SGU Episode 824

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SGU Episode 824
April 24th 2021
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 823                      SGU 825

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

Quote of the Week



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Show Notes
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Voiceover: You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Wednesday, April 21st, 2021, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening folks!

COVID-19 Update ()[edit]

Jay, you just got your second dose of vaccine today and you're like barely holding on. Yeah, I mean, I don't feel sick. No flu-like symptoms. Of that nonsense yet, right? Because Cara saying that wait till tomorrow sucker no, just wait 12 hours. Yeah. But my God I mean it's remarkable how your body reacts it like very quickly. And my energy level went from perfectly normal to, you know, like, way way, way worst and how I feel when I wanted normally go to bed. Like I felt like I'm collapsing, like I fell asleep like without me realizing I was falling asleep like a couple of times today. You know, I'm just sitting there and all of a sudden I'm like, Oh my God, I fell asleep. So, that's bad. So me holding on right now. Doing this for the show is that is sheer, love for this program, but yeah, I mean, I got to tell you guys, you know, it's the damn closest thing to a real Miracle is in my arm. You know, like that. The science is so amazing. And we have to really just respect. The people who worked on it and what it's doing for us. Yeah, I know, I mean, a lot of the news recently, of course, has been about these Rio, the rare side effects that were still wrangling with in terms of. So,

Effect is and the risk versus benefit cetera. The bottom line is, these are extremely rare and these vaccines are incredibly safe and effective. The, the monitoring system is incredibly effective, the moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Now we have what over a hundred thousand vaccines doses, collectively and four months of data. And usually, if vaccine side effects are going to emerge, they'll almost always happen by about six weeks. Sorry. So we said a hundred Thousand doses. A hundred million human. A hundred trillion. Was it a hundred? Yeah, I'm sorry. A hundred over a hundred million doses, you know, and with a, with a reasonable amount of time that if there was anything that was going to happen, it should have cropped up by now. So yeah, this is like this is our way out of this pandemic. This is the only way really out of this pandemic. Anytime soon, we will be letting it just run. Its course is insanity. We had we're approaching 600,000 dead.

The us alone. I gosh. Yeah, it's bad, you know, and hundred we still haven't completely emerged. You know, from the semi, you know, somebody shut down from this number alone, should send people running to get their vaccinations if they haven't already and then you add to that like, you know, somebody like myself. Some how many of us now on the show are fully vaccinated? May I am I get my second on Friday. So by the time listeners are listening to this, I will have my second. Okay? So in two weeks will be technically We fully everybody on the show in two weeks from the time we record this. And here's the thing. Like things are slightly more normal when you're fully vaccinated, you still have to be vigilant. You still have to follow guidance but I can hang out with my friends for vaccinated. Right? I guess you stuff. I went out and had dinner on a patio, the other day and it was felt kind of like the before times and he can't get back to that unless we get vaccinated for times. That's so science fiction. Ate my wife and I

Went to a restaurant together. We felt that we could do that because we're both fully wired. Yeah it's a thing. I got a massage you guys. She was wearing a mask and a visor and she was vaccinated to but still still did. It was amazing and she didn't even really need to wear that she didn't with all you know there is also to some extent of fair amount of hygiene theater. That's still going on but I prefer, you know, that it turns into little bit at this point. Exactly, yes. Yeah, I know that we're starting to get to the point in the u.s. because we you know the vaccine rollout has been very successful, three million doses per day about now and we're now we're getting pretty close to the point where the limiting factor is becoming vaccine hesitancy you know and it's going to get harder and harder rates which you know the people who are let's take in the let's wait and see attitude or starting to come around and getting the vaccine but it's going to get harder and harder here. The holdouts.

Be more and more intransigent. So we'll see, you know, we Which were it's an open question right now, whether vaccine hesitancy is going to prevent us from getting to fully effective, herd immunity it's quite possible. We may stall it, you know, and said to add a little number, that's just a little bit too low to give us really effective enough. You know, herd immunity to shut down the pandemic, which is just a tragedy, be tragic. Yeah, it'd be absolutely tragic Sosa get this. I did some coverage. I've been working on this new show on PBS here in the local LAN. Market called SoCal update. And one of the hits that we did last week was with the science reporter and he was talking about how lafd the Los Angeles Fire Department. They've been looking to Behavioral Science to try and figure out how to get the firefighters vaccinated. For example, in nearby counties like San Bernardino County and other counties vaccination rates among firefighters are like 40 percent. That's crazy. That's yeah, everybody. Now, lay there like 70, 80 percent and what are they doing? Different in AA, if you don't want to get vaccinated, that's fine.

It's your choice but you still have to go to the vaccine site, verbalize that and get a note. And apparently just going there is enough for people to go am here anyway or standing in front of their colleagues. While their colleagues are getting the jobs in the arm and being like, no I'm going to refuse the vaccine, there's like a social pressure to. So they're finding that simply requiring the firefighters to take the steps to go there to verbally, reject the vaccine and get the paper. They're getting vaccinated anyway. It's brilliant. Yeah. It's like we have to use like emotional blackmail or subject. Yeah, sure, whatever. Yeah. You know, tricking your kids to eat their vegetables and come on. It works absolutely Works. Yes, it is. And employers, I mean, I don't know, I don't know, the legality of different, you know, different types of jobs but we may have to be using. Let's put it this way, we're going to frame it in the positive. Steve we're going to use social science. Hmm, sure is going to use social science to our advantage. Did you know the president announce that there's going to be a tax credit available?

Now, for businesses that pay their employees to take time off to get covid shots. So this that's part of the effort as well to ramp up, you know, getting businesses involved in getting their employees, to get out there and get that vaccination. I think that's a very good idea. I always thought they were going to tie some kind of tax credit into the vaccination efforts and and it turns out. Yes, they've started doing that and I think that's a good idea and that's the thing. Once we have, you know, we can use it as a currency. I've been vaccinated therefore I have this right or this privilege. I do think that that's going to make more people want to do it. I've been to every percentage point, we push it higher, the better, the more effective, it's going to be right in the aggregate.

News Items[edit]

Space Update ()[edit]

All right, let's move on to some news items. J. Give us a space update. As a couple things that happened that we want to talk about. Go base or spice outer space as we know NASA.

Has been preparing to go back to the moon. This is my childhood Holy Grail, my God. I can't tell you how exciting it is to actually see that amount of money and energy being bent towards something that I wanted to happen 30 years ago. But this is the amazing thing about what's happening with the moon missions is that first both men and women will be going to the moon and men and women will be building a moon base and living on the moon. That's the goal of the, the Artemis Mission. However, the sad part is that it's not going to happen in 2024, it's very likely to happen in the And half of the 2020s, you know. So 25 to 29, are we kind of knew that? Yeah. I think 2028 was the was one of the targets. Yeah. I believed I was going to happen in 2024. You can't just move up the deadline for writers. Sure. But it's just being open and honest, you know, nobody's nobody's even pretending. They're 2024 is even on the calendar at this point. So, right now, the plan is to land astronauts near the rim of a high peak crater in the moon's, South Pole. And it when I first read that, I'm like, why are they going to go near?

Later they can fall in any way to better resale value 1. Holy they'll throw their garbage down there. You know there's an appeal. So this this is actually going to allow astronauts to have continuous sunlight because they're in the South Pole, that's the way. The, if you, if you look at it, the way it works is always sunlight down there and this will that that sunlight. Why? Because they needed to power the station, right? Sunlight is an incredibly awesome thing to have because it can generate electricity. So now inside the crater We're that sunlight can't actually get to because of the angle of the sun, right? You think of it? At the South Pole and with the angle of the sun, no matter which way the Moon Turns, the sun can't really shine all the way straight down into that crater because the sun is never directly overhead in the South Pole. So the crater is cold. And the good thing about that is that we know that there is frozen. There's ice there now, there's your water supply and there's water. Now the ultimate goal is that they're going to take that ice and make a moon sauna. Now, how cool is that? Hello, and my name is not going to be inside of yet, that might happen in like 30 years.

