SGU Episode 847

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SGU Episode 847
October 2nd 2021
847 human footprints.jpg
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 846                      SGU 848

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.

Patti Smith, musician, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2007 

Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Discussion


Voice-over: You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

S: Today is Wednesday, September 29th, 2021, and this is your host, Stephen Novella.

S: Joining me this week are Bob Novella.

B: Hey, everybody.

S: Cara Santa Maria.

C: Howdy.

S: And Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening, everyone.

S: Jay is off this week, something to do with his 10 year anniversary or something.

S: So, Evan, you sent me this thing about today or tomorrow, I guess, September 30th being International Podcast Day.

S: What's that all about?

E: There is an International Podcast Day.

E: Wow.

E: Why I didn't know about that before, not quite sure.

E: We are international podcasters.

C: Oh, yeah, we absolutely are.

S: All seven continents, including Antarctica.

C: That's so cool.

E: Absolutely.

E: Yeah, that is very cool.

B: We need to get somebody in the space station.

B: Yeah, that's true.

E: In orbit.

E: I don't know how really official this is, but effectively it's become the day in which podcasters celebrate.

E: And it started in 2014 when they held the inaugural National Podcast Day event celebration in the United States, but became an international recognition as well.

E: And yeah, so it's nice to have a day to recognize, you know, the things you like and love.

E: And it's just sort of caught on.

E: I think they I don't know why they chose September 30th, per se.

E: I couldn't find anything specifically about that.

E: However, you know, it's as good a day as any, right?

E: Yeah, yeah.

S: But it's not official in any way.

S: It's just a bunch of podcasters all agree that this is the International Podcasting

E: Day. Right.

E: The post offices don't close.

S: The banks aren't shut down.

S: Kids are still going to school.

S: But they're doing some kind of – well, it's going to be before the show comes out, but there'll be some kind of streaming event on the 30th.

E: What I did today is I looked a little bit into the history of podcasting because we've been doing this since 2005 and that was about the time it coincided with Apple, right?

E: When iTunes roughly began their service.

S: That was a few months after we launched our podcast.

S: Yeah, it was.

E: June 2005, Apple added podcasting to its iTunes 4.9 music software and building a directory of podcasts at its iTunes music store.

E: So that was quite a moment because it helped us certainly, us having really just gotten our feet off the ground literally with a few episodes.

E: It was critical.

S: It was 70, 80 percent of our audience for years.

S: What is it now, I wonder?

S: It's not as big because there's a lot more podcast curators out there.

C: Well, also, we got better – not we.

C: The industry got better at measuring over the years.

C: And so what happened to a lot of people is that really early on you had these tons of hits on the podcast, but it turns out that there were multiple pings per user.

C: And now they've gotten much better at standardizing the way that they measure the listenership of podcasts and everybody's podcast listenership went down from that.

S: Yeah, I remember the day our listenership was cut in half basically.

C: Yeah, exactly.

S: I cried that day.

S: It's been pretty stable since then.

S: I mean, there are no other massive readjustments.

S: Other bit of tech news.

S: You guys hear about YouTube removing all vaccine misinformation?

S: I did hear that.

S: In general.

S: Banning all anti-vaccine misinformation.

S: Any video that says vaccines cause autism, cancer, infertility, banned.

S: Wow, that's great.

B: Yeah, not just the COVID vaccine, but all of any of them.

C: I'm headed in next week to get my booster.

C: How about you, Steve?

C: Really?

S: It's not scheduled yet, but it's approved for frontline workers, so I'll be getting

C: it soon. Yeah, and I'm actually going to get my flu shot the same day.

C: I got my flu shot already.

C: Why not?

C: Yeah, why not?

C: I'm going in for both and they're in the same clinic and I got to walk all the way over there, so why not get them at the same time?

S: Sure.

S: I was due to get my tetanus shot.

S: I'm like, hey, can I get my flu shot while I'm here?

S: Like, sure, great.

C: Check that box.

C: Yeah, it's so much easier for everyone, less paperwork, fewer heavy debt.

E: I'll take the lot.

E: Yeah, right.

E: Take it all.

E: So, Steve, is there any reason to be concerned about having to get this third shot or booster shot?

S: Yeah, there's no reason to be concerned at all.

S: The thing is, it's so close to the line that that's why they're debating, like, do we really, do we need it?

S: Do we not need it?

S: What that means is it doesn't really matter that much.

S: The stakes aren't that high.

S: But at some point it will be.

S: It's all about timing, maximizing the immunity from the vaccines, especially in the face of new variants, right, where they're not evading the vaccine, but their vaccines are not quite as effective.

S: So maximizing the vaccines will be important to maintain really effective immunity against the new variants as they come out.

S: But yeah, exactly what the optimal timing is, it's a matter of debate, which means it doesn't matter that much.

S: Like, if it's now or two months from now, it's all good.

C: And I think it's only approved for Pfizer right now.

C: And it's only because many of these frontline health care workers, A, got vaccinated so early.

C: We were in the first group, so we're like more, quote, due, if you want to say that.

C: And B, I mean, for me personally, it's obviously a personal decision for the boosters.

C: They're not required by my hospital at all.

E: You're still considered fully vaccinated if you've had your two Pfizer's.

C: Yeah, if you've had your two Pfizer's, you're still considered fully vaccinated.

C: But for me, I work with cancer patients, and they're really sick.

C: And a lot of them are on immunosuppressants.

C: And so as a personal decision, I just want to be as protected as possible so I don't put the patients I see at risk.

S: Oh, yeah, that's the whole point.

S: With frontline workers, we're a point of contagion.

S: So we have to shut that down, absolutely.

S: Yeah, it's not about me.

C: Like, I'm not so scared for me.

C: I'm much more concerned for the patients I see.

C: Right.

E: That rhymed.

C: I'm a poet, and I did know it.

Ivory Billed Woodpecker Follow Up ()[edit]

S: So one quick follow up before we go on to the news items.

S: We've followed the story of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which, you know, there hasn't been a confirmed sighting since early in the 20th century.

S: There were possible sightings, one in 1944.

S: And then recently, a few years ago, there was a possible sightings in the southeast.

S: And, you know, researchers went there, and a bunch of blurry photos came out of it.

S: But nothing that could distinguish the ivory-billed from the pileated woodpecker, its close living cousin.

S: And so there was this question, is there an ivory-billed woodpecker out there?

S: Because they do kind of live in the deep swamp, and it's possible there could have been a lingering population that was missed.

S: But the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently declared the ivory-billed woodpecker officially extinct.

E: So did some time threshold elapse effectively, like making it official?

S: It's part of it.

S: It's part of like, how long has it been since the last confirmed evidence that they're alive?

S: And at some point, they just have to decide to say that, yeah, that's long enough.

S: Like, yeah, there is sufficient time and lack of evidence, despite trying, of any sign that there's any extant, you know, individuals that they declare it extinct.

S: So it's a very sad sort of a closure to that.

S: There were 22 other species that they declared extinct as well, like eight Hawaiian birds.

S: Hawaii is obviously very susceptible to this because a lot of the species in Hawaii are only there, you know?

S: So it's not like they're...

S: It's a delicate...

S: They have a wide range.

S: It's a delicate environment.

S: So if they get displaced from Hawaii, that's it.

S: They're gone because that's the only place that they were.

S: Not many options, right?

B: What about DNA from any of them?

S: For a lot of them, we do have DNA.

S: We have DNA from the ivory build.

S: So there is...

S: Cloneable?

S: There is hope.

S: There you go.

S: Yeah, they could be brought back, yes, but they are extinct.

S: The fact that they might be brought back does not mean they're not extinct.

B: True, but it's a little ray of hope.

B: It's a little extra encouragement if you're really upset over this.

S: Yeah, it would be really easy to clone an ivory build in the womb of a pileated lizard.

S: Right, so close.

S: Almost as an animal, yeah.

B: Don't need any fraud DNA at all.

S: No fraud DNA, right?

S: Frogs.

S: That's a reference to Jurassic Park.

E: I don't see why they wouldn't want to do it.

S: No, I don't think so.

S: There's always a debate about bringing animals back and is that going to disrupt existing ecosystems or whatever, but I don't see how...

S: Since when have we let that stop us before?

S: Yeah, I don't see how this would do that though.

S: And also, this isn't long extinct.

C: Yeah, it's not that long.

S: It's not like it's a predator that's going to disrupt the local ecosystem.

S: They would probably have to do some kind of analysis, but I would be surprised if they said it would be a bad thing to bring it back.

C: Because what we...

C: I mean, we almost do that as it...

C: Obviously, there's a fine line between de-extinction.

C: Actually, there's a pretty bright line between de-extinction and just protection of a species.

C: But there are multiple species that are only extant in zoos now.

C: Yeah.

S: So, what's from a practical point of view?

S: Let's say we had three or four ivory build woodpeckers in a zoo, in a breeding program.

S: They bred them and then released them into the wild.

S: How is that different functionally from they have DNA in a lab and they clone it and bring it back and then release it into the wild?

C: Yeah, it's sort of like the GM argument, right?

C: What's the difference between a traditionally and then, you know, like shuffling 30,000 genes versus, you know, going in and kind of very specifically manipulating one gene?

C: Yeah.

C: If you're going for the same outcome.

C: Yeah, it's interesting.

C: Well, how about this?

S: How about this is a method of de-extinction?

S: I don't know that anyone's doing this.

S: It's just an idea.

S: So, let's say you have closely related species where one species goes extinct like the pileated and the ivory build and they have DNA from both.

S: So, let's say there's whatever.

S: There's so many gene changes between the two species.

S: They could go in and take a pileated, take its, you know, ovaries or sperm or whatever, crisper it to change it essentially into an ivory build.

S: Just flip all the genes to...

S: I love that idea.

S: Just engineer.

S: Flip the switches.

S: Yeah, just engineer an ivory build and then there you go.

E: Transmogrify.

E: Use that to fertilize.

S: You know, you fertilize an ivory build egg with sperm that you made from a pileated and there you go.

S: Yeah.

S: Wait, what if you did it in a living?

S: Yeah, then you fertilize a living pileated to give birth to it, to lay the eggs.

B: Now, what if you like went into a living bird and flipped all the switches?

B: Well, then you have to do it in all the somatic cells and it's already been developed.

S: It doesn't really quite work that way.

B: I stipulate that will be very difficult.

C: Yeah, why go difficult when you don't have to?

C: It's not just like knocking down one domino.

C: You don't have to go that route.

