SGU