Or whatever they could. Other things not quite as useful Like Oxygen and fuel. Sure, sure. But uh, sauna though, on the moon, would be awesome. All right, so we'll put that off that. That'll be 20 60 or 68. Alright, so the good news is that NASA finally selected a company to build their lunar lander. Right. So we actually have it like agreed SpaceX was chosen and there's lots of reasons why. I know there's some haters out there, but let's just talk about the quality of the technology and not the weirdo that runs the company. They pick SpaceX for a few very important reasons, one, because SpaceX can do it for the least amount of money and it wasn't a little bit. It was extremely different amount of money. Much much, much less money than all the other companies and this is, because they've been developing reusable components. So they're reusable Leti. It's not just, how much will it cost to get us there? It's how much will it cost to get us there and use it and use it, and do it again, and do it again and do it again, right? So that really is, where SpaceX is, you know, catalog of

Material and components that they've built is going to come into play. We also have to acknowledge that SpaceX has nearly mastered the use of retro Rockets legit. You know, the retrorockets now exists and SpaceX is the company that knows how to do it best and you know NASA had to pick who can do this the best. They know how to land vertically. And that's what we're going to need to do in order to pull this thing off for the price that we want. Space X also has a functioning crew capsule that has already been Been rated and approved by NASA. You know we've been used. Yeah we've tested at think it's done. 29 trips to the ISS. I mean, this thing is used, we know we know how it's going to perform and that technology exists today. SpaceX is Starship spacecraft, which is in its final, round of testing will be used to Ferry astronauts from the lunar orbit, right? Because remember, there's going to be a lunar platform that's going to that's going to be continuously in orbit around the moon. And they want to Ferry people from the platform down to the Moon surface and then backs, 10-day trips day trips bring, you know,

Of tons of material from the Earth, to the surface of the Moon and then do it again. Rinse and repeat. And that, you know, we don't know exactly how much that they're going to modify the Starship. But these are the, it is going to be modified. It's a modified version of Starship, We don't know. We don't know how much exactly they call it lunar optimize Steve and we actually didn't really use that phrase in a video. We once made, I think we did. So we don't know what the modifications are yet, but it's best that you know they're saying that's going to be a Case of the fens and all that, they're going to have to deal with the dust that's going to come up off the surface. So there that's what they're thinking about. I'm also thinking, like, you know, can that thing land or do they have to put big legs on it? I don't know. It's just be interesting because, you know, you sink into the moon surface when you land on it. There is a lot to do. You were worried about that, I know with Apollo but it actually it's a fine and powdery but it holds up just fine. So this November NASA will send an uncrewed mission to the moon and back to test out the whole system.

This November like they're gonna go and they're going to. That's awesome sister. Yep, well that's the SLS and the Orion. Yeah but still they're tight, they're sending stuff there. They're starting to do testing you know we are on track. It's happening and we are in the decade that it's going to happen. So you know, just get a lot of popcorn and get ready for some amazing shows Jay, did you think it was a little bit of Overkill though to use a modified Starship as a lunar lander? No looking no. Because if it's carrying capacity, dude, that's Why they want to use it? The thing is can carry so much stuff. That means you go less. You do you make this whole maneuver less. You don't have any Keys been each other primary I know but the primary goal is to get people down to the lunar surface but I but I love to talk to somebody at Nasa and we may do that or somebody at SpaceX and if there's anybody listening who would get us an interview with somebody at SpaceX please email us but what I'm I I have a couple of questions. One is I know that you know the SpaceX proposal was the cheapest.

Maybe that is the single and only reason why they picked it, but they are also developing this whole system to go to Mars. And I wonder if they picked a lunar lander, that is easily adaptable as a martian Lander. And if that is part of these, honestly, that's what I'm getting. It's where I'm getting at, but I don't know, you know, these think it's, yeah, that seems like it's makes sense. And I definitely, we will be talking to someone at Nasa soon about this but the whole A thing about the moon mission is really just to get us to Mars. It's a Went to Mars. So, yes, there's a ton of stuff that is specifically about the moon, but it this, they're saying it right now, out in the open, that this is a stepping stone to getting us to Mars. Yeah, it's all in. That's why I'm taking they mentioned prominently when they're talking about this at Mars is next. I wonder if they were looking ahead to Mars when they do. Yeah. You might be might be right? Who knows you knows? We may, we definitely have to ask the next NASA person we talked to, but right now we're talking about Mars. So let me talk about Mars so we have, you know, we have perseverance on Mars. The technology is is fantastic. We're converting the Martian atmosphere into oxygen, but the real cool news is that NASA's Ingenuity helicopter. Finally was tested and in case you don't know what it is, the Ingenuity helicopter, it looks like a helicopter that has to be, you know, two sets of blades. It's about 19 inches tall or point four. Nine meters, the rotors, the rotor system span. And these are the actual blades they span about four feet or 1.2 meters, it weighs about 4 pounds or 1.8 kilograms.

It's solar powered, and it can recharge on its own. It has a wireless communication system in the there's counter-rotating blades. It's equipped with computers and navigation sensors to cameras color and a black and white one. The thing is tricked out now it's successfully. Lifted off the Martian surface, it flew around and it landed again. It reached it reached a Max height of 10 feet. This is 3 meters, it successfully hovered very still and it took a turn and then they landed it back. Mind. Appreciate this. It's profound. We're dealing with this is a different planet with a completely different atmosphere in. The atmosphere is extraordinarily thin, and they were able to do this. They were able to figure out all of this and make it happen on a different planet. The gravity is different. Everything is different. So, this is the first aircraft to fly in another planet's atmosphere. It's a huge milestone and it just alone that that alone is enough to just, you know, look at the people that, you know, the thousands of People that it takes to pull these things off and just thank them for doing something so beautifully. Awesome soon. And this is my closing remark NASA, will conduct more experimental flights with, with the copter. They're going to increase the distance that it's going to go in the altitude and probably do some more fancy flying just to see how far they can push it. You know? And at some point not too long from now they're done with it and perseverance is going to drive away in that unit copter won't be used again. I hope that they just try to fly crazy at the very end but all right, let's crash it. Let's see how far we can push.

This bad boy, right? Just for fun, you know, because it's dead at that point. So there you go, guys to amazing things. All of which have you know all these things are happening right now. You can appreciate them right now. Yeah, I think it's going to be an amazing decade. Yep. It's gorgeous. Is the beginning of an amazing decade. I've been watching For All Mankind, which imagines what would have happened if the Space Race never ended like, right? Sort of kept up with it. And like, in the 1980s we have nuclear, you know, ships and we have a moon but /. - moon base and reusable lender and everything. It's all plausible technology, it's all stuff. We could have had if we just spent the money and and now we're doing it, you know? 30 40 years later. I hate my timeline. Well there's a downside to having a prolonged Space Race with the Soviets though. As yeah, Rose exploring. It's not all had me at nuclear engines. It's fun to it's fun to speculate about what could have been

Had our priorities in different. I remember, Steve, I remember star trek-like manuals if from the 70s and 80s and some of those manuals extrapolated, the our current timeline inserted into the future, merging into what we knew would Star Trek. So they had, they had our space-time lines, kind of like that show where the advances were quick and and big ad, you know, big leaps in technology until eventually, you know, warp engines and Whatever. And if you looked at that now, you'd be like, oh my God, I mean. Yeah. Bob another tell you like moon bases in the in the 90s type of stuff and, and Mars soon thereafter, I would just like greatly diverging from what happened in reality since then. But you know what's really weird of that timeline was World War 3, if you remember. Yeah, yeah, it's true but you had so they had an Explorer ice in order to kind of get there at the tune of many tens of millions dead. Are you guys talking about?

Real life right now. Now, if extrapolation of a night of Star Trek future, yes I blinked at all of a sudden I was like we haven't had World War we're talking about. What we thought that you space exploration was going to be like in 1970 and compared to what it actually turned out to be like, for example, we around that time 6970, we saw the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey, you know? And we believed it as plausible, I didn't say it was

Was that was And you know, an orbiting Hotel, not a space-age, Couture? Right hotel, shuttles to the Moon permanent bases on the moon, like even what, you know, a hundred years, probably ahead of where we're actually going to be just for so funny. We offer, it must be a generational thing because I was born in the 80s that like I was born in to cynicism, like yeah, we were children of Apollo baby. Cynicism grew later. Alright, care.

Nuclear Fallout ()[edit]

Uh, speaking of cynicism, what about all of that nuclear testing we did in the 20th century, right? Because of that, talk about results of the Space Race. See Godzilla soon. Yeah, so okay, obviously, we know that there are a lot of nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s. We have these images in our mind of those Nevada test sites where they built the holes, you know, weird cities with the mannequins and of course, We're test sites in New Mexico and it wasn't just here in the US. Actually, more intense testing was done by us in the Marshall Islands. You know many Americans do know about that. And of course, by by the Soviets in in the Arctic and actually I think a single nuclear test like, a single bomb in the Arctic was. Yeah, the Tsar bomb, Tsar Bomba? Yeah, I don't know. This is our bomba, maybe because that's a 50. Yeah, 50 times more powerful. Awful than all of Nevada and New Mexico tests combined. So, you know, it was a lot, it was a lot. And during that time, of course, that means that a bunch of cesium, 137 went into basically the environment. You know, this is a byproduct of fission so it's a reaction between your uranium, sorry and plutonium and lots of things happen. Like for example, it get it went up into the I

What was it? The stratosphere. Yeah, I think into the stratosphere and much of it came down as rain and there are a lot of foods that you could pick up and like you could go to your local farmers market pick up foods and you could test the radiation in those foods and you would see low levels of radiation. And that is what it's from its from the amount of Fallout that occurred in the 50s and 60s, that then came back down as rain. But we've long known that there are other sources where this radiation can accumulate. And this is like, kind of a A fun weird thing, these researchers who are actually teaching a class, told their students go out, pick up some stuff from your kitchen, pick up some stuff from a local farmers market, whatever these are researchers, and Virginia, William and Mary University. And then we're going to test them. We're going to see how radioactive they are. And so they did they got a gamma detector, they tested all these fruits and nuts and different foods and they found. Okay, yeah they've all got the levels we expect. And then one student brought in a jar of honey and they tested it and they're like,