E: Why go that route?

E: Now, when will they declare the Sasquatch extinct?

E: That has not been seen in quite a long time.

C: It has to have been living first, Evan.

E: Living on in the culture of America, that's for sure.

S: I love the Bigfoot hunters.

S: Like, we're a no-shoot Bigfoot hunter group.

S: Good for you.

S: If you ever come across a Bigfoot, you won't shoot it.

S: I'm proud of you.

S: That's right.

E: That's right.

E: All my imaginary friends are very safe.

News Items[edit]






(laughs) (laughter) (applause) [inaudible]

Gigantic Cavity in Space ()[edit]

S: All right, Bob, start us off with this news item about this gigantic cavity in space.

S: What is that all about?

S: Need a big dentist.

B: So, yeah, researchers detect a gargantuan cavity in the Milky Way that draws intriguing connections between the death and the birth of stars.

B: And I got to say, I'm glad Jay's not here to hear about this gigantic cavity in space because I think it would freak him out a little bit because you know how he is with, you know, tooth care and dentists and stuff.

B: So, yes, the research team is from the Center for Astrophysics, which is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Hartford College Observatory.

B: What a cool collaboration that is.

B: And it's been printed recently in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

B: So the sizzle of this news item is this flashy, immense cavity that Steve mentioned spanning nearly 500 light years caused probably by a huge supernova quite a while ago.

B: But that's not the meat.

B: The meat of this is basically molecular clouds.

B: So we need to understand what the hell they are.

B: I think we may have briefly mentioned them, but let's go into a little bit more detail since they are so critical to this specific item.

B: So molecular clouds are types of nebulas.

B: You've heard of nebulas in space, which are vast collections of gas and dust in space.

B: And to that I say gas and dust in space?

B: Shocker, right?

B: Like, wow.

B: But wait, listen, there's more details here because these are quite special because, yeah, gas and dust are everywhere, obviously.

B: Now, the clouds are mostly molecular hydrogen, H2.

B: So that's a molecule, if you didn't get that from its actual name, molecular hydrogen.

B: So two hydrogen atoms that share their electrons.

B: So two protons, two electrons bound together.

B: And it's also the smallest molecule in the universe, which is kind of obvious if you think about it.

B: But it's interesting.

B: I never really thought of it that way.

B: So now the dust component is relatively small.

B: It's an integral part of it, but it's small, especially if you compare it by mass.

B: But I feel bad for space dust often because more often than not, I read a lot of astronomical news items and they throw around the term dust over and over, but they never really go into much detail about what is this dust.

B: And especially when they talk about molecular clouds, they just say, oh, it's H2.

B: It's molecular hydrogen and dust.

B: And they kind of leave it at that.

B: So dust, what is this space dust, this cosmic dust?

B: It's bits of rock, obviously.

B: It's also organic compounds, meaning compounds with carbon-hydrogen bonds.

B: There's also minerals, even tiny grains of ice as well, and probably a bunch of other little things that can compose dust.

B: They're very, very small, from a few molecules to a tenth of a millimeter in length.

B: And there's also different types of dust.

B: They distinguish between intergalactic dust, interstellar dust, interplanetary dust, each of them having different kind of effects.

B: And even new studies have shown that the dust component of molecular clouds can help them actually do what they do.

B: And I'll go into that in a little more detail in a few minutes.

B: So these molecular clouds are vast.

B: They are even bigger than I had thought.

B: Their masses can range from around, you know, say a few solar masses to a million solar masses with diameters 20 to 200 parsecs.

B: Parsec is one of my favorite units of measurement.

B: It's 3.26 light years.

B: Parsec is a portmanteau of parallax and second.

B: And so parallax, second, parsec, wait, yes, that's right.

B: That works out.

B: So to me, parsec just sounds like a fascinating word.

B: It just sounds kind of cool.

B: But it's very commonly used.

B: If you're talking locally, astronomers will often talk about kiloparsecs if you're like just, you know, within your local galaxy area.

B: There's megaparsecs for like mid-distance galaxies and even gigaparsecs for really distant quasars and such.

B: So they really, you know, you'll come across that a lot if you read some of the, a lot of the papers.

B: And there's a joke parsec, and that is an adoparsec.

B: An adoparsec, which is what, 10 to the negative 19?

B: So that's like three centimeters, I think.

B: So it's really funny.

C: It's so funny.

B: Nobody uses that seriously, but I came across it and just was laughing.

B: Okay, so yes, these molecular clouds can be 20 to 200 parsecs long.

B: And now you know exactly how long that is.

B: Now the densest central regions of these molecular clouds, that's the business end, if you will.

B: So these central regions, that's what kind of really distinguishes them from regular nebulae.

B: I was trying to determine, you know, what is the big difference here?

B: And that's really the crux of it from what I can gather.

B: And these are called dark clouds or dark nebulas.

B: That name, of course, is very descriptive because when you look at it, it's essentially a black void in space when you see them.

B: And that's because the dust is so thick that no light comes through them from behind.

B: So you could see, you know, you see this ominous, this huge ominous black shape that's surrounded by thousands of stars, but nothing's coming through it.

B: It's really, you know, if the picture is well made, it looks really like something weird and mysterious is going on.

B: Now inside these cocoons of these dark nebulas is actually a fascinating place because the lack of starlight helps create really, really cold, colder temperatures than you would think.

B: It's like essentially it's heated up one thousandth that it would have if it if the starlight can get through.

B: And what's actually the only thing that's really heating it is like cosmic, you know, cosmic rays.

B: So I didn't know that.

B: That's that's very it's very interesting.

B: But that allows very exotic chemistries when you have these, you know, these elements all together in such a cold place.

B: Things happen that wouldn't really don't happen anywhere else now.

B: But looking inside it is tough, right, because you've got all this dust there that's blocking everything.

B: That's why it looks black.

B: So you got to use very far infrared wavelengths if you want it, if you want to look at it.

B: And when we do peer inside, the most important thing we see are what young stars being born.

B: Molecular clouds are stellar nurseries.

B: And that's obviously incredibly important, especially for this news item.

B: If you you probably already know a very famous molecular cloud, you've heard of the pillars of creation.

B: That's probably its most famous example.

B: Look it up when you see it.

B: Be like, oh, yeah, that was all in the news.

B: Like what was it, 15 years ago, 10 years ago?

B: That's something to check out.

B: And it's just such a beautiful, iconic image.

B: Now, to two other famous molecular clouds that you probably didn't hear about in the Milky Way are called Perseus and Taurus.

B: We've never we've known about them for a long, long time, but it's always kind of like, well, how far away are they?

B: And, you know, we really don't didn't know that much about them.

B: You know, we didn't know their precise three dimensional shape.

B: And like I said, or even how far away they are.

B: I mean, pretty basic things.

B: But recently, these researchers got a hold of the Gaia Observatory data.

B: This was an observatory launched by the European Space Agency, ESA.

B: So they got a they got a hold of that data and it showed them it showed the precise three dimensional orientations of the Perseus and the Taurus molecular clouds.

B: It's not just the molecular clouds.

B: The Perseus and Taurus refers to the dark nebulas, which are which are the cores of these much larger, much vaster molecular clouds.

B: So that's like the business end of that.

B: It's when they saw that these precise these precise orientations and shapes of these two molecular clouds that they said, well, wait a second, look at that.

B: There's an immense void with it between right in the middle of these two dark nebulas.

B: What's what what's that about?

B: That's the void that they that they found.

B: What the researchers finding suggest is that the the ancient supernova shockwave not only likely created the void by pushing all the gas and dust aside, it probably also created the molecular clouds themselves, what they now call the Perseus Taurus super shell.

B: So I have a quote here from Shmuel Bialy.

B: He's a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Theory and Computation at the Center of Astrophysics.

B: And he led the study.

B: And he said, this demonstrates that when a star dies, its supernova generates a chain of events that may ultimately lead to the birth of new stars, which I the symmetry is obviously pretty poignant there.

B: So that's really cool.

B: And I guess they really weren't aware of that.

B: I mean, you kind of get the sense that a supernova, you know, can can litter the, you know, the local space with their wonderful elements and things that they created.

B: But thinking that actually can have a hand in creating these molecular clouds, these stars, and then eventually, you know, the stars themselves, which are the stellar nurseries is pretty, pretty important discovery.

B: So finally, I really recommend this paper.

B: And I mentioned this specifically because it's the first time journals of the American Astronomical Society published visualizations in augmented reality.

B: So basically, you go to you go to the paper, you scan the QR code after you download their app, of course, the QR codes right in their paper.

B: It brings in onto your your phone, I use my phone, it shows a three dimensional image of their data that you can then rotate and zoom in.

B: So you guys, I sent it all to you.

B: I took a little screenshot of it.

B: You can see that isn't that really cool?

B: That just a little QR code and bam, you can you can actually see a visualization that you could then manipulate and zoom in, zoom out, you can see the two dark nebulas that are kind of like right around, right around this this huge void in space.

E: It's a big help having that visualization when talking about a topic like this, because I'm not really sure how else you would be able to put it, build that image in your mind.

E: Oh, I know.

B: And it's and even, you know, they had static images in there as well.

B: And it's just like, yeah, that's cool.

B: But there's nothing like being able to manipulate it and zoom in and zoom out and stuff.

B: And this is, of course, part of a concerted effort to modernize publications moving towards, you know, more like interactivity and reproducibility.

B: And I think that's definitely a laudable goal, because, you know, there's so many new options that you could, you know, that are available now.

B: And, you know, you know, embedding such a thing into a QR code is such a seems like a no brainer now that I see it's like, of course, what a great idea.

B: I think and I hope we're going to see a lot of that in the future.

S: Now, Bob, just to clarify one thing, which I think I know the answer to, but just for the audience.

S: So this void is a sphere with 500 light years in diameter.

S: Right. And there's no essentially gas or dust within that 500 light year sphere.

S: But there are still stars within that sphere.

B: I didn't come across any mention of stars within that sphere.

B: So what my guess is that over over the eons, what happened was that there were molecular clouds that were that way at that distance, you know, because because that sphere, that void gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

B: Right. So it creates the molecular clouds.

B: And then the stellar nurseries are there.

B: The stars are born.

B: The stars ignite.

B: And what happens when you ignite a star within a dark nebula is that the stellar winds blow away the molecular cloud and bam, then you got a bare star with no molecular cloud after enough time has passed.

B: So that's what must have happened.

