquid ocean on a part of it.

And two that, what, how that could be, what are the physics involved here?

So the New Horizons, this is recent, but not the new bit, you know, examining the geological

structure of, you know, the ice on Pluto, like the heart formation, you guys are aware

of that part of it?


Oh, yeah.



It does not have the features that we would expect if it were solid ice.

It has features that are more compatible with there being a subsurface ocean, at least on

that part.

So that created a dilemma.

It's like, okay, that looks like there should be water under there, but you know, that it

shouldn't be because it's this, this far out.

It's chilly.


It's too cold for too long.

It should have frozen solid.

So now the new bit, the new paper proposes an explanation for how it could be.

But the paper specifically says that heating from radioactive decay of its elements would

not prevent the freezing.

That would not have been enough, according to this paper.



Well, according to this paper.

Too cold even for that.


They specifically addressed that.

It's not enough, so there's nothing, there's really nothing else.

What they said was...

That's weird chemistry then.


If there is a gas trapped under the ice, that gas could provide enough insulation to keep

that water liquid even for billions of years.



So they said the type of gas would be a clathrate hydrate gas.

Oh, of course.

Clathrate means it's like a, it's a cage formation, like you have an atom in the middle surrounded

by hydrogen or something and a cage-like structure around it.

A clathrate hydrate gas cage layer would have the thermal properties necessary.

Now why this is important, in addition to just explaining what we're seeing on Pluto,

is this could, this dramatically increases the number of places in the universe that

could have liquid water, because it means any world that has this sort of gas layer,

this trapped gas, could keep liquid water for billions of years, even this far out from

a sun.

All right.

Let's go back to number two.

So we'll take this in reverse order.

Astronomers have discovered a new regular period comet, which they believe has extrasolar


Bob, you think this one is the fiction.

Everyone else thinks this one is science, and this one is the fiction.

Yeah, baby.


I almost thought so.

Yeah, that would be pretty big news, especially the regular period bit, as I think Bob keyed

in on that.

It's not just passing through like the other one, like the Oumuamua.

It was captured by our sun and in a direct orbit.

That would be interesting, especially if it were a comet.

What the real news item is, is that astronomers have found three extrasolar comets around

a nearby star, Beta Victoris, which is 63 light years away.

They found this through the exocomets through the eclipsing method.

They pass them in front of the sun.




A comet.

They can detect that.

How could they be big enough?

How could they be?


I guess the dust cloud that trails the comet, is it blocks enough of the light?

Oh, I suppose so.


And it's only 63 light years away, so it's relatively close.

Relatively close.

I think it's thousands of light years away.

But interesting.

I've got to check that article out.

All right.

But three.

They found three of them.

Three exocomets.

Three exocomets.

I almost made that a regular news item, but it turned out to be better as a fiction.

Apparently so.


Let's go back to number one.

Scientists have created the highest temperature superconductor on record at minus 23 degrees

Celsius, 50 degrees warmer than the previous record.

Everyone but Bob thought this one was the fiction.

This one, of course, is science.

And Bob, yes, you hit upon it.

This is a superconductor only at extremely high pressures.


It's kind of common these days.

50 gigapascals.


That's a lot.

But yeah.

Up to negative 23 degrees Celsius.

This is the material is a lanthanum hydride and by nothing but pure coincidence is also

a clathrate, the same kind of structure as we're talking about the gas on Pluto.

Twice in one science or fiction.

I know.

Who knew?

What's that called again?

It's a name for that where you encounter a word for the first time and then you encounter

it again right away.

Right on the heels.


Is there a word for that?

Is that where once you notice something you – or once you – yeah.

The Bader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Of course, yes.

The Bader-Meinhof phenomenon.

I was going to say that.


I'm going to show you learn a new word or you see something for the first time or whatever.

It's obviously not really true that you're – I mean obviously there could be a clustering

effect but it's most likely just a perceptual effect.

You have been hearing this word your whole life.

You just didn't register it because you didn't know it and now that you know it, you're noticing


You see what you know.

You perceive what you know.


The Bader-Meinhof effect.


They're making strides in superconductivity.

Obviously we need to get – it would be great if we can get above zero Celsius and also

be good if we can get down to one atmosphere rather than the 170 gigapascals.

But this is like kind of a proof of concept thing where they're just trying to figure

out what physical properties a substance has that gives it superconductivity and hopefully

this gives us a pathway to something applicable, something practical.

But we're not there yet.

How long will it take, Bob?

We have no idea.


We first read – we talked about this.

We first read about these superconductive materials in 1980s and if we asked our 1980s

selves like, 1980s Bob, 1980s Steve, what do you think?

In 30 years, are we going to have products that are going to be room temperature superconductors?

Oh, yeah.

It would have been a no-brainer.

30 years?


A no-brainer.


Like lava lamps.


It certainly seemed like it, right?

I mean …

That was the hype.

So frustrating.

Like 20 years ago, are we going to have stem cell therapies in 20 years?

Like 20 years, sure.

You know?

But nope.

No, we're not there yet.

It takes longer.

Telling you lights.

It takes longer than you think.

All right.

Evan, give us a quote.

All the real true knowledge we have of nature is entirely experimental in so much that how

strange so ever the assertion seems, we may lay this down as the first fundamental unerring

rule in physics, that it is not within the compass of human understanding to assign a

purely speculative reason for any one phenomenon in nature.

And that was written by Peter Brown from his treatise In the Procedure, Extent, and Limits

of Human Understanding, written in 1728, 1729.

Way back when.

Way ahead of his time.

Oh, my gosh.

Way ahead of his time.

Oh, people existed back then?

And they used whale oil to light their lights at night.

And there isn't, you know, I'd never heard of this book before, or the author, in fact.

But it says here, this work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important

and as part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

I mean, how did that get by?

I know.

The gatekeepers.

I mean, you know.

How many, Peter Brown, that sounds like a forgotten superhero, right, Bob?


Should look him up.

I'd love to do a little more work into Peter Brown, B-R-O-W-N-E.

Take a look at the discussions of that book online.

It's really amazing that we don't talk about it more often.

It's the first time we've mentioned it on this show.

Yeah, that's right.

All right, that was a good find.

Thanks, Evan.

Yep, thanks.

All right, well, Rob, thanks for joining us, and thanks for your support of the SGU.

We really appreciate it.

Thanks so much for having me, guys.

Thank you.

You got it, man.

Thanks, Rob.

It's a lot of fun.


And thanks, everyone else.

Thank you.

And until next week, this is your Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

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