That doesn't seem right. So then they tested it again. They're like, well, that doesn't seem right and apparently was a hundred times more radioactive than the other foods, and they're like, well, that's weird. Let's see if we can figure this out. So they went deeper and they decided to do a full research experiment and the experiment on this, they tested a hundred, twenty two honey samples. They found that 68 show detectable traces of CCM and or the radioactive isotope version the cesium 137 and they were like why is this so they Arted to look to the literature. And they realized that when you looked at the ionizing radiation, that was put off by all these different blast. Something interesting happens and it's especially happens with certain plants and they realize that, you know, plants some plants, I don't know, all plants, I'm not a plant scientist, they need potassium. And this potassium is necessary to do. All the metabolic stuff that they need to be able to do. And there are places where there's not enough potassium in the soil, but guess what? The Ants can use instead of potassium because atomically they're really similar. Yeah, CCA is even the isotope form. So they absorb the cesium and as they do that it goes into their nectar. It gets obviously it makes its way in and then the bees pick it up when the bees make honey, they concentrate and concentrate and concentrate it. And now this honey has a higher percentage of these radioactive isotopes than other forms of food who simply got it from the rainwater. Here's the Good news though. It's still below any sort of legal limit, It's not dangerous to eat, honey. Every single honey that was tested was well below any sort of necessary threshold. Yeah, I think the safety limit is 50 to 100. Is it pronounced Bob becquerels? I'm not sure if you. Yeah, yeah. B EC Q UE Arielle that goes. Yeah, it's defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second, so that's the radioactivity. And the cutoff apparently for safety is fifty to one hundred becquerels and the every honey that they tested Falls beneath that. But an interesting thing that they speculate is a was honey safe. 20, 30 years ago. Yes and I'm thinking like we don't know, I don't know if we ever will get that data. Maybe we'll find some jars of honey that have been on shelves. Untouched for a half a century and that would give an acid. Yeah, we could extrapolate from the half-life. Yeah.

And then the other question is, could this be contributing to colony collapse? Because we do know that there are a lot of factors involved in colony collapse disorder. But, nobody's really talking about whether or not, they it's pure speculation, but the researchers are like, I mean, obviously pollinating insects, are vital, we need them. We don't know if this ionizing radiation threatens their health, we don't know if it threatens their survival, but we do know that they're very often utilizing higher quantities of Cesium 137 then kind of other environmental levels and so maybe it's something that we should be looking at. So fascinating weird turn of events, I love this kind of science where it's like oh we just asked our students to take out a gamma tester and just see what's up and it opened up to this really interesting study that you can actually read. It's published in nature Communications published on March 29th, 2021, bomb, 137cs. So bomb. Cesium-137 in modern, honey, reveals a region.

Soil control on pollutant cycling by plants. I wonder if I feeding the plants more potassium, we can block the, take up and seizing. Yeah. Maybe. But we would probably have to figure out and, you know, I know that in targeted farming, I've actually visited some some Farms that use super high-tech equipment to figure out. Where's the nitrogen where it needs to be, you know, is the water where it needs to be using drones and different tractors that can measure these quantities and use different detectors. But what I mean, think about the level of Technology, we would need to be like, oh, in this region especially if we're talking about wild plants like wild flowers and things like this, sure, I think be Farmers. Hopefully, that could be an initiative. But ultimately if the soil is, you know, doesn't have enough potassium. We would have to figure that out somehow.

Viral Vector Gene Therapy ()[edit]

So last week guys, we talked about crispr off, which is a cool Advanced and I and we mentioned viral vectors. And so I thought

Would do a follow-up this week and talk about those viral vectors because that technology has been advancing as well. And this was, you know, triggered by a recent study that I wrote about this week where researchers are trying to treat a form of genetic, blindness that results from a mutation. In the guc y2d gene, which makes a protein, which is necessary for For the rods and cones to reset. Like, after they're stimulated by a photon of light, then they have to reset to be able to continue to respond to light. And they end this mutation means that they can't do that very well. And so that results in decreased Vision are buying, this is a type of Leber congenital amaurosis. So, what the, what the researchers did was they used a recombinant Adeno Associated virus serotype, 5 RAV

I've to deliver a healthy guc y2d Gene to the retina. Now, the good news is with this specific condition is that because of the type of problem that is at the retina itself could still be intact, right? Those rods and cones, those photos are receptive, cells can still be alive even if they're not fully, you know, fully healthier functional, they're still there and so even into adulthood if you could You could rejuvenate those cells, get them to function Again by just giving them some of the protein, they need to function. So this is a preliminary study, they looked at two or three individuals, they use to the viral Vector to deliver the Gene and it definitely increased. The, the function of the rods and cones, one of the subjects also had improved visual Acuity, which means the other two didn't, which is a little disappointing, but they used

Very low dose of Gene. This was again, a sort of a Proof of safety. Proof of concept wasn't really a therapeutic trial. So now this sets, the stage for a, you know, a full therapeutic trial efficacy trial using a dose that they expect to have more clinical function like to hopefully, like, actually improve their visual Acuity. So, very cool. So that's also, you know, I wanted to look a little bit deeper into what is the state of the art of viral vectors now to back up a little bit? You may remember You'll recall using viral using viruses as a vector goes back away. The first study getting we talked about technology always having deeper Roots than you think. First study of a viral Vector was published in 1990 using an engineered retrovirus retroviruses a one of the types of viral vectors that you know, retro viruses. Like HIV. Right, is a retrovirus and it is an RNA virus that uses reverse transcriptase to

DNA into the host genome, right? So the virus does genetic manipulation. It adds genes to your DNA. So they're like, hey, let's, let's use that to deliver the genes that we want. Rather than just viral genes. So there's a lot of research and in the 1990s, with this up to, mm. This is sort of write right at the beginning. I graduated medical school in 1991. So, this is the very beginning of my medical career, and I remember all the excitement about Gene viral Vector Gene.

Poppy. Early 2000s kid when well it was more than just one kid. It was more than just one study. There was multiple problems for cropping up with the with the viral vectors that were being used. You know, when one study the subject, develop Encephalitis and another more than one subject developed leukemia. So they had to basically go back to the drawing board and it really stalled viral Vector, as a clinical application for a good. Twenty years and now, however, starting around 2015 or so it started to take off again. So we sort of really got back on the saddle and, and have been more and been developing these viral vectors. So the good thing about viral vectors is that they are the delivery system in addition to the payload, right? So we talked about Crispers, great, but you got to get crisper to its target cells, right? It can get to the DNA, you want to get to, but you have to get it into the cells that you

And Altar. And so the Bruce that's one of the limiting factors of just a clinical applications of crisper, but with viral vectors, they are both. Right? The you and you engineer the virus to infect the cells that you want and deliver the gene that you want. Right, there are four main types of viral vectors that were using today, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There's no perfect Silver Bullet but here they are. So one are the Adeno viruses. The adenovirus is delivered DNA to the nucleus the DNA gets to the nucleus but does not get incorporated into the genome. So it's called it's considered Epi somos. Meaning the DNA just floats around in the nucleus and gets transcribed into proteins, but it's not part of the DNA. So that's both an advantage and a disadvantage. It's an advantage because the delivered genetic material will become

Really active. It doesn't have to wait for the cells to to replicate to divide, but the downside is, when the cell does divide, it does not get carried through to subsequent Generations. Because it's not part of the DNA, it's not dividing along with the with the genome, right? But it can come it can deliver a pretty good-sized chunk of DNA and it will you know, be useful in and even cells that are not rapidly dividing. So it's a good Vector. The Main limiting factor of adenoviruses that they have a large immuno genic response. So they're not the safest, you know, viral vector. And this is again, the part of the problem that we were running into a couple of decades ago, as our own immune system will attack. Yes. Yes, there are mutagen, immuno genic, they will provoke an immune response. Not what you want. You don't want that to happen. So the newer more advanced version is the adeno-associated in vectors aavs. This is the kind that was used in the current