B: So those are those are stars that were that were created by older, you know, older versions of those dark nebulas that are that are now there within that sphere.

B: But it's only 10 million years old.

S: Right. So there must be older stars that were, you know, that have been there for billions of years.

S: I mean, the supernova wouldn't push the stars aside.

S: No, no, it would.

B: And if they were pre-existing stars, then then, yeah, they just they just got buffeted a little bit and they hung out.

B: But otherwise, that that void is pretty cleansed.

B: All right. Thanks, Bob.

Oldest Evidence of Humans in North America ()[edit]

S: Sure.

S: So this is a cool, cool bit of evidence, cool story about the oldest evidence of humans in the Americas, which was discovered.

S: Oh boy. Big.

S: Yeah, described recently.

S: This is like what probably was an old, muddy, like lake bed with score of footprints, of human footprints.

S: And interestingly, they're mostly children.

S: So you could just see the children playing in the muddy lake.

S: And then there's a few parent, few adult footprints as the parents had to go in there and grab them.

E: That's cool that they have that comparison.

E: Yeah.

S: Yeah, yeah.

E: So you can see, you can tell.

E: I know, but you could I mean, maybe just found some smaller adults who made those prints.

E: But no, I think with the comparison of the two, you can say, yes, adult children.

E: No problem there.

S: Yeah.

S: Plus, these are modern, fully modern humans.

S: So not much of an issue there, either.

S: It's not like we don't know what species they are.

C: Yeah, but they still I think historically we were still like somewhat more diminutive.

C: Right.

C: Especially with like different nutrition and stuff.

S: Yeah, right.

S: Yeah.

S: I mean, yeah, there's a there's there's a range of size of modern living human.

S: True.

C: That's true.

C: I mean, if you're in the Andes versus in.

S: Yeah.

S: Yeah.

S: All right.

S: But let's let's rewind a little bit back up and put this into context.

S: Let's go all the way back to Africa where you have, you know, where humans evolved.

S: Hominids evolved in Africa.

S: When was the first time our direct ancestors left Africa?

S: That was it was Homo erectus.

S: Homo erectus about 1.8 million years ago, spread into Europe and Asia, probably because, you know, they mastered fire, which is, you know, was a huge innovation, enabled them to.

S: Yeah, it's a game changer.

S: Cook their food.

S: Yeah.

S: And also.

S: Be safe.

S: Keep them warm.

S: Warm in the northern.

S: Oh my God.

S: Yeah, it's just so much just imagine.

S: So anyway, with yeah, with with some big game hunting spears and fire, we basically conquered the world.

S: So that was Homo erectus 1.8 million years ago, basically made it to Europe and Asia.

S: And then again, it's always a question like how far they get in terms of like the Pacific Islands.

S: They definitely made it to some of what are now existing Pacific Islands, like Java, for example.

S: But hominids also were still in Africa and continue to evolve.

S: And hominids in Africa evolved into the most recent common ancestor of humans and Neanderthals.

S: Anybody know what that is?

S: The most recent?

S: Homo habilis.

S: Homo heidelbergensis.

S: Oh, yeah.

S: Yeah.

S: So Homo heidelbergensis was in Africa and the the ancestors of Neanderthals also spread into Europe and Asia, where they evolved into, you know, Neanderthals who were wide, well established by 400000 years ago.

S: But they also continue to evolve into fully modern humans in Africa.

S: And then about 80000 years ago, fully modern humans migrated out of Africa to Europe and Asia and Australia and, you know, all the Pacific Islands, etc.

S: And eventually to the Americas.

S: Now, the Americas are different than the rest of the world, you know, from the out of Africa origin because there's no easy way to get to the Americas from Africa.

S: You could pretty much just walk everywhere else.

S: So the Australia and the Pacific and the Pacific Islands, there's probably some combination of island hopping when the ocean levels were relatively low.

S: So land bridges that are not there now, but were there in the past, and island hopping with rafts, primitive boats, whatever.

S: Again, but probably when the oceans were lower, so there would be more land and less ocean to cross.

S: But getting to the Americas presents a pretty difficult problem because you can't cross the oceans or you can't cross the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean in 20000 years ago in a raft.

S: You know, a human would never survive that without modern ships and navigation, relatively speaking.

S: But there is a northern route from Asia to Americas and also from Europe to the Americas.

S: During, when you have a glacial period, a couple of things happen.

S: You have the ocean levels are low again, so there may be land bridges might open up like the Bering Land Bridge, Beringia.

S: And then you also, glacial pack ice can form a contiguous route from Scandinavia, for example, into Canada or from Asia into Alaska and Canada on the other side.

S: And even if you can't walk across, you could take a boat and staying within sight of shore because that's much easier just for to follow the shore all the way across and down the West Coast of America into South America or down the East Coast if you're coming from another direction.

S: But this means is that there's only these historical windows when the passage was open.

S: So now we're trying to understand how and when people came to the Americas and understand them in the context of the Ice Age, the glacial periods, glacial maxima versus glacial minima, and when would they have been able to come and by what method.

S: So right now, the main hypothesis is that humans came to the Americas from Asia through the Bering Strait, right, through that route.

S: There is a minority hypothesis called the Solutrean hypothesis that people from Europe came across, you know, Iceland, Greenland, and then into Canada, but that it has not been well established and that remains controversial and that's a minority opinion.

S: So we'll forget that for now.

S: So now we're just talking about that, you know, we know that people came across Asia into America.

S: When did that happen?

S: So we've spoken on the show previously about Clovis culture, right?

S: Yeah.

S: Clovis points were found that are pretty distinctive.

S: They were mostly optimized for big game hunting.

S: The Clovis culture existed, you know, goes back to about 11,500 years ago.

S: Now for a long time, like most of the 20th century, there was the Clovis first hypothesis that the Clovis culture were the first people to people the Americas.

S: Sure.

S: And it really became dogma.

E: Yeah, they were the poster child, you know, like first ones there.

S: Yeah, totally.

S: And then the question just became like, how long did they live?

S: And did the Proto-Indians, like were they descended from the Clovis culture or was it a separate wave?

S: Were there multiple waves when the passage opened?

S: Still not really sure what the answer to that question is.

S: Partly because like the Clovis culture is mostly known from stone points, not from fossils or DNA.

S: But the Clovis first hypothesis really became entrenched partly because there was a series of putative sites that were probably not legitimate or they were misinterpreting the data, overinterpreting the data or et cetera.

S: And so the paleontologists had to push back a lot against false claims of pre-Clovis people, but also just personalities, whatever, just got to the point where it really became entrenched to the end.

S: They were resisting increasingly emerging evidence that maybe there were people in the Americas pre-Clovis.

S: Eventually, the evidence sort of broke through, which in science, in many sciences usually means that the older scientists died and were replaced by newer, younger scientists who were more open to new ideas.

S: And then there were multiple sites going back to about 16,000 years with evidence of people in Mexico and in different locations.

S: Now the part of the resistance to the pre-Clovis idea was that there's really no way, the past, the Bering Pass was probably not open 16,000 years ago.

S: It was open in the last glacial maximum.

S: There was a period at the time when the Clovis people were here where they could have gotten here.

S: And so again, trying to time the peopling of the Americas to what we knew about the ice age and the glacial periods, it didn't really make sense that they were here.

S: Like the last window was 23,000 years ago, 24,000 years ago.

S: And so that was part of the reason why there was so much resistance.

S: But we couldn't, you know, eventually you couldn't ignore the evidence that there were people in the Americas even as far back as 16,000 years ago.

S: What evidence was there?

E: And was that physical evidence?

S: Yeah.

S: Yeah.

S: So there was some fossil evidence and some artifact evidence.

S: Fossils?

S: What kind?

S: And part of it was, a lot of it was evidence of butchering of mammoths, for example, or butchering of animals.

S: And so that's sort of indirect evidence.

S: You know, so that's a guarantee.

E: But why the lack of fossil bones?

E: What's the deal, man?

E: Why did a lot of people- Where are they buried?

B: A lot of people must have died back then.

B: What's the oldest human remains we have in the Americas?

S: 13,000 years, I think.

S: So Arlington Springs, man, comes up when you look for that.

S: That's from 13,000 years ago, which is sort of just pre-Clovis.

S: So now we get to the new evidence, though, right?

S: The new evidence of the footprints, they date back to between 21 and 23,000 years ago.

S: So that pushes- The last time, yeah.

S: The prior time it was open.

S: Yeah, which is actually pretty good because that's like, okay, it was all the way back to the last time that the bridge was open, the Bering Land Bridge.

S: So that kind of makes sense.

S: It pushes back the evidence for the oldest presence in the Americas by about 7,000 years, which is huge.

S: That's huge.

S: Oh, my lord.

S: So we have no fossils, no tools, so we don't know what their culture was.

S: We don't have their DNA.

S: But human footprints are pretty undeniable.

E: Well, a reflexologist was called in to analyze the footprints, and they're still working on that data.

S: Footprints are really good for dating because if you have a stone tool, for example, that could sink in the mud into older strata and be falsely old when you're digging it up.

S: It could give you a falsely old date because either it was mixed or it sunk or whatever.

S: Some animal moved it around or something.

S: But footprints are footprints, right?

S: They have to, by definition, be in this substrate at the time that they were made.

S: And so you could say, here are the footprints.

S: It's in this mud, right?

S: It has to be here.

S: And the layer above it is 21,000 years old.

S: The layer below it's 23,000 years old.

S: It has to be in that zone.

S: There's really no choice.

B: Yeah, they'd have to dig a deep hole and then make footprints in that deep hole in order to throw that.

S: Right, but this was a vast mud of lake, dried lake.

S: So it would be a big hole they'd have to dig, a huge hole.

S: The only consideration is that the carbon-14 dating technique was off.

S: And that can happen if you have living creatures in a lake, let's say, that are incorporating older carbon into themselves.

S: Contamination.

S: Yeah, so the carbon that's already dated, that's already thousands of years old, and then you're incorporating that into your body and then into now your sediment layer.

S: So it makes it seem older.

S: But they accounted for that.

S: And they accounted for the conditions at the time that these were laid down.

S: And their date is based upon already taking that into consideration.

S: So that doesn't seem to be an issue.

E: Steve, I have to ask.

E: I know the answer.

E: I'm going to throw it out there.

E: They've falsified these things.

E: In other words, there's no chance these things were faked.

S: No, no.

S: No, like a whole bed of scores of footprints.

S: No, it would not be possible.

B: Yeah, you need a time machine to fake it like that.