The I talked about with the blindness. So similar to adenovirus is in that they deliver episode will DNA. So there again, they could target cells that are not rapidly dividing, they don't have to wait for the cell to divide to work. However, apparently some times the aav DNA can get into the genome or into mitochondrial DNA through so-called hot spot. So, I guess there are certain places in the genome where the virus can insert its DNA. Yeah, but mostly it's episome. Oh, it's floating around in the nucleus but not in the genome. Their major advantage is that they are minimally immuno genic. They do not provoke an immune response so they are a lot safer. Their main limiting factor is that they can only deliver a smaller DNA payload. So the size of the gene that you could deliver a smaller, I don't know how much we're limiting factor. That is, but that's, you know, that's something to be noted. Then of course, you have the retroviruses like, we I spoke about These are grna and reverse transcriptase, they are genomic. They insert Gene at DNA into the genome so bad news. You have to wait for the cell to divide good news, their permanent. The gene insertion is, until that cell dies. Basically, it will go to so much trouble to enough cells basically. Yeah, right? Yeah, right. So you'll buy, you might not have to do it again and again, right? Just have to do it one time. Time to get a prolonged of benefit. However, Earth. There was a potential for mutagenesis during this process so you can get mistakes can be made the introduction of random bits of DNA that are undesired can get inserted into the genome. So it's not, it's not perfectly clean and then they're always a risk though, Steve. Yeah, with retroviruses yeah, it's yeah, exactly. It seems like it's obviously it's a bug, but it's so built-in. There's no getting around that. Well, we'll see. I mean, you know, they would have to come up with some way to manage it some way to minimize. Mais the undesirable bits, you know but never say never with genetic technology advancing so quickly. But that's a current limiting factor to retroviruses and then there are the lentiviruses which are very similar to the retroviruses. So they however are able to target non-dividing cells. They only deliver smaller RNA payloads but also have some Potential from you to Genesis and the insertion process. So again, no one, perfect Silver Bullet. It seems like the

AVC. Adeno-associated vectors are pretty safe, very effective, but limited in duration of the effect and the size of the DNA payload led to viruses are also smaller, RNA payload and also have a potential for mutagenesis, but I think our overall little bit safer than the retroviruses, the retroviruses. And he had no viruses are a little bit of the older viral Vector Technology, but they're still useful. You're so that's it. Those are the four big ones. Now, you can combine viral vectors. With crispr technology and that is being actively studied using the virus to deliver the crisper, to the cells that we want to get it. To AV the aavs again, appeared to be the best for delivering crisper and those are being those are being currently studied. So there's a ton of classes at the clinical trial stage, guys. That's one thing. I wanted to point out. This is no longer in the basic science, maybe, 10 to 20 years thing. These we are now at the clinical trial stage with viral Vector, gene therapy.

There are literally hundreds of diseases and conditions that can be potentially cured or significantly mitigated through gene therapy. And this is I think going to be a major area of research over the next few decades. You know, and Beyond using hopefully more and more tweaked out, you know, versions of these of these viruses. And of course, combining it with increasingly advanced crispr technology, or maybe even whatever the Lesser of crisper will be if there is one. It's just really. We're still on this very steep part of the curve. It where I think we are finally getting past that 20-year dry period. We had With viral vectors while we had to go back to the drawing board and rework and work out their safety. But I apparently we're past that now. And we have very active viral Vector, Research program, again, it's kind of like going back to the Moon. We had a dry spell. And now, we're going back to the Moon, we had a dry spell. Oh, now we're doing clinical, trials on,

Our electors again and it's very exciting. So I wanted to follow up to the crisper talk from last week, put this on everybody's radar. I do think this is something. We are going to be hearing more and more about in the future. Pretty neat, huh? Very. Very cool.

Predicting the Next Pandemic ()[edit]

All right Bob, tell us about predicting the next pandemic. Not so easy, huh. Yeah, this was kind of fascinating. Researchers are released an essay recently about predicting the next pandemic. It's their belief that it's much harder. Fortunately to do than previously thought. Plus we're all going to die. Now I added that last bit that they didn't understand what you say. So this was, this was published in the Open Access Journal, plos, biology. And the essay was led by dr. Michelle will a, at the University of Sydney, Australia and co-authors Gemma gaugin and Edward Homes. Now also, all of this is really about what we've mentioned on the show a lot the past year. Zoonotic virus has

Essentially disease-causing germs that pass from animals to people, very kind of a basic way to describe it, kind of simple when you look at it that way. So those are zoonotic diseases or a word that if you look at it looks like it says zoonoses but it's actually Zoe. Zoe, Zoe gnosis just zoonotic zoonotic diseases. I'm going to sew just means animal to animal, right? And now zoonotic

Viruses that have killed people for Century these diseases. People are centuries. This, these are not new at all and actually I took a took a dive. Say, well, how long how far back do they go? The first direct evidence of zoonotic parasites in humans goes back, 10,000 years which is kind of far but it's also not very far at all because we know that they had to exist far before before that. But it's actually kind of hard to definitively say this human was infected by this zoonotic parasite and they 10,000 years is pretty good. Considering that At. But we it's believed that we inherited some of these diseases from our homonym ancestors and these have a wonderful name. I love this so much heirloom parasites. Yeah, I think I just misspoke because I said animal to animal and while yes we humans are human animals. It's really non-human animals to Human animals. Yeah. Yeah. Not animal to animal. I guess like, you know a frog to a bat is not so not

Right. Only. If it's human to animal or animal to human, which of yes, we are human. Absolutely. We are animals. But now what do you think they called? What do you think they called the new parasites that we got after we left Africa? What are those parasites called? Wait, wait, wait, I want to get there was no, not post Continental. It's going to be a about. I don't know. Emigrant, viruses and Emigrant. That bad I did called souvenir parasites. Yes, I read it on the Internet. It's true. Souvenir parasites, right? Prior to the 20th century, the best, the best of these diseases were, you know, things like you've heard about, but they were well known before the

Rabies Anthrax, glanders. Don't know, don't know what that is. Ned glycolosis, plague, yellow fever, influenza now, apparently, the ones that are most of most concerned at least in the US you've got, let's say this. My list here, says zoonotic influenza salmonellosis West Nile Virus, rabies brucellosis. Who solos hadn't heard of that one Lyme disease. Of course, plague plague. You know, what else? You can get here all around still. Around. I got you. Imagine, if you had to play Kai got, yeah, you can get it very dogs, guess where you can get, guess what? You can get from armadillos. Oh, yeah, it's nasty. This leprosy. That's right. So weird. But of course, of also a big concern, the around, the entire world is emerging coronavirus has covid-19. Hello? Still in the middle of this, but here's some interesting bits of information. I picked up scientists. Now, think that, at least six of every ten, infectious diseases that people

That can be spread from animals, 60% 6 out of 10 and even worse. Three out of every four of the new infectious diseases, emerging diseases in people come from animals, three of every four who clearly these types of diseases is zoonotic, diseases are something that needs to be. You know, seriously looked into if we want to actually deal with the upcoming upcoming pandemics, you know. So imagine if we could just predict, if we could just predict what's going to come next from animal populations, we could well, Can we sort of, can I mean, I think researchers do a pretty good job about this. We know what the main vectors usually are we know where we have human animal interaction. We know that we often get things from farm animals that there are certain types of animals like bats that because they fly are sadly better transmitting. And we also know that like in a wet Market situation which again I think is a bastardized term but in certain types of wet markets when you have cages stacked with species that would have never come into

Intact in the wild. That's where we start to see problems. Is that species, start to pass infectious agents back and forth, because they never evolve to be in close proximity to one another. So they can't protect themselves. Yeah, their own antibodies and whatever else. And then we come in contact with these quote-unquote exotic animals or even if they're not exotic if their farm animals, typical food sources, whatever if they're carrying now a new version of a pathogen because they picked it up from another, Animal. I mean, this is where we start to this is what globalization does. I mean, if a pathogen ever comes crashing from outer space to this planet, we're screwed, right? Isn't that what they tried to do? In Prometheus? Well, that's what, that's what happened with a little short of art. Is that? Yes, yes, yes, yes. Aren't necessarily looking at it in a focused way. They're attempting zoonotic risk prediction and they look at two things. It

Much more General way to try to predict the next pandemic. They look at candidate families of viruses, like coronavirus for example, and they also look at potential host for those viruses and they see the try to determine which combination could start the next pandemic. And it sounds like a that sounds like a great way to do it except that the reasons in the paper primarily discuss. Why that? That's not a good way to do it. Generally speaking, and it boils down to two a couple of reasons. That they talk about in the paper, the first is the virus, fear itself. The totality of viruses in the biosphere, it's utterly massive obviously, right? It's gargantuan, but I think it's even bigger than than we imagine, we simply have not classified enough of them to predict, which ones could be the next zoonotic pandemic. And I say this, even though we have tools now like what the authors describe, as total RNA sequencing, and which has massively increased, how many new viruses that are being discovered, it's

Really ramped up incredibly. But my take on that though is that rather than help? What this really does though is it showing us just how little we know about all the viruses out there that we haven't discovered discovered yet. I mean, look at look at Birds Steve right? You're a birder Steve's birds have been surveyed for a hundred years specifically for viruses. They would looked very closely for a very very long time and we still regularly find new new viruses. Yeah just don't have anywhere near the highwomen. Handle on it that that we that we need or that a lot of people think. Already have and think and think about it, even if we knew every virus, if we knew the entire virus, you're right now we would that wouldn't even matter that much. It certainly would help, but we would still need to continually resample for them because they mutate so fast. So it's a moving Target and you can never rest on your laurels and say, yep, we got, we got this because it's mutating so fast. I mean, look at covid-19 are many variants. Do we have already and Think of the big concern that they are and they're, they're also talking about in the paper. How, you know, just because you you you sample a parasite in a host that doesn't mean that, you know, a half a mile away down deeper in the woods. You're going to you're not going to find the same exact host with a, with a similar with a similar virus but not, you know, ultimately not very similar at all mean. It's just because you think you have this one virus sample, doesn't mean much considering that, that the diversity that's out there that then the second big