S: Yeah.

S: All right.

S: So that seems pretty clear.

S: It could be cool.

S: I mean, yeah, this is in New Mexico, by the way.

S: So this is one piece of evidence.

S: Although it's pretty solid, you know, you'll see how it stands up with more time of paleontologists taking a look at it.

S: And you know, obviously, more evidence will always shed more light on this.

S: The thing that one thing to remember is that we just don't have a lot of evidence for early people in the Americas.

S: And so every new solid piece of evidence we get is like a brand new puzzle piece that is showing us a new part of the puzzle.

S: You know what I mean?

S: It's not surprising, given the level of the evidence and the complexity of what happened, that every time we find something, any significant new piece of evidence, it's sort of changing the picture that we think we're seeing.

S: Drastically, yeah.

S: Yeah.

E: We're still in that stage.

E: Bob brings up a good point about why so little evidence, whereas other parts of the world we have lots of evidence for other finds.

S: So with paleontology, it's all about windows, right?

S: You just need the conditions have to be right for things to fossilize and for things to be preserved.

S: And so it's partly that we're looking at a more restricted range.

S: You know, it's not the whole world.

S: We're looking at just North and South America.

S: It's also that the populations may have been low, generally speaking, as I say, for glaciation purposes.

S: And also, it's a shorter period of time.

S: It's not like we're looking over millions of years.

S: We're looking over thousands of years.

S: You know what I'm saying?

S: It's like we're trying to look with a much higher resolution.

S: Much higher resolution than you had 20 million years ago.

S: This was, you know what I mean?

S: So that's the problem.

B: Yeah.

B: It's like trying to find fossils from like 50 million, 200,000 years ago, specifically within 10,000 to 20,000 years.

S: Within 10,000 years.

B: Yeah.

B: Yeah.

S: You're not going to find crap.

S: You know, it's just like...

S: Unless you have this really great find, which are just luck, you know?

S: It's like we look where the light is good.

S: Like we take the evidence where the conditions were right to preserve a snapshot in history.

S: And we don't have any of those really good snapshots at the critical time periods that we're interested in.

S: So we're just getting any evidence that we can.

S: I also wonder if it's just a lot of it is just because it's so developed now.

S: Like, I'm sure a lot of evidence has been destroyed over the years.

S: Think about it.

S: Yeah.

S: Yeah.

S: Erosion doing its thing as well.

S: We're just building.

E: You know, just, you know...

E: Like, look at the tooth bones.

E: Ah, forget about them.

E: Don't worry about it.

S: I mean, they're supposed to do a survey first and make sure that there isn't, you know, any significant evidence before they do that.

S: And they do.

C: But I'm sure those rules are only, what, 100 years old.

C: Yeah.

C: Oh, yeah.

C: Think about all the development that happened before that.

E: Yeah.

E: They only removed the headstones.

S: Like, all of Connecticut was farmland.

S: What do you think you do to farmland?

S: You turn up the soil, you know?

S: Oh, yeah.

S: 200 years ago to 100 years ago.

S: I mean, forget about it.

S: If you look at anything in the Northeast, you know, any evidence there is...

S: There's still...

S: Obviously, there is still evidence.

S: But you could imagine that a lot of it was destroyed just as part of civilization, which is unfortunate.

S: But...

S: So, really interesting.

S: Very, very interesting.

S: We still know very little about it.

S: But I think we can confidently say now, you know, with this evidence that the story of people in the Americas goes back at least to 21 to 23,000 years.

S: Might even have been earlier.

S: Could it...

S: There might have been previous waves.

S: Yeah, so the last glacial period was between 115,000 and 11,700 years ago.

S: So that Clovis period not only ended the last glacial maximum, it was the last glacial period.

S: We are now in an interglacial period.

S: And during a glacial period, you have glacial maxima and minima.

S: So the windows opened up during a glacial period, especially when there were glacial maxima.

E: Woke up all that water, yep.

E: How high were those?

E: Miles high?

E: Two miles high, some of those glaciers?

E: Oh, yeah.

S: Oh, wow.

E: Really?

E: The power and force of those things moving across the land.

E: Oh my gosh.

B: Not just that.

B: What I love, my little favorite fact of that is that North America, I think Northeast within North America, is literally still rebounding.

B: It's coming back up from having all that weight on it.

S: Pushing it down.

B: Pushing it down.

B: It's slowly springing back.

B: That's incredible.

E: Long Island was the frontal edge crust that got pushed and marked the boundary of how far it got.

E: Oh, cool.

E: I didn't know that.

E: That's Long Island.

S: What we need is a good find where we have well-preserved fossil evidence, enough that we can get DNA.

S: So we'll have fossil evidence, DNA evidence.

S: Oh my God, yeah.

S: And some artifacts, like with artifacts.

S: That'd be nice.

S: So that we could see, oh, this was the points that they were using.

S: This is the culture that they were using.

S: We need some evidence like that to really start to flesh out.

S: Because it's still a question mark.

S: Was the peopling of the Americas one wave during one opening and that was it?

S: And then a continuous presence since then?

S: Or were there multiple waves?

S: And did the multiple waves interact with each other?

S: Were there earlier waves that got wiped out, that didn't survive?

S: And then later waves?

S: Or did later waves replace them or interbreed with them or whatever?

S: Are the current native populations of the Americas the result of multiple different waves that survived in different parts?

S: Like maybe South Americans are the descendants of one wave when Native Americans in North America and Canada are different waves.

S: Who knows?

S: I'm sure it's a very complicated story.

S: Oh, God, yeah.

S: But you only have these little glimpses.

S: You have these little glimpses into.

S: Tiny fragments.

S: We will be hearing about this again, definitely.

S: Cool.

Treating Heart Disease in Women ()[edit]

S: All right, Cara, tell us about treating heart disease in women.

C: Yeah, not going so well, apparently, unfortunately.

C: So we talk a lot about equity in health care, not just in outcomes, but also in health care services.

C: And I think this article that I came across recently really speaks to that.

C: So it's a write up of a study that was published in the Medical Journal of Australia called Sex Differences in the Management and Outcomes of Non-ST Elevation Acute Coronary Syndromes.

C: And I think it requires a tiny bit of background before I tell you the outcomes of their study.

C: There's a lot of terminology that gets thrown around.

C: I had to sort of make sense of a lot of this because I know I had heard a lot of these terms that I hadn't really thought deeply about what they mean.

C: But commonly we hear the term heart attack, right?

C: We know of when somebody has a heart attack, but what exactly is a heart attack?

C: The technical term that's used to describe heart attack is a myocardial infarction.

C: And infarction, of course, refers to the death of tissue.

C: Specifically here we're talking about the heart muscle, myo, that's where the myocardial comes from.

C: Myocardial tissue doesn't get enough oxygen for a variety of reasons, and there's tissue death.

C: And the larger sort of bucket, because I think that this is going to be necessary to know when we describe the difference between a STEMI and an NSTEMI, the larger bucket is something called acute coronary syndrome.

C: And that includes a lot of things.

C: It includes unstable angina.

C: It includes myocardial infarction, otherwise known as a heart attack.

C: And within my myocardial infarction, there are two big types that are often described.

C: There's a STEMI and an NSTEMI.

C: So STEMI is an ST elevation myocardial infarction.

C: What that means is that when you look at an EKG, you know, the little wiggles on the screen based on the leads that are placed on the chest, you see that the ST portion of that EKG wave is elevated.

C: And an NSTEMI, which stands for non, that's where the N comes in, non-ST elevation myocardial infarction, you actually don't see that elevation.

C: Now sometimes you see other changes to the EKG.

C: That's neither here nor there, but you might see an ST depression, you might see a T inversion.

C: But the big takeaway is that sometimes it doesn't look like an abnormal EKG at all.

C: Sometimes you can't diagnose a heart attack just on the EKG.

C: You can diagnose a STEMI heart attack, a STEMI myocardial infarction, but not an NSTEMI.

C: You actually then also, which is standard now, is you have to look at a blood test to see if there are markers of heart damage.

C: One of the big ones is troponin that's released when the heart muscle itself actually starts to die.

C: So you can see the heart, you can see those factors in the blood, which is why it's very important that both pieces of evidence are taken together.

C: Generally speaking, STEMIs can be kind of classified as more severe, but let's be clear here.

C: NSTEMIs are also very, very severe.

C: They can be very damaging.

C: And a lot of it has to do downstream with either total, like complete blockage of an artery or partial blockage of an artery.

C: So all of that background is necessary to understand what happened in this study, where the researchers looked at a big registry of acute coronary care that was in Australia across 43 Australian hospitals across about a decade.

C: And they specifically were looking at people with NSTEMI, so non-ST elevation myocardial infarction.

C: And they, I think it ended up being, yeah, something like 7,783 patients.

C: Only 2,422 of them were women.

C: So right there you see a big difference off the bat.

C: Women just by and large had fewer cases of this type of heart attack.

C: And that follows across the board.

C: Even though heart attack is a common cause of death in women, even though it is a high risk factor, it's still, when you compare genders, is not as frequent as in men.

C: But within that, they started to kind of look at a lot of demographic information, which they always do in these studies.

C: But the main outcome measures were, what did the physicians do after somebody came in with an NSTEMI?

C: And they looked at both the immediate outcome, like what happened upon discharge, and then a six-month follow-up outcome.

C: And here is what they found.

C: They found that fewer women underwent cardiac catheterization.

C: They found that women had a longer median time to get that catheterization.

C: They found that fewer women were prescribed aspirin.

C: They found that fewer women were given antiplatelet medications other than aspirin.

C: Fewer women were prescribed beta blockers.

C: Fewer women were prescribed statins.

C: And fewer women, and this is a really big difference, were referred to cardiac rehab, a difference of 54% to 63%.

C: They found that fewer women underwent that bypass grafting.

C: Again fewer women, so this is within a different group.

C: This is coronary artery disease as a whole, so not just the NSTEMI women, but women who also had, or sorry, women and men who also had unstable angina.

C: Fewer women in that group underwent CABG.

C: Fewer women were given statins.

C: Fewer women were also referred for cardiac rehabilitation.

C: Yeah, so across the board, basically the overall outcomes were the women in this study received less evidence-based treatment than the men, consistent with, and this was consistent with studies that were done before.

C: So even though they were just specifically looking in Australia, they referenced a lot of literature from around the world that showed that by and large women in these, women are receiving less evidence-based treatment when they come in for heart attack than men.