Problem as the sa says, is this rather than predicting, from which hosts tax of viruses are more likely to emerge? There's a concern that many studies May Simply Be demonstrating which hosts taxa have been studied most extensively or, you know, already, and which is like, what the key in the Lamppost problems that how they call that. Why are you looking for your lost keys under the Lamplight. That's because that's the only place I could see them. Yeah, so we think the next pandemic it seems obvious, right? Oh, the next pandemic is probably going to come from birds or bats are pigs, right? Now, is that because they are studied much more than than any other animals for this. You know, we need to make sure that this potential huge bias doesn't make us potentially miss the next pandemic, you know, just because you know, there is a lot of intersection between humans and and and birds and bats and pigs but that you know that is a bias though. They're greatly studied. But they look there's other animals that are that are huge reservoirs that were just completely missing and we got to make sure the authors at least are saying that. We got to make sure we don't let this bias. Totally totally screw us in the end. So the paper sums up, a lot of this in with this quote, they say we have argued that assessments of zoonotic risk are often based on background data. That are themselves. Hugely Limited in quantity intrinsically biased out of date and hence are likely inaccurate. So that was a pretty decent overview of what they were saying in this paper. So that but then they continue and saying that what should we do and this this feeds back into Into what kind of what you were saying, care. The, the authors argue that we need to sample people and animals extensively at at this animal human interface where they mingle together, that is absolutely critical. They say is another longer quote from there sa they say Beyond bats and the people living around bats Bruce humans working in poultry production piggeries, which is Hickory, which is such an adorable name for such a horrible thing, right? It's adorable. How about this one?

How you pronounce it over 20 Slaughter her twat, right? That's a slaughterhouse and I was like, oh nice sounds so cool. So kind of like yeah French French my gosh, you hungry until you know what it is and to continue their quote, humans working in and live animal markets. Those participating in animal hunting and Slaughter for bush meat, as well as as the animals they interact with they they should be targeted for both immunological and metagenomic surveillance. This will provide a baseline understanding of the right. I'll diversity in these potential hosts in a meaningful real time and empirical estimate of the frequency of virus, bill over between animals and humans rather than an estimate based on biased and incomplete data. So now, so this method could could allow new viruses to be detected, very quickly as humans, catch it, but before pandemic is devastating as Coburn, can get started. So, yeah, so we definitely need to really focus down onto this kind of like this interface between animals and humans to the exclusion, you know, almost of the

You know, I'm not saying we shouldn't be looking at the other animal reservoirs but that interface the next pandemic is going to come with from that interface between animals and humans. That's what you know the majority of this worldly life is that I think you really are serious about predicting the next pandemic who you know and what you know what animals are going to come from and this is the way to do what you got to focus on this interface and all the interfaces that you know, in all these scenarios, we're humans, interact with animals. We got to really just focus on that more. Then we have and hopefully, you know, we will start doing that more and more and hopefully nip this next one in. Because these hundred-year pandemics are not a hundred years, any more people, you know, they could be 20, they could be a guy or yeah, once a generation or worse that. Yeah. Yeah. Can we really say I to war game this stuff for us and help us? Probably, we will eventually.

FRBs and the Expansion of the Universe ()[edit]

All right, Evan, we got some frbs in the news. I like are my fast radio bursts? What's up with these guys that I do? I do. All right, I have a question for you in relationship to this how quickly is the universe expanding? Very quickly 50 Giga parsecs per minute. I don't know. Exact Bob you're right. The answer is we don't know. It depends on depends on who you ask. All right, well little background here, so the Hubble constant I'm sure we've spoken about this at some point. The unit of measurement used to describe the expansion of the universe Bob. I'm sure it's come up several times in your discussions, the Hubble constant was first calculated in the 1920s by American.

Yes, exactly, right. Those fuzzy cloud. Like celestial objects. That he looked at on those glass plate. Photographs, they're distant galaxies sitting outside of our Milky Way, so image. Yeah. Yeah. What his work was remarkable was even the perhaps, the most remarkable. Is that the galaxies in the universe appeared to be moving away from our planet? And I was like it really it does and the farther away that a Galaxy was the faster, it was receding. And this became the basis for what is known as Hubble's Law which states, that there is a relationship between the distance and object in the cosmos is from us. And the speed at which it is receding. So Hubble attempted to make a calculation to measure the rate of expansion, he found the back of an envelope in an old chewed pencil and he got to work on it. He came

Ultimately, with the number of 501 kilometers per second per megaparsec, And that's how the expansion rate of the universe is measured kill kilometers per second per megaparsec 501 and of course a megaparsec is equal to 3 point 2 6 million light-years. Of course so. Okay. So that's fine. However that number turned out to be pretty incorrect but only only one scientist perhaps in the in the 80s and the 90s kind of got around to running more accurate calculations. And they did, so at first by using distant supernovas, which they realize, we're dimmer that they had previously suspected, they were, and therefore farther away than they originally thought. Now, this finding indicated that the Universe was not only expanding, but what Bob it was expanding faster and faster accelerator. Oh my God, huge Discovery, huge huge. I remember that day. Oh, that was big. Was I even? I remember that. And this was pre. He's got takes Guide to the universe. Yeah, middle 90s. Late 90s. But what force of nature is putting his foot on the cosmic accelerator Dark Energy. Yep, yep. So that's where Dark Energy came along and based on those new measurements in the 1990s, they came up with instead of 500 kilometers per second per megaparsec more like seventy three point four kilometers per second per megaparsec. Okay, so Hubble was off maybe by about a factor of eight. There is he was he was too going too fast but an alternative.

And and alternate number has been derived using information from the European space, agency's plunk satellite. Now for 10 years, they observed data that the satellite collected and in 2018 their number for the Hubble constant turned out to be about 67, .4 kilometers per second, per megaparsec, okay, fast forward. Another year, 2019 astronomers used, another technique to come up with a new calculations either too. Trying to refine this. They're trying to get closer closer to the truth and their calculation that they used in 2019. They studied the light of red giant Stars, which all reach the same Peak brightness at the end of their lives. So that means astronomers can look at how dim red giant stars appear from the earth and estimate their distance. And they came up with a number of sixty nine point eight kilometers per second per megaparsec. Okay, so we're in the high 60s. Now we had that number from the, the 1990s and the low

All right, so I think we're, we're focusing in on this perhaps, but here's this week's news and I read this at science, Mara Johnson grows the reporter and this just came out today. So for the first time astronomers calculated, the Hubble constant from observation of frbs fast radio bursts really? Yes, not cool. Now they did say that the results are preliminary and the uncertainties. Are they describe large because they're just Really coming up with the first measurements of this, but they're going to be working on this a lot more especially as we Insight. Well, scientists detect more frbs and have a larger group to work with and the new value from the frbs coming expansion rate of about sixty two point three kilometers per second. So that's actually, you know, kind of a lower a little bit lower than the ones that they were using for at compared to the other measurements that

Are using against the measurements of the red stars. Of the red giants and also the Planck satellite, which was measuring the cosmic microwave background, which I neglected to say earlier, it was the cosmic microwave background, the echo from The Big Bang and that was the number they drive back in 2018. So this is interesting because they're saying that with these new radio observatories that are coming online and among them the square kilometre array, which I think we've talked about they're hoping to Cover, tens of thousands of fast radio bursts on a nightly basis. I mean we've gone from just, I mean frbs because we talked about them before before they were these one-off things, never repeating and we only have such the smallest smattering of sample of these things. And then only what a few years ago, they found they've detected a few that are repeating. That's a big deal, right? So now imagine is expanding, you know, went from from a dozen maybe to a hunt, you know, maybe two.

About a hundred of these things. But now, if you're going to be able to detect tens of thousands of these things every night, well, that's a nice set of data that you can use and they can expand. Then when they go ahead and they try to measure the Hubble constant using that data, we might actually be focusing in on something that gets us a lot closer to the actual truth, and they're very excited about that possibility. It is, could be really good because that's a, that's a big huge kind of like not a battle but I mean it's a huge mystery why they can't get why don't these two numbers don't agree the red giant number and the cosmic microwave background number they just they couldn't they just don't match and they're and they're very different. You know, they're deriving the number of very differently. So that's that's a great way to check your work, right? If you coming to the same number using different methods, that's great and they can't do it. So why, what, why aren't they you know?

Being in the middle. Why aren't you know why aren't they more clothes than they are? And now the here's this third method that potentially using the frbs, you know, hopefully once they get, you know, they narrow the Aero bars, maybe it'll be closer to the red giant or the or the cosmic microwave background number and that could help decide. But this is this is a big mystery and astronomy and anything you know that that they can do to solve that would be fantastic because it's one of the big Mysteries. Yeah. And also So, hopefully, the do detection equipment, will help us determine exactly what these frbs are. There's a lot of special. Yeah, that too. Yeah, as you guys know what they are, right eruptions from highly magnet magnetic neutron stars, I think is one of the most recent examples. Bob, you think it's enormous, burst of energy propelling, light sales, by intelligent creatures across first? I like that one. So be cool, but probably not, probably not, but I'm going to leave it on the list. Why not seven. Thank you.

Questions ()[edit]

Question #1: Why is North Up? ()[edit]

Cool one in, Now I don't know how quick this is going to be. Tell me ask you guys for this comes from Greg Greg, Greg Greg is asking us, he says

Hi beautiful people, I have what I think is a simple question – perhaps not. Why do we always draw the earth with Antarctica at “the bottom” and say Iceland at the top? Who decided we should look at our planet – and other planets this way? It seems to me it doesn’t matter which way we look at it given there is no reference point. Why not have Antarctica at the top? Cheers! Greg

Now Greg boy does not Give his location in the email but little bit of sleuthing, his email address, includes the letters a u.s. Down Under not up over. So what do you guys think? Do you have a sense as to what the answer to this question is, why is the convention that North is up? Why isn't the convention because Map makers guitar refers for a long time, have adapted that and maybe became in a way of cultural phenomenon. Okay. Busy here saying it was convention. So, it still is convention, but why did they do it that way? So, you're not saying, why is, why do we Orient North? You're saying, why do we choose that orientation to be nor right? Well, okay, why we know that the reason that maps are oriented the way A they are is be is based on what we call geographic, North and South Pole. We would never put the South Pole at the top. But the question is, why is the South Pole South and the north pole? North yes. Okay, so what and why do we worry or you know Orient, our the way? We look at the world with the North Pole on the top.

Well, so cuz Worth is not a construct, is it? North is based on magnets are magnets and they publicist has been physical actually. Apply to the surface of the Earth, right? Because it's forward hemispherical bias because it probably is a hazard because most people exist in the north. Well, there's also a bias with how we draw a flat Maps, mmm? Right to make certain continents look way larger than they are. Yeah, it's an aid in navigation on the Seas. To make the lines of longitude straight, right? So, so, that's okay. So, that's why the, yeah, but that's no reason to have partial answer it. That you actually will read lots of things for you, if you investigate this topic but that the most authoritative Source, I could find state, a few things. One is that the north up map convention is actually fairly recent meaning, few hundred years and was not

Versal in different cultures, have different conventions in Europe. Actually, the convention for a long time was that East is up which is weird. That's just a crazy but and in China North was up because we're the most people lived, south of where the emperor was and so they thought that the people should be looking up at the emperor. Sure so that was pretty much it. So the emperor's up And he was North. So North was up. So is it? You said it's only been a few hundred years? Was it a u.s. constructs? No. Okay. It is European. But again, when originally the European bias like even Christopher Columbus, the bias was that East was up because, yeah, it was like paradise and that, and eaten and all that, right? A positive. So, it was, it was always, very cultural with good being upright or whatever they wanted to God above devil below. Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

South was up because Mecca was south of most of their cities and so they wanted to be looking up at Mecca, that makes sense. Because when did it become formalized? That's that's the question. So it is basically the Mercator world map of 1569 over Arch Mercator. No, I mean, what kind of sorry what culture? I don't know. Mercator is where did Mercator come from? There was European. So this was at the Mercator Projection, you? Familiar with them. Yeah you've seen invented on that even if you don't know what it is. So it is though it was the first attempt at rendering the the globe in a flat map and accounting as best as you can like projecting the relative positions and sizes of things onto a flat map. This was specifically to Aid Sailors so that they would not be wildly off course. Following a just a regular flat map which gets progressively Inaccurate. You know. So this is the one that really biases the size of the countries like Antarctica looks enormous. Yes. Yes. Other way, the way the way, the Mercator Projection works is that the poles are basically infinite, like the point of the pole gets spread out along the entire top and bottom of the map and they and, and essentially they just didn't care about that because nobody was going to sail to the North Pole, the South Pole. So they maximally distorted the parts of the World where nobody was going to anyway and they the way he was Flemish Mercator there you go Flemish. And so why was Northup? It's not really clear why he chose that and that's where you say probably because at the time most of the locations that European Sailors were going to try to navigate to where in the Northern Hemisphere and so the because there was more stuff in the northern hemisphere interest of interest that became the top. Yeah. So that but then once it became convention then it's mostly cultural inertia at that point, right? And all subsequent Maps had North up because that's the way you now Orient Max and then once it became solidified and people became used to it, it became very practical for all maps to follow the same convention people. Not everybody has an easy time, rotating images in their head, and it could be very Orienting if you're looking at a map that's not the the typical way you're used to oh yeah, it's weird. Do you remember my puzzle from a few weeks ago when I simply turn South Korea upside down and people had a hard time realizing what it was, but then I flipped it and everyone said, oh, that's the country of South Korea that. So it makes sense to have a convention. And so, that's fine. And It Whatever by historical contingency. It happened to be North is up and sure.

Were there was a European bias there because that that at the time it was made for European Sailors. And that's what we're most of the places they would be going. We're was in the north. That's it. So but and now we're pretty much stuck with it. Why is up oriented in space? Why is like North up in space? It really isn't playing planted that we do. Yeah so we do consider the plane again. This is this is convention. Also we take the plane of our solar system. Is it is a disk, right? It's not as planets, are roughly in a disk or going around the sun. We consider that to be horizontal and North to be up. Just so that there's a standard configuration when we think about the orientation of the solar system. But in reality, there is no up in space, right? You know. And it was always, you know, I always noticed this in science fiction movies, have you ever noticed when two ships approach each other?

Always oriented in the same direction. Yeah, yeah. But it's not even beyond that, you know, it's not, it's not like, it's just that they just happen to be traveling in the same plane. There are like approaching other explanation of conveying information, like in Space movies. This one was interesting it because when a, when a ship is disabled, they are most decidedly. There's a few plane. They are totally. So as I agree with you about that, that's why they do that. Yeah, totally. I totally got that. That's because that's what the viewer expects. Yeah. They're tapping into our Earth bias. Yes. But it is. It doesn't make actual sense and it would be cool for a science fiction movie to break our expectations because it's like oh yeah this is space. They would be approaching from any Random Direction I also this one is a little bit more bothersome whenever a ship is approaching the Earth, it's always approaching the Earth stringing, the north saying of the solar system know, through the plane of the solar system. Right? So it's always like and not only that it's like passing by the outer planets. Yeah. Well, because otherwise you're like, what is this Andromeda? You can you can be approaching the Earth from above the plane of the solar system and not

Spy. Any other plans, there's an infinite fact that would probably wouldn't recognize our solar system that would be the preferred approach. Why would you be a lot safer? Why you going to pass through the asteroid belt? Let me just come approach. The solar system from above and you miss all of that junk, you know but you guys think it's again it's convention but it's also that you know, it's like here. It's like there's this always a syzygy rock with all the planets lined up leading to. Yeah, Jupiter. And then says and then Mars it's like or maybe Mars is on the other side of the The Sun at the moment that your way whatever. So it's it is just you what its route. I think it sort of speaks to this astronaut experience that we've all heard before where the idea especially on spacewalks. Like the only thing you can Orient to is the actual ISS because or end you can see Earth but there is this concept that you hear a lot and there was a Radiolab about it. I remember going to

CLA like I don't know 10 years ago when they were doing live Radiolab shows and there was an episode about vision and they gave everybody in the audience, a tiny battery, and a tiny LED, and you could push the led to the battery to make it light up, just a single point of light. And when they were telling this astronaut story about, I guess, losing his tether or something, terrible happened on a spacewalk, and he's talking about, just utter fear and really describe that feeling of being upside down or backward or not. Knowing which end is up because there is no up and just the disembodiment that you have when you're in that experience and everybody in the audience. Yeah. They told us everybody in the audience to turn on our little lights and it like filled the auditorium with space. Basically, like all these Stars everywhere is a really, yeah, it's like pretty emotional but as he's telling this story, it's horrifying because we're so used to gravity. So if you want a good experience of that, played the video game subnautica

Okay, takes place under water, which is a three-dimensional environment. And it is incredibly easy to get lost in caves and stuff because you know you're just not used to thinking and navigating through a completely three-dimensional space they like you get disoriented so easily so easily. Yeah. And yeah, sometimes you get disoriented when you're running out of oxygen.

Yeah, that's a really good. Yeah. Yeah. That was, that was a complicated question.