C: This study specifically looked at NSTEMI, but that's in keeping with similar outcomes for STEMI.

C: They do say that one thing that might partly explain this difference, which is an important point, is that more women may have non-obstructive coronary artery disease, meaning that there's something going on with the heart muscle, but they don't have blockage of a coronary vessel, which means that they're not having that ischemic event that's actually leading to or the cause of, quote, or I should say, which is by definition the heart attack.

C: The problem is, even if they don't technically have an NSTEMI, but instead have a non-obstructive coronary artery disease, they would still benefit from these treatments.

C: It's not a benign condition.

C: A lot of these therapies that you would give to somebody after a heart attack are the similar or the same therapies that you would give to somebody who's having non-obstructive coronary artery disease because they're preventive in nature as well.

C: And they're evidence-based and it's within the literature that they should be prescribed.

C: So even though some of the differences might be that women are more likely than men to present without a total blockage, they would still benefit from these evidence-based treatments, but they are not getting them.

C: And so that's the big outcome here.

C: Women by and large aren't getting as solid and as frequent evidence-based treatment as men when they come in.

C: And there's a lot of whys here.

C: There's a lot of this is like larger cultural whys having to do with how women have historically been treated within the healthcare system.

C: Sometimes their complaints are minimized.

C: Sometimes physicians think it's due to other things.

C: I think we've talked about this in the past.

C: It's a common type of bias that has to do with unconscious bias.

C: We see it a lot with like obesity shaming in our country where an individual might come into a hospital setting with a complaint that is in no way linked to their weight.

C: But the first thing a physician might think, well, it must have to do with their weight.

C: And we see this a lot with women, right?

C: A woman comes into the hospital complaining of something.

C: Does this have to do with your hormones?

C: You see it also a lot with trans individuals.

C: Oh, it must be because of the hormones that you're experiencing these symptoms, even when the symptoms aren't related to those issues.

C: And so that may partially explain what's going on, this sort of historical bias that we still haven't managed to move out of.

C: This difference between the rates of heart attack in women and men may partially explain why that bias persists.

C: But regardless of the fact that there's a bias that we're all working to overcome, the outcome is the same.

C: Women aren't getting as good of treatment post-heart attack as men.

C: And that's a problem that we have to correct.

S: Yeah.

S: I think a part of it, I mean, I think another factor here is what is the representativeness heuristic, which is something I talk a lot about to my residents and my students, et cetera, when I lecture about these kinds of things.

S: This is all just critical thinking in clinical decision making.

S: And one of the things that all people do, including physicians, is we fall for the representativeness heuristic in that we think something is likely to belong to a group or category if it has typical features of that category.

S: But that doesn't account for the base rate or statistics.

S: And part of what as educators, like as medical educators, we have to do is sort of teach our students to think differently than this naive thinking.

S: So one way to put it is that you don't really want to know how typical features are of a specific diagnosis.

S: You want to know how predictive they are of a specific diagnosis.

S: And it really, it's like a subtle difference, but it really can significantly change your thinking.

S: So part of the problem here is that the idea of what a typical heart attack patient is was developed 80 years ago or whatever, and was based upon a typical male heart attack.

S: And so we tend to think of a heart attack and the symptoms that look like a heart attack are the ones that men who are having a heart attack typically present with.

S: But they're different than the symptoms that women typically have, at least statistically speaking.

S: And so we're basically using a male algorithm on women and it doesn't work.

S: Which we do all the time in healthcare.

S: Which is a systemic problem in healthcare.

S: We're working on it.

S: And it's not like there's a lot of recognition of this and a lot of attempts at trying to fix this problem, but it's so deeply embedded it's going to take a long time to really weed it out.

S: And that's why these studies are being done to say, you know, there's still these male biased algorithms in our clinical decision making that's negatively impacting the care of women and we need to identify them and root them out.

C: And can I say it's so deeply embedded that this journal article, which was published in the Medical Journal of Australia, which was written by one, two, three, four women and two men, which I can only assume, I have not interviewed these individuals, but I can only assume that there was a curiosity within these researchers about this very issue, which drove them to do this research and publish.

C: Even these people in their first paragraph of the abstract, let me read this to you.

C: Sex differences and the characteristics of acute coronary syndromes have been described.

C: Women present more frequently than men with non-ST elevation myocardial infarction have atypical symptoms, more frequently have non-obstructed coronary and less frequently.

C: It's because it's so entrenched that the word typical in this context literally applies to men's symptoms.

S: Yeah, the males are typical and females are by definition atypical.

S: Yeah, although in their defense though, in their defense.

S: It's a medical term.

S: It is.

S: That's what every, they're communicating to physicians and that's what physicians would understand as typical versus atypical.

C: But it's interesting that they don't bracket that.

S: Yeah.

S: They could have meta-analyzed it and said, hey, by the way, we're calling them typical because that's how people understand it, but that is a part of the problem in and of itself.

C: It's part of the problem.

S: Yeah.

S: Yeah.

S: It's absolutely interesting.

S: Again, at the end of the day, you have a physician sitting in front of a patient and they have to figure out what's going on.

S: And all of these things come into play.

S: You have to calibrate to the specific patient, their history, their risk factors, how they would typically present with disease and also how they're expressing their symptoms and trying to figure out what that means.

S: But you always give, you always err on the side of making sure you're covering the things that you need to cover.

C: And the truth is those biases are so pervasive that we, like we women ourselves have them.

C: I would probably be less likely to think I was having a heart attack than a man, you know, let's say I'm 48 years old, I'm type A, I work really hard and I'm having some like jaw pain and maybe some left arm pain and some sense of like some really intense what I would consider like heartburn in my chest.

C: I might think it's something else.

C: I might not think it's a heart attack, whereas a man in my exact shoes otherwise with a kind of more typical quote symptom constellation for a man might be like, Doc, I hope I'm not having a heart attack.

C: Because it's normalized, right?

C: It's normalized on TV, it's normalized in movies, it's normalized in our speech.

S: Plus we have a, we're very bad naively at statistics.

S: And so for example, we tend to be overly influenced by the atypicality thing.

S: Again, it's sort of the demon of the representativeness heuristic.

S: So for example, an atypical presentation of a very common illness could actually be orders of magnitude more likely than a typical presentation of a rare illness.

S: Oh, you're so right.

S: But we miss that because it's atypical.

C: We miss that because we can't calculate that risk.

C: We also tend to, part of that bias that you were mentioning is that if something is typical, we tend to overestimate its prevalence.

C: And if something is quote atypical, we tend to minimize or underestimate its prevalence.

C: So we think that something that, you know, if something happens 70 versus 30% of the time, we may act as though it's more like 85-15.

S: So in any case, this is all, even when like we institutionally are like coming to an understanding about all this, we have to get the word out to every single practitioner out there.

S: So that's also part of it.

S: There's a delay.

S: And that delay, that trickle down delay could be decades, you know, from the time that something becomes the standard of care to the point at which like almost everybody is doing it is a long time.

S: It's too long.

S: And that's something else that we're institutionally, you know, professionally working on, but there's no really instantaneous solution to that.

S: Trying to shorten that horizon as much as possible.

S: It's really hard to compensate for biases you're not aware that you have.

S: And that's part of the medical training is supposed to kind of beat all those out of us.

S: But I certainly know physicians who managed to get through the process with some of their biases intact, and it absolutely negatively impacts their care.

C: Oh, and you see, I mean, even not just with patients, you know, I was doing this unconscious bias training, which, you know, it's like I've kind of been there, done that, but I'm being really open and seeing what's new, what's interesting that's offered in this training.

C: And one of the examples that they use, which they pulled from real life, it must happen a lot, was a colleague refers to his male physician colleagues as Dr. So-and-so and his female physician colleagues by their first name.

C: And apparently this happens all the time.

C: Or you see it all the time.

C: I have a lot of friends who are physicians, you know, female friends who are physicians, and they're always assumed to be the nurse.

S: Oh, yeah, when we were in medical school, even, it was like this is the running joke among like all of the students who are working together.

S: It's like all of every single female medical student was assumed to be a nurse.

S: Yeah.

S: It was just like the constant.

S: It was the background.

S: It just was like this.

S: It was so frequent, like almost the rule rather than the exception that just became this running joke, you know, among us.

S: Like, yeah.

S: Oh, my gosh.

Amazon Home Robot ()[edit]

S: I didn't understand that finally I could purchase a robot for my home.

S: Tell me about it.

E: Amazon.

E: Hope I don't have to explain who they are.

E: And by the way, their market cap as of today is one point six, seven trillion dollars.

E: Putting that in perspective, Amazon introduced a new product to the world this past week, and they spent the last four years developing this technology.

E: But for the first time on stage, they rolled out the product quite literally introducing Amazon Astro Astro Astro.

E: Here's the description.

E: And it's direct from the I mean, Amazon's own website, the household robot for home monitoring with Alexa.

E: And we're all familiar with the Alexa technology.

E: I hope introducing intelligent motion.

E: Amazon Astro uses advanced navigation technology to find its way around your home and go where you need it.

E: When you're not using Astro, it will hang out close by at the ready.

E: You can stay connected from anywhere.

E: Simply send Astro to check on specific rooms, people or things.

E: Plus get alerts if Astro detects an unrecognized person or certain sounds when you're away.

E: There's a protection device built in as well.

E: Ring Protection Pro.

E: You can have it basically go to your ring, which is now called Ring Protect Pro.

E: I got an email on that yesterday saying my ring is now called this.

E: And I'm like, OK, I wonder why that happened.

E: Well, that's because this happened.

E: It all happened basically at the same time.

E: They rolled out the robot and they changed my ring, the name of my ring product at all at the same time.

E: But in any case, it will investigate activity and save the videos to Ring's cloud storage for up to 60 days and perhaps even longer.

E: Remote care for aging loved ones, giving you peace of mind when helping them live independently.

E: Set up reminders, manage shopping lists, receive activity alerts and more.

E: Also Astro can follow you with entertainment or find you to deliver calls, messages, timers, alarms and reminders.

E: And of course, it's designed to protect your privacy.

E: Turn off.

E: You can turn off the mics, the cameras, the motion with the press of a button.

E: And Astro also has an out of bounds feature in which you can tell it don't go there in this part of the house.

E: Comes with a detachable cup holder that can carry other items like a Ziploc container or a blood pressure monitor and a Furbo dog camera that tosses treats to your pet.

E: That's kind of cool.

E: So yeah, Dave Limp is the name of the fella.