Dumbest Thing of the Week ()[edit]

All right, Evan. You have a dumbest thing of the week. What is it? Let's take you to the Philippines, where video has surfaced of an avocado tree. That is leaking water from one of its Branch stumps and but it's several meters. Well, it seems like at least two

Who's above the ground, right? Not just at the ground level, but it's actually up into the tree and water is spouting out of it. Well, the reports have it that the local residents have declared this a miracle liquid pouring from the tree, and folks are coming around with buckets and pails to collect the water, and they'll drink it or the wash their bodies. And it in the belief that it will cure them of medical issues. And we've heard this, we've heard this slightly unusual water. It has to be Miracle Water. Alright, this is unusual. For America low-grade. It'll cure me of my dad noise or whatever Korean, my tonsils. My Gout is cured. All right, so there's, there's a four minute video of this. Someone recorded it with a cellphone, but a couple people were recording it. Actually these same people who use their cellphones to record, that four minutes. A video could have taken those same cell phones and in four minutes instead looked at YouTube videos of well trees, spouting water, because that's what I did. And lo and behold, I found a perfect example video called Merv a miracle water pouring. Out of a tree and Montenegro and this one's an even better example of water gushing from an opening in a tree. Now, this is a mulberry tree in Montenegro and fortunately, someone went through some effort to try and explain why this happens. So it is considered a quote-unquote rare phenomenon but it does occur naturally and

Explains because it usually happens after a period of very heavy rainfall and that tree will soak up and store a ton of water especially when the underground Springs reached their capacity. The excess water has to go somewhere, some of it goes to the surface, the ground surface and you know, creates a little river and trickles away. But the tree will act as a storage container, especially if it's partially Hollow on the inside and it can store a lot of water. Now, the pressures that are Created in these circumstances, it effectively pumps the water up through the roots of what is the most nearby tree subsuming. It has a hollow part least a partially Hollow trunk and capacity to hold the water. It becomes a container for the water and of course, as the water level continues to rise. It has to spill out at some point. So we'll find a break. It'll find a breach in the tree, and there's your water fountain. That effectively comes out, it's just ground water. Now, in the case of this mulberry tree in Montenegro, that particular tree is,

The wet seasons for over a hundred years. Anytime that rainfall exceeds the absorption tables water tables of the ground and there are other examples and they've shown videos in Jamaica of this happening. There's examples in Africa into the United States has them. So this is realize phenomenon. There is nothing miraculous about it. And certainly, it is not a miracle liquid of any kind. I mean, it's water, maybe if you think water in itself is a miracle liquid about, okay, you know what it is. Is it is I mean we do need it it is so so important. But but you know I mean, come on, we're going to be Universal solve, we're not going to exactly, you know, use it as a covid. Acure be. I can't wait for someone to come along and try to claim that but you'd be surprised. People will you know, water spouts out of something unusual. You don't see every day all of a sudden you have to describe it as some kind of miracle and that is this week's dumbest thing of the week. Alright. Thanks. Evan water.

Who's That Noisy? ()[edit]

  • Answer to last week’s Noisy: _brief_description_perhaps_with_link_

Yep. Mmm. Alright, Jay it's who's that noisy time. All right, guys, last week I played this noisy.

So I got a ton, a ton of responses on this one. Lot of people were guessing all along the correct area, I mean it's a siren, right? Yeah, Mater siren, of course, Vice tired. But, you know, there's like so many things, right? Like you could say it's a guitar, but there's lots of different guitars and there they all sound different. And there is like, little subtleties in a differences. So let's I guess we're on the hunt to figure out what kind of siren it is. So the first person I wrote In and Out, When go back to an old standby Visto, two-tier Odin. I think a little confidently. He writes and he says this one's easy. He said with the Scots accent Bob. So you say says, I hear rotors and what rotors could be more famous now than the rotors of Ingenuity. The Mars helicopter, I'm guessing the recording was during testing and in Earth atmosphere, you know, you're wrong and I'm not afraid to say it's okay to be wrong. I like you coming out of the gate with you. No, with some cojones, my friend. So keep guessing another guy named Joel Purvis wrote in and said hi, Bob. I mean, why? Ha awesome. I'm not even sure if this is a joke or what I mean. Alright, hi. Bob love the show. I've been a listener for over a decade now and I look forward to every week. I finally decided to stop freeloading and join your Patron this year or patreon. He became a patron that's really cool. Jill thanks. This week's noisy is a tuna tartare.

NATO siren. That's what I said. I guess, he spent many days huddled under a mattress with his family, when he heard the siren growing up in Nebraska. Yeah, yeah. Damn, right. You did because tornadoes ripped through their like nobody's business. So I'm glad you survived. Lots of people, guess, tornado siren, that's because that's what it sounds like. You know, it probably, I think that you could call a siren whatever you want. You know what I mean? You have a loud noise. Specifically sounds like a tornado siren. But yeah I mean you know these Are probably all Shades of Gray here in a difference is in Sirens. They all look very different if you look at different Sirens, they look very different. So I don't know, look I'm not a siren expert, I'm just a consumer of siren noises, but but I know what siren were talking about. This isn't that wasn't the correct one a listener named Steven Merrill wrote in and said, hey Jay, I think this week's noisy is a ping-pong ball being suspended and spawned by a stream of compressed air from an air compressor. So, this is actually quite I put this in here one because it wasn't a siren guess.

To I've seen lots of things done like this where they'll take an object and they'll spin it super fast with a stream of fast are, there's a cool effect that happens with the air where like if you take a blast of air coming out of an air compressor and it's a very specific. Very small point of air is coming out. You can actually suspend that object in the spinning of the compressed air because of the way, the air pushes off of off of the spinning object and I've seen people spin up and An Apple so fast that the Apple rips itself apart. So very cool. Look it up. If you have a chance, but it is not a ping pong ball. Stephen, as you know, it's a siren. But that's cool though. I'm going to look up the ping. Pong ball. Wanted to see what that sounds like, and I'm going to jump right to the winner here, because I got about 200 people writing in saying, it's this iron ore that siren. So 200, there's really not much entertainment and me telling people. No, it's not that siren, but I won't jump to the winner. Is name is Paul Disney. I think Paul has guessed before because I recognize His name and he said, I'm guessing that sound is an air raid siren and basically the way it works is to to Fan impellers are spinning very quickly and that's what creates the loud noise. So let me get to the person who sent it in. I'll give you a little bit more details. A person who sent this and is William grew Mullins and he said this was, these are sirens were used to warn the public of impending Annihilation. This was a MARSOC oppa County outside Phoenix Arizona and they installed about 40 air raid, sirens on. Schools, fire stations, tall poles, and government buildings all around the valley. One was even mounted on top of a temp. A beaut overlooking, the Arizona State University campus, so very cool. So we Arizona went for this back in. I guess the 50s 40s and 50s, I believe that. So you could say that. This one does sound pretty specific and I did listen to a bunch and there are subtle subtleties. There's differences sometimes they're very big and sometimes they are very subtle but very Cool, very interesting sound. It's one of those sounds that had a amazing amazingly powerful fear effect to it, right? Just like a tornado siren when you hear it, something bad is going to happen. But this one was to prevent people from dying from a, you know, bombs dropping on them, like nuclear bomb. So very scary stuff. I'm glad that we never had to actually use these for real.

New Noisy ()[edit]

Now, let me jump right away to the new noisy this week. This noisy was sent in by a listener named Jess possess.

And this is a really cool noisy. I think you're going to dig it.

Wow. Very cool body parts. I know right? It reminds me of so many different things. It can't wait to talk about it next week. So if you think you know what this week's noisy is, or if you heard something really cool, email Me @ WT. N at the Skeptics Guide that org, you email me Jay at the Skeptics, right? So it's WTN, but you will be sending it to me. And my name is Jay. I am not Kara, I'm not Gera, I'm not. Kara's husband or boyfriend. I'm not Bob job and that job. All right. Thanks, Jay.

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

All right, guys, let's go on, but scientific ssion, it's time for science or fiction.

Each week, I come up with three times these items or fax to real and one state. When I challenge my parents got to do something with one is three, regular news items this week. Ready. All right, here we go. Item number one. Researchers have demonstrated that they can identify individual, 3D printers by their Thermo tag, subtle differences in the objects. They print with 92% accuracy.

Number two, I new study finds that listening to rhythmic music prior to sleep has an adverse effect on sleep onset and quality. And I number three geneticists, have identified 267 genes unique to Homo sapiens and not found in neanderthals or chimpanzees that confer adaptability to emotional responsiveness self control and self awareness Jo first. All right, Steve, here I go. Researchers have demonstrated that they can identify individual, 3D printers by their Thermo tag. These are the subtle differences in the objects that they print with 92%. Seriously, I would absolutely say that that is. So I think there is probably so many subtleties to the way that each different printer prints and how it lays down the material. You know, there's probably so many markers in there. So whatever the thermo tag that they're talking about, I would think that it's the way it melts, the whatever it melts, the Plastics. But yes, I think that that is accurate. I think 92%, it probably is even a little higher than that, number to hear a new study finds that listening to the, to rhythmic music, prior to sleep has an adverse effect on sleep onset. And quality so I could see how, you know. Okay, rhythm is rhythmic music, there's a lot to unpack here because rhythmic music to me, you know, that Steve would say it's probably it's anything with the Rhythm, but I would think that it would be something that would wake you up. I think that it would be something that is stimulating to them to the mind. So I think that is science as well. But with I mean hit this last one here geneticists, have identified 267 genes unique to Homo sapiens and not found in neanderthals or chimps that confer at that.

Bility to emotional, responsiveness self control, and self awareness. Huh? Okay, so to boil this down, there's 267 genes that only humans have that have to deal with adaptability emotional responsiveness self control and self awareness. I mean, God that makes sense and this is one of those items like 267 jeans. You could have said, two million jeans and I would have been like oh you know, because I'm just not incredibly educated with that and yeah. It's only 20,000 genes in the human rights, shocked to see said yeah I know small amount of 20,000 genes but it still seems just about right. I have to say that. That one is the fiction though because the other two just seems so correct to me. Okay? Bob, yeah, I mean, this one's tough stains, good job. I mean I could see any one of these going either way like you know, the

Thermo tag one on the first one. Sure. I mean, it wouldn't surprise me if there's subtle differences. I would assume you'd have to get down pretty close and examine it pretty closely to see these Thermo tags, but but otherwise I could see that that it melts uniformly, regardless of the printer and you really can't tell the difference that wouldn't surprise me either. So just like tossing, a coin here, with rhythmic music. Yeah, I don't know. I could, I could believe I have no solid reason to think one way or the other. So I could kind of

Make. The could be true kind of, it kind of makes sense. And then this next one to 67, I just I'm going to say that this one is fiction because I still think that they would have that much detailed knowledge about. You know, so many genes that specifically relate to those areas like emotional responsiveness, and self-awareness, Gene related to self awareness. I mean, I suppose you could look at, you know, people not, you know, Knockouts and And see that. But I don't think we would have that level of detail yet. So I'll say that one took. Okay, Kara, for me. It's between the genes and the music. I do think the thermo tag thing is probably science. I've never heard of a thermo tag but it is defined settle differences in the objects. They print and just, like forensic. Scientists can literally trackback based on somebody's printer, like, like laser printer, they can figure out who printed some sort of, you know, Ransom note or something?

Would not be surprised because the 3D printers have more axes. And there's just more, I don't know, possibility for something to be slightly off, but I don't know the music ones bug and me, and this is anecdotal because, but I listen to music before I sleep, I listen to like 30 Hertz or what's it called, 60 hertz music, like, sleep playlist and stuff and I if I sleep better, I go to sleep faster and I sleep better. And that's just anecdotal, but I've heard that a lot of people do music can definitely help you fall asleep. So that one would be It really surprised me that genetics one surprises me too. But I think the way that I'm looking at this as more like maybe it's a frontal lobe. These are genes that code for frontal, lobe development, neocortex but specifically in like the prefrontal cortex. And if that's the case, I do think obviously chimps have a decent neocortex, but their frontal lobe or their frontal. Prefrontal cortex isn't nearly as big as ours. Neanderthals might not be either. So yeah, if they could find jeans that coded for that, part of the brain.

Then it would be responsible for things like self control self awareness. That's where that is. So I don't know that one doesn't bother me as much. So God, I'm gonna go against the guys. I'm gonna go to sleep one. Okay? And Evan Cara, you can you convinced me? No, no. You will not be left alone because I also think it's the sleep on that is fiction. I don't think it has an adverse effect again. I don't have anecdotal evidence to offer in that regard. Guard. But I just couldn't. I'm trying to think of a reason as to why rhythmic music would would send your brain into a state in which it would not be in the getting ready for sleep. I just cannot see the connection there. Therefore fiction, all right, to you guys, all agree on the first one. So we'll start that researchers have demonstrated that they can identify individual, 3D printers by their Thermo tag, subtle differences in the objects, they print with 92% accuracy, you guys.

All think this one is science and this one is science. Pretty cool. Bird eggs. Yeah. It's like a finger calling like a fingerprint. Because, of course, that's, that's the analogy. And it is the, because it's a thermo tag, right? So Jay, you're correct, its the extruder, it's the hot end of the printer. It's the part that melts the plastic or whatever the substrate is that they're, that they're making stuff out of, and they say that. Even like subtle irregularities in the manufacture of any specific extruder will leave these thermal differences in the way. You know that the substance get is melted basically. Yeah, it's almost like like ballistics testing like, you know, and like a fire gun and you could imagine pull it back to the gun in a way and so, but this one, you know, they did a pretty extensive study, they looked at 45 different extruders They were able to identify them with 92% accuracy. So they and they the reason they were studying this is because of like patent infringement, you know, copyright infringement. If you if somebody is creating something they don't have the intellectual rights to you could trace it back to the printer that was used to create it. Right? Of course you could always swap out your extruder as a way of concealing your printer. And so they say that you would have To like, Hag not just in Tire 3D printers but also replacement parts like extruders. It would have to have a serial number on them that can be traced so that we could trace, who is creating things, right? This might be even more important when you get, when you get to the point where people can print parts and manufacture guns, for example, or things that might be illegal or unregistered or whatever, where they're getting around regulations, by making something at home, you know? Is absolutely get this going to be a more and more of a problem as 3D printers, get better and better. Okay, let's go on to number to a new study finds that listening to rhythmic music prior to sleep has an adverse effect on sleep onset and quality. Now in this study rhythmic music was contrasted with calming music shit. Calming music being you know slow you know and like the music I listened to before I go to sleep and rhythmic music being like, you know, rock and roll. Kind of music. I rhythmic like there's a there is a

Dominant needs to it. Mmm, so Kara Avenue think. This one is the fiction Jay, and Bob you think this one is science. And this one is the fiction that they both improved sleep, but the calming music more so than the rhythmic music, but they both improved it and neither of them, worsen sleep. I've made this partly made this to fiction because it's kind of a Limitary study. So I wouldn't hang my hat on the other conclusion that it at, you know what I mean? Although they also did review previous research which also shows that there is a beneficial effect to music unfortunately. A lot of the studies are not well controlled and with the like in this study the control was usual care which is not really a good Placebo, you know? Because the people in the Music intervention arm. We're getting more attention from the researchers and something novel was being introduced. So it's not really a fair comparison. But the only thing that makes me think that there that the data there's something to the data is because there seems to have been a dose effect response, meaning that the study was able to show a difference between different kinds of music in a direction that kind of made sense. It doesn't rule out a placebo effect but it makes it a little bit more believable but again, that wasn't willing to hang my hat on it. So I just made it to fiction. So, I didn't have to say, I believe the results right, just that there is no study, which shows that. So good job guys, let's go on number three geneticists. Have identified 267 genes unique to Homo. Sapiens are not found in Neanderthal for chimpanzees. That confer adaptability to emotional responsiveness self control and self awareness. This one is science. This is interesting. This is perhaps a surprising but here was that they were not found in the and Authority Under Tom's. Yeah, that's what I was kind of tripping on a little because I

Not that different, right, right? Grids are extremely close to home as a means of course, but they were looking for these differences. And Bobby, you said how it, why would we even know about this many genes? This was part they used a road, the coattails of a study of many, many genes using looking at, you know, tons of individuals. And and of course comparing it to chimpanzee idea ended the study was I Think designed to look for more medical stuff, like heart disease, risk factors, and things like that, but they had this huge database of genes that they could use. So, it's always hard to infer. The highest functional cognitive function from jeans cause it's kind, it's always look an indirect path there. But they do it is involved with not just like emotional responsiveness, but the but adaptability of emotional responsiveness like the ability to change the emotional responsiveness.

To environmental conditions, for example. So the researchers are hypothesizing based upon these results that you know, adaptability and creativity. Generally may have been like, the key advantage that homo sapiens had over neanderthals. And you know why we're here, and they're not. And I think that's we can't make that conclusion. It's way too many, right? Very variables in there but that homo sapiens. May have had genuine advantage. As you know in terms of like adaptability and that contributed to our survival. So not implausible, you know, the in that kind of fits with archaeological facts such as like the sophistication and of our toolkit really took off with Homo sapiens and although you know there are some artistic artifacts from neanderthals it's not nearly as much as Homo sapiens so they're clearly does appear to have been a Creativity difference between neanderthals and Homo sapiens and this genetic data would support that. But against it's easy to over-interpret these kind of results, but they are interesting. All right. So good job, evident Cara. Whatever

Skeptical Quote of the Week[edit]

This quote was suggested by listener. Steven Pomeroy who also happens to be the editor, real clear science. Thank you, Stephen. This is a good quote.

‘The duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and… attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.’ Spoken by the incredible 11-century Arab scientist, Ibn al-Haytham.

We know as the father of modern Optics. Yeah. Greta Will person 11th century. He said, go back to my room. Sorry correctly. Didn't he make like the first pinhole camera? My remembering that correctly. Let's play. I don't know that. Steve, I don't find out double check that. However, he is again, referred to, as the father of modern Optics. He wrote a. Yeah, you're right. Steve memory, there you go. You wrote about philosophy, Theology and medicine as well really. Paved the way from

Just an incredible person and always has so much deeper Roots than we imagined. You know what I mean? When you think about things like what was the first whatever it always goes back, far deeper than you would naively. Think they also underestimate how long it takes for ideas to mature into practical applications. You know. Yep. All right. Thank you. Evan.

Signoff/Announcements ()[edit]

And thank you all for joining me this week. You got it. Steve doorman. Thank you, Steve. And until next week, this is your Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

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