E: He's the senior VP of tech and services for Amazon.

E: He was the one who did the presentation of this for the first time.

E: He describes it as a new kind of household robot that combines Alexa, computer vision technology, and artificial intelligence to deliver an ambient computing experience designed to improve lives.

E: Ambient computing.

E: That's a very nice way I think of putting it.

E: Sort of your device is working in the background without you being necessarily immediately aware of it, yet it's functioning and taking care of things whether you know it or not.

E: So that's your ambient computing.

E: The robot has a periscope.

E: So even though it's low to the ground, it can extend its periscope straight up to get to kind of this counter level high.

E: Take a look and you can identify certain things at that height, more of a three or four foot height off the ground as opposed to rolling on the floor at 18 inches, 18, 24 inches.

E: It will recognize your face, your voice, your sound, your pets.

E: It gets to know these things.

E: So that's the smart technology built in.

E: So it can differentiate between them and say intruders or the raccoon that crawled through the window and ate your food.

E: He said we had to leverage artificial intelligence in so many new ways, including using deep neural learning to map anchor points throughout the home and building new dynamic algorithms that are consistently refreshing.

E: I suppose if you're going to move your furniture and things, it's good for your robot to know that it can no longer go there.

E: It has to go around the couch that you just moved.

E: And all at the low, low, low price of $999.99.

S: Sub 1000.

S: I mean, that's kind of.

S: I love that.

S: I read that.

S: That's an important, important break point for consumer products.

E: Absolutely, absolutely is.

E: All right.

E: That's the pitch.

E: Now, what's the catch?

E: All right.

E: Let's start with the price.

E: Nine hundred ninety nine dollars.

E: Ninety nine cents.

E: Yes, if you're one of the first ones who can get a hold of this at a limit, it's a limited time offer.

E: And if you go to the Amazon website, I'll tell you this product has limited quantities available.

E: Not all requests will be granted.

E: If you wind up getting it after the introductory period, the price jumps to one thousand four hundred ninety nine dollars and ninety nine cents.

E: So be ready.

E: You're really going to pay fifteen hundred bucks, not really a thousand for this because, you know, who's to say who's going to get the first ones of these?

E: Another limitation is that it's a single floor.

E: It can't go up and down stairs.

E: Yeah.

E: Unless you have an elevator in your house and program to go in the elevator and ride it up.

E: But it's going to be a single floor unit.

E: So conceivably, you're going to have this.

E: You might need to if you have a two floor home or residence.

E: And the big one that, of course, all the people are talking about are the privacy privacy concerns.

E: Yeah.

E: Which gets into a whole bevy of kind of face recognition issues.

E: Yeah.

E: Yeah, definitely.

E: And, you know, Amazon, unfortunately, has a history of, you know, doing what they can to inform their users that in the case of Alexa.

E: Yes, you can delete things that record.

E: You can kind of erase its memory in a sense.

E: However, Amazon was forced to admit to Congress.

E: This was back in 2019 that, yeah, while you have some control over that, it's still stored on the company's servers and probably indefinitely.

E: They explained to Congress that it's they have so many different technologies sort of interwoven, right, and so many different parts of things that Alexa does.

E: It goes to so many different places.

E: Amazon is still trying to work out, they say, how they are trying to get everything to erase.

E: In other words, you may have bits of data still located here or over there on this server or in this folder or however.

E: So they can't guarantee that everything can go away.

E: And they say that, yeah, we're still sort of dealing with that.

E: The company employs thousands of people to transcribe and annotate a portion of voice recordings.

E: And yes, these devices do record your voice.

E: And there are people who do listen to portions of it.

E: They describe it as sort of minimalistic.

E: And I guess it's to improve the technology and be able to make more advances and those kinds of things.

E: But that is a privacy concern for a lot of people.

E: And there's also evidence that the Amazon Echo owners, they've reported that private conversations were erroneously recorded and then sent off to people on their contact lists.

E: And apparently this is common enough that Amazon has had to admit to this.

E: And they call these incidents unlikely, that's in quotations, errors, unlikely errors.

E: So they don't have the whole technology sort of locked down perfectly to the point where people can be 100% guaranteed of these things.

E: And they say that's going to be probably a big barrier for a lot of people with these.

E: And also then you get to the, what do you have this thing for?

E: How is it really kind of improving your life or your ambient computing experience?

E: I mean, they're saying if you basically wanted your iPad to be able to roll around and follow you where you go, then yeah, then this device kind of is for you.

E: But maybe beyond that, you're not going to find a huge consumer market for this thing.

E: We'll have to see.

E: We'll have to see.

E: It reminds me of Google Glass in a way, right?

E: A lot of hype around that initially, but that seemed to have fizzled out.

S: Well, Google Glass still has their Enterprise Edition, right?

S: It's used in business.

S: So it's not so much for the everyday consumer, but for specific corporate applications.

S: But in any case, yeah, I agree.

S: The privacy issues are huge and they have to sort that out.

S: And this is a good stage to sort out the basic issues as we're going to get increasingly have robots in the home and devices and Internet of Things and all of that.

S: Robots totally nail the privacy issues because that will plague this technology if they don't.

S: I think this is a legit robot, right?

S: It is a computer that you can interact with that can move around your house.

S: So sure, it's obviously you're only interacting with it virtually, right?

S: It's not really physically doing much.

S: You know what I mean?

S: It doesn't have arms.

B: It doesn't have arms.

B: It's a little hopper.

B: You can move stuff, but it doesn't sound very- You could put stuff in it.

S: Yeah, right.

E: You could put the can of soda in there and send it over across the-

S: It can't go to the refrigerator, take a can of soda, and then bring it to you. Right.

S: Not even close.

B: You can train a dog to do that, though.

B: Yeah, I've seen that.

S: So the thing, I think this is one nice tiny little incremental advance and they're clearly working out some of the basic technology that will probably inform later domestic robots, like its ability to navigate the physical space, for example.

S: Robots in the home are really a tough challenge because the home is probably the worst environment you could imagine for a robot to have to navigate.

S: It's a chaotic environment and it's full of a lot of breakable things.

S: It's not like an industry floor, which is a controlled environment and a hard environment.

S: We have a home, which is a chaotic, fragile, and soft environment.

S: Yeah, there are no rules that people abide by.

S: Yeah, it's like the worst nightmare for a robot.

S: And so I think that this kind of just purely digital interaction where you're just getting information from it and talking to it, and yes, it can follow you around and it can perceive its environment, but it's not physically interacting with the environment.

S: That I think is still a pretty high bar before we're going to trust robots to physically move stuff around our home.

S: That may have to wait until we have soft actuators, like robots that are physically soft.

S: And they also have to... The level of control has to be significant.

S: Even trusting a robot to carry a plate across the kitchen without dropping it and breaking it is huge.

B: My take was that, first off, I was happy that a company like Amazon is taking on such a gargantuan task here.

B: The first kind of robot that's beyond something that's going to just vacuum your floors in the house.

B: So if anyone could do it, I think, with the resources that they have, I'm confident.

B: Oh yeah, market cap, 1.67 trillion.

B: So yeah, and a lot of the things that this robot's capable of, it's the basics.

B: You have a mobile computer, something that can move around the house and have vision and the movement down.

B: Basic things like that, they're trying to nail.

B: There's no abilities that this has, really, that's off the hook at all.

B: But it's trying to get the basic stuff down.

B: So I'm hoping that this is the first iteration of something that eventually, within, who knows, 10, 15 years, can be truly helpful in the home.

B: I just hope that it gets a chance to do that.

B: But the downsides, I mean, have you guys looked at some of the developer leaks?

B: Some of them are saying that people that actually worked on it, saying that it's a disaster that's not ready for release.

B: And the privacy nightmare, I think they dropped the ball, from what I know about the privacy, I think they should have grabbed that horse immediately and started choking it from day one because, you like that metaphor?

B: Because that's what a lot of people are talking about.

B: Imagine, you've got a, not only do you have a computer that's listening to everything you say, you now have a mobile computer that can roll around and look at everything that you have and then say, oh, look, they just got this furniture.

B: Look at this style of art that they have.

B: Look at this, look at that.

B: There's more information that they can get on us.

B: And I don't mind giving away information freely in a lot of ways because, hey, yeah, targeted advertising, to me, that's not a disaster.

B: But for this, for something like this, they should have said immediately from out of the gate, we are taking extraordinary measures to make sure that this is not a privacy concern, that we're permanently deleting this information and this information is only used temporarily for processing.

B: And then it goes, they really did really jump on it and be proactive about it because so many people are focusing on that now.

B: And this really could be the thing that's going to kill this product when this becomes such a huge conversation that I think it could become.

B: So maybe in the near future, they'll say, well, we kind of screwed that one up.

B: Let's really make this less of a privacy concern.

B: But then they might not want to do it because their goal is to get just more.

B: They want more data so that they can sell you more shit.

B: So if this device can't do that, they may be less willing to even devote the money to it.

B: I just want to have awesome robots in the household.

B: Just hope it happens and this thing doesn't get tanked because they screwed it up.

B: Because if Amazon can't pull it off, I'm not very hopeful that anyone's going to pull it off for at least a generation.

E: And it took them four years to get to this point.

S: Right.

S: Right.

S: Yeah, it may be jumping the gun on the technology.

S: We'll see.

S: And you're right.

S: I mean, imagine having a legit robot in your home and somebody hacks into it.

S: How vulnerable that would be.

S: Yeah.

S: Forget about it.

S: Hackable.

S: They got to be hack-proof.

S: OK, let's move on.

S: Obviously, there's no who's that noisy this week because Jay's not here.

Name That Logical Fallacy ()[edit]

S: We have an analogical fallacy.

S: This one comes from Sally.

S: And Sally writes, I wonder if you can shed some light on what fallacy this might fall under.

S: I'm noticing a number of friends on Facebook, social media are posting something along the lines of, and then in quotes, vaccinated or not, you're still my friend and don't let them divide us.

S: Followed up usually by something along the lines of be kind and there's bad behavior on both sides.

S: As someone who is vaccinated and has a young baby during COVID, nearly two now, I'm definitely finding it hard to stay friends with people that loudly flaunt their anti-vaccine or mask sentiments and have tried to politely and nicely provide the science.

S: Just wondering where has disagreeing or putting appropriate boundaries for not seeing people that aren't being safe around our baby is now being termed unkind.

S: Is there an actually logical fallacy being broken here or just typical human bad behavior?

S: You can't defend it.

S: Then you attack the person and say the way that went, the way they went about it was rude or unkind.

S: Thanks for your consideration.

S: Sally, so what do you guys think?

C: I'm not sure exactly what they're asking.

C: Can you summarize the question?

S: Essentially they're saying like you have friends who are, for presumably political reasons, not vaccinated, not wearing masks, and those anti-vaccine, anti-mask friends are saying, hey, let's still be friends.

S: Don't be mean to me and just be kind.

S: If you say, listen, I don't want you to come into my home because you're not vaccinated and I have a two-year-old, they're characterizing that as you being unkind, you being mean because you're not letting them come into your home.

C: It almost feels like a, weirdly, I know it's not this because I'm not looking at my chart.

C: I always pull up a chart because I have to review all the informal fallacies, but it almost feels like a goalpost moving situation where it's kind of like, okay, kindness is not what you're actually looking for, what you're actually looking for is me to endorse your viewpoint, which I'm not going to do.

C: I can be kind to you, but I also have to protect my children.

C: Yeah.

S: I mean, I don't think that falls under moving the goalpost, but I do.

C: Right.

C: It's something.

C: It's something like they're, it's like, or like a straw man, like I'm asking you for something, but I'm not actually asking for you what I'm verbalizing.

S: Yeah.

S: There's like an unstated premise there.

C: Yeah.

S: There's something there.

S: Yeah.

S: The bad behavior on both sides is clearly a false equivalency.

S: Yeah.

C: Absolutely.

S: That's a false equivalency.

S: That one's easy.

S: And I think that she's correct that you're saying, characterizing a position that is based on science and just common sense protection of your family, yourself, your children as unkind is an ad hominem.

S: It is turning a discussion that should be, it should be about the science and turning it into a personal thing.

S: And then they're falsely trying to take some high ground, all of which is implying that you're an asshole, right?

S: That you're being unkind.

C: Right.

C: Exactly.

C: You're the one who's an asshole.

C: Not like I'm the asshole for putting your kids in a room.

C: Yeah.

S: So it's an ad hominem by implication, even if they're not directly saying it.

S: Right.

S: Yeah.

S: So, and there's a non sequitur in there of just a category mistake.

S: It's like, no, it's not about, it's actually not about kindness at all.

S: It's entirely about who's following the science and who's doing, who's acting responsibly and who isn't.

S: Responsibly.

S: Right.

S: And you're obligated to respect or be kind to your- Irrational decisions.

S: Yeah.

S: Yeah.

S: Unscientific decisions when they affect me.

S: Impact.

S: That's right.

S: Yeah.

S: When they affect me and my child, I get to say, no, you can keep your unvaccinated ass out of my house.

S: Right.

E: We're not talking about an opinion.

E: We're talking about something medical, something that is a threat to people.

S: Yeah.

S: And so, it's fine to say, listen, we disagree politically, we disagree about this, can't we still be friends?

S: I agree with that.

S: I think- Of course.

S: There's some value judgments.

S: Sure.

S: That's fine.

S: And we've always said, maintain your personal relationships, even with people, like if it's a family member or somebody you care about, somebody you love.

S: Don't let differences over skeptical issues necessarily destroy your personal relationship with them.

S: If you care about it.

S: If you want to maintain your relationship, then it's okay to say things like, hey, we could disagree about this and still love each other, still be friends.

S: That's fine.

S: But that's compatible with saying, but unless you're vaccinated, I don't feel comfortable with you being around my child.

S: And I hope you understand, but that's just a safety issue.

S: It's not me being mean to you.

S: That's just common sense.

S: It's a medical decision.

B: It's like speeding with their kid in their backseat.

B: It's like, no, you can't do that.

C: I don't want you to do that.

C: Yeah, you can speed all you want on your own.

C: We can still be friends if you love to drive fast, but not with my child.

S: I don't believe in car seats.

S: You have the right not to believe in car seats, but you're not going to be driving around with my kid not in a car seat because you believe that.

S: Because I'm their parent and I believe in car seats.

S: So in any case- And science believes in their car seats.

S: Right, right.

S: I mean, there is sort of an objective right or wrong answer here, but even when there isn't, it's still that you don't have the right to impose your unscientific opinions on other people, or you know what I mean?

S: And so this, of course, is a key issue in the pandemic where people are railing against mask mandates and vaccine mandates.

S: And it's like, no, we can collectively follow the science.

S: You can disagree with that, but then you don't have the right to impose your unscientific views on the public.

E: So- Right.

E: Yeah, you can't turn it into a physical threat against people, which is effectively what happens.

S: Yeah, yeah, totally.

S: All right, we also have just one quick question.

S: This one comes from Doug, and Doug writes, I just read the book Bad Blood about the Theranos con.

S: As I was reading, I kept wondering about when you first covered the company, and if you guys were skeptical of the technology before the scandal broke, maybe you could talk about this one of your Looking Back segments.

S: And then he writes, I've been loving you guys and the show for 11 years.

S: Keep up the good work.

E: Cara, did you, did Cara first talk about this years ago?

C: Theranos?

E: Maybe.

E: It's fascinating.

E: Oh, the documentary was amazing.

S: Oh, it's such a good doc.

S: I wrote about it on Neurological Blog, June 2nd, 2016 post.

S: So I have in writing what my opinion was at the time, and I completely called it.

S: I just have to say, I said, this is a total scam.

S: And because it's a medical scam, right?

S: She was saying that, oh yes, I've revolutionized 30 different blood tests all at once.

C: In a little box.

C: Yeah, which is something that no other lab had been able to do, and she never showed the prototype.

C: Yeah, no paper trail.

S: It's like science doesn't work that way.

S: You cannot make those kinds of advances that you're claiming.

S: They don't even really make sense without any kind of paper trail to show that it's possible over so many independent things.

S: And so I completely called it, this has got to be a scam, and then it turns out it was a complete scam.

S: So I think anyone with the relevant science background sniffed that one out to begin with.

E: Yeah, absolutely.

E: And what, the whistleblowers from inside basically revealed exactly what was going on.

S: But it was being sold within the tech industry culture, not necessarily the medical industry.

E: Sure, right, because that's where enormous money was in Silicon Valley.

S: But they didn't have the background to necessarily immediately sniff out that this is highly implausible.

S: And you can make statements about the hubris at the time of the tech industry and thinking that they could do anything and blah, blah, blah.

S: But I think the bottom line is that it was outside their area of expertise.

S: Okay, let's move on to science or fiction.

Questions/Emails/Corrections/Follow-ups ()[edit]

_consider_using_block_quotes_for_emails_read_aloud_in_this_segment_ with_reduced_spacing_for_long_chunks –

Question #1: Theranos Scandal ()[edit]

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Answer Item
Fiction Mother of all beasts
Science Bear dogs
Aquatic sloths
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
Mother of all beasts
Bear dogs
Mother of all beasts

Voice-over: It's time for Science or Fiction.

Theme: Extinct Mammals
Item #1: Amphicyons are commonly called “bear dogs” because they have a dog-like head on a bear-like body. They were up to 2.5 meters long and powerfully built to wrestle large prey to the ground.[5]
Item #2: Maiatherium or “mother of all beasts” is an extinct member of the weasel family the size of a large horse.[6]
Item #3: Thalassocnus was a genus of aquatic sloths, with later species fully adapted to the water and for grazing on deep water sea grass and seaweed.[7]

S: Each week I come up with three science news items, four facts, two real and one fake.

S: And then I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fake.

S: And this week we have a theme.

S: The theme is extinct mammals.

S: I may have done this one before.

S: I know I've done extinct animals before.

S: But these are extinct mammals.

S: Two of these actual mammals that are extinct and one is fake.

S: Oh boy.

S: You ready?

S: Nope.

S: All right, here we go.

S: Fake animal or fake extinction.

S: Fake animal.

S: Yeah, they're not even a real animal.

S: Yeah, I'm not going to give you one that's...

S: None of these are going to be fake because they're not extinct.

S: That's not why they're going to be fake.

S: All right, item number one.

S: Amphicyons are commonly called bear dogs because they have a dog-like head on a bear-like body.

S: They were up to 2.5 meters long and powerfully built to wrestle large prey to the ground.

S: Item number two, Myotherium or mother of all beasts is an extinct member of the weasel family the size of a large horse.

S: And item number three, Thalassochnus was a genus of aquatic sloths with later species fully adapted to the water and for grazing on deep water seagrass and seaweed.

Evan's Response[edit]

S: Evan, go first.

E: All right. So, bear dogs because they have a dog-like head on a bear-like body. Don't we call other things, I mean, not necessarily mammals, but bear in the nickname for them like the, what is it, the tardigrades, right? The bear. Water bears. Water bears and those kinds of things. So, I was thinking about that with this one thinking, yeah, maybe because they use the word bear in the common term, that gives it some validity. It could be a hint. But these things were up to 2.5 meters long. That's what, almost nine feet?

E: I had to tell.

E: Seven, seven to eight feet and powerfully built to wrestle large prey to the ground. Well, sure. I mean, yeah, if you had those features, that's probably what you would do. So maybe science.

E: This one, I can't pronounce it, but the mother of all beasts, an extinct member of the weasel family. There's a weasel family? And it was the size of a large horse. That's, oh boy. Yeah. This one doesn't grab me as much as the bear dogs one does. Mother of all beasts. Sorry, that sounds a little, I mean, that may be what the word is if you were to translate it. But that's not necessarily, doesn't mean it really existed. ut the weasel family and the size of a large horse, Clydesdale, I'm thinking, you know, 18 hands, something like that. That's big. Weasel family? I don't know about weasel family. That's new to me.

E: The last one about the aquatic sloths. With latter species fully adapted to the water and for grazing on deep, fully adapted to the water. Does that mean gills? I mean, in other words, you know, if you're sloth and slow in the water and you're fully adapted to the water, you're water breathing, right?

S: Well, adapted to the water, Evan, in the way that mammals, aquatic mammals are adapted to the water.

E: Okay. So they can go down for long periods of time, but not, right, right. Whales. Grazing on deep water seagrass and seaweed. Deep water seagrass. I wish I knew. I have a better idea of where deep water seagrass lie. It's one thing to go down a hundred feet. It's another thing to go down, you know, a thousand feet, 2000 feet. So I don't know what that one sounds. I think the mother of all beasts ones. I'm not happy with this weasel family being the large horse one. I'll say that's the fiction.

Bob's Response[edit]

S: Okay, Bob.

B: All right. So the first one, bear dog. I've got a problem with that because, I mean, doesn't a bear already have a dog-like head? You know, pretty dog-like, right?

E: So that's kind of weird.

B: I'm trying to think, how would I make it more dog-like? I don't know. Pretty dog-like already. So let's see, mother of all beasts. Yeah, whatever. Who knows? A weasel. Yeah, a weasel. Oh, look, a weasel. It's bigger as a horse. So yeah, we're supposed to be like, nah, that can't be. And then the other one's even worse because now we're thinking of an aquatic sloth. I mean, they wouldn't last long. But yeah, but of course I'm bringing characteristics of what I know about sloths to this other completely different species. And so it's like Steve's relying on our biases to make faulty connections. Yeah, like, oh, sea cucumber, delicious. Screw it. I'm going to go with the bear dog because of what I already said about it. Fiction.

Cara's Response[edit]

S: And Cara?

C: I don't know. Take the third one. That'd be my answer. Take the sloth. Okay, so maybe there's a bear dog. For me, it's like I'm getting nothing from the Latin because I didn't study Latin. So yeah, that's not helping me.

E: I was thinking about it, like, damn, I wish I knew more Latin.

C: So really, I think it's about what seems feasible to have been big. Are they all big?

C: Yeah, like up to 2.5 meters long, super big.

C: Bear and dog, there could have been big bears and dogs back in the day.

C: But then, okay, really big weasel.

C: And then really big, oh, we don't know how big the sloth was, but it was aquatic.

C: That's cool.

C: I'm assuming it was also big.

C: Everything back in the day was big.

E: Oh, careful, I fell into that trap too.

C: Not long ago.

C: I know, but I think that's...

E: It was a huge sloth though, I'll tell you that.

C: Yeah, I know there have been big sloths, and I know there have been really big bears, and I know that the dogs were a lot bigger.

C: But I've never heard of a really big weasel.

C: Like anytime that I've looked, and I've seen a lot of sort of museum, extinct mammal kind of installations and museums and stuff.

C: But you do just say it's just a member of the weasel family.

C: And there's some weirdness going on there.

C: Like you guys know that, what are they?

C: I don't know if you know what a rockdassy or a hyrax is.

C: They're these cool little, they're rodent looking things in Africa, and they are the most closely related to elephants and manatees.

C: And you're like, what?

C: Oh, yeah.

C: Like there's weird stuff like that that happens in evolution.

C: So maybe there's a huge weasel, but that's just the one that sticks out the most to me.

C: I've never seen a big weasel, but I've seen a big bear and dog, maybe there's a bear dog, and I've seen some big old sloths.

C: So I'm going to go with Evan and say the big weasel was maybe something different.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: All right. So that means you all agree on the third one. So we'll start there.

C: That does not mean we agree on the third one.

S: You did. You all agree.

C: You're completely on it.

C: This is a whole state with certitude.

S: That Phalaenopsis was a genus of aquatic sloths with later species fully adapted to the water and for grazing on deep water seagrass and seaweed.

S: You guys all confidently think that this one is the science and this one is science.

S: Yeah, this is cool.

S: Oh, sweet.

S: Yeah, I had not heard about this group.

S: This is again, it's a genus and there's multiple species within the genus.

S: So one thing that's interesting about it is that it's one of the best aquatic adaptation sequences in the fossil record.

S: What do you mean it's one of the best?

S: In other words, it's...

S: Clear as sleep?

S: Yeah, you have a really thorough sequence from early species, which are just a little bit adapted to the water, then later species, which are more adapted, and later species, which are fully adapted to the water.

S: So you could see the sequence of evolution of a mammal adapting back to an aquatic lifestyle.

S: With the early on, they were probably just hunting in the shallows, not hunting, they were probably just grazing in the shallows.

S: And then later they went into deeper and deeper water until the later ones were feeding in deep water.

S: So that's really cool.

S: Yeah.

S: Yeah.

S: But aquatic sloths.

S: I know that even modern sloths can swim.

S: Oh, yeah, I've seen them swimming.

S: That's probably the fastest they move.

S: They must be very buoyant.

B: They must be very buoyant, I gotta say.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: All right, let's go back to number two, Myotherium, or mother of all beasts, is an extinct member of the weasel family, the size of a large horse.

S: Evan and Cara, you think this one is a fiction?

S: Couple of things before I redo the reveal.

S: So Myotherium does translate to mother and beasts, mother of all beasts, Myotherium.

S: A lot of the theurium comes up a lot.

S: Yeah, it does.

S: I like it.

S: Yeah, because it just means beast, you know.

S: So that's Myotherium.

S: And Evan, do you want to know what some other weasels are?

S: Please.

S: Members of the weasel family.

S: The badger is a member of the weasel family.

S: That makes sense.

S: The wolverine is a member of the weasel family.

S: Gotcha.

S: So that's currently, I think, the largest extant weasel is the wolverine.

S: So yeah, you don't necessarily have to be thinking weasel.

S: You could be thinking basically just a large wolverine.

C: That would be scary AF.

S: This one is the fiction.

S: This is the fiction.

S: Yeah.

S: Thanks, Evan.

S: You're welcome.

S: Just made it up.

S: I made up the Myotherium.

S: Oh, cool.

S: That's a good make up.

E: I totally would have bought that word.

S: Absolutely.

S: So yeah, I thought it was, you know, everything's big back then.

S: I was hoping you would have thought wolverine, though.

S: Like a weasel.

S: Come on, wolverine.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: All right. All this means that amphicyons are commonly called bear dogs because they have a dog-like head on a bear-like body.

S: They were up to 2.5 meters long and powerfully built to wrestle large prey to the ground.

S: So yes, knowing Latin here would have helped.

S: Amphicyons means ambiguous dog.

B: Ambiguous dog.

B: Still wouldn't convince me.

S: It had a, you know, a head that is more dog-like than a bear's head, than a modern bear's head.

S: But they were robust with like shorter limbs, like stout, you know, like a bear.

S: And so they probably hunted large things.

S: They were not fast.

S: They weren't built to chase down small animals.

S: They were built to wrestle large prey down to the ground.

S: And they were huge.

S: These guys, you look at like a comparison to a human and yeah, you know, they're no bigger or more ferocious than modern bears and a grizzly.

S: But still, they were like the grizzly of their day in terms of the niche they would have filled.

S: There are so many cool mammals.

S: And the other thing to think about this is that, you know, the dinosaurs were snuffed out what, 65 million years ago.

S: 65 million years of mammal evolution is a long time.

S: That is a long time.

S: There were lots of different assemblages of different kinds of mammals over in different locations in the world over this time.

S: There were so many just bizarre or gorgeous or really exotic or alien-looking mammals.

S: And you know, whenever I look into it, I always find new ones that I've never heard of before that are just so cool.

S: It really is something that is worth looking into if you never have before.

S: I also learned at this time that around the turn of the 19th century that extinct mammals were much more popular than dinosaurs as a public attraction in museums.

S: And you know, they've been, I think, eclipsed by the draw of dinosaurs.

S: But all the cool mammals, you know, were the show, you know, 100 years ago.

S: And I think they definitely warrant more attention from those who are interested in paleontology.

S: Very cool.

S: All right.

S: Well, good job, Evan and Cara.

S: Thank you.

S: Yay.

S: Thanks, Evan.

Skeptical Quote of the Week ()[edit]

Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.
– Patti Smith, musician, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2007 (YYYY-YYYY), _short_description_

S: Evan, you got a quote for me?

E: Oh, I do have a quote for you.

E: Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don't abandon the book.

E: There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.

E: Patti Smith, musician, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, 2007.

S: Not to be confused with Patti Smythe, who's also a musician.

S: Right.

S: Yeah, I like that quote.

S: I agree.

S: I totally agree with that.

S: And I think that my prediction is that we will have books long after they are necessary.

S: Like most of the time I'm reading today, I'm reading off of my Kindle, basically.

S: But I still, you know, fill my shelves with books.

C: I love books.

C: I still read hard books.

C: I really only use my iPad, which is like the Kindle app on my iPad, for textbooks.

C: I do find textbooks make way more sense digitally because you can search them.

S: Yeah.

C: I use both.

S: Yeah, right?

S: I mostly use my iPad just for convenience.

S: But when I get a hold of a book, I read it.

S: I read the physical book.

S: Yeah.

C: Yeah.

S: But it's also just the ability to, I want this book.

S: Download, read, you know, just the convenience is too great.

S: There's a convenience factor.

S: Yeah.

S: I know.

E: But touching the book, the analog world of the book, is still something special and should

S: be cherished, definitely. Yeah, totally.

E: You're not impressed, Bob?

B: I mean, I get it, but- Mr. Book on tape.

B: Yeah, I just like, I've got hundreds of audio books.

B: And that's my, for me, I mean, I read a lot.

B: You know, I read a lot online.

B: So, I guess that's, it's not an audio book, but I mean, it's digital.

B: But I just don't read hard, you know, books made of atoms very much anymore.

B: But I still try to read a lot of books.

B: But it's just weird that, I mean, I read a book recently.

B: That was just, that wasn't digital.

B: The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect.

B: And I read it and it was like a great book, but it was just weird reading a physical book.

E: That's so funny.

B: You know, because it's all about my audio books.

S: I love the smell of books.

S: Oh, yeah.

S: And they definitely, like, there's an emotion attached to the smell of books.

S: And I wonder if that will go away, you know, if older generations won't have the same memory childhood attachment.

S: And, you know, I wonder how much of it is that.

E: Gee whiz, boy, I can't imagine a world without books.

B: I love them aesthetically.

B: I mean, I've got a bookcase put together over here that's like, to me, it's like a little work of art in terms of just like what's in it besides the books.

B: You know, it's the books, it's the cool looking books.

E: The robots.

B: No, no robots there, but other creepy little cool little things that's part of like the bookshelf, you know.

B: It's like, it's part of this aesthetic.

S: Bookshelves are great decorative pieces.

S: Absolutely.

B: And just think how much you can manipulate them.

B: You could rearrange it and arrange it and add little niches and little objects in between the books.

B: It's like it's unending, you know.

B: It's like a canvas that you can just do any way you want, and books are a critical component of that.

B: And a lot of those books I've read, but just haven't read them in many years.

S: All right.

Signoff/Announcements ()[edit]

S: Well, thank you all for joining me this week.

B: Sure, man.

E: Thank you, Steve.

S: —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.


Today I Learned[edit]

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[8]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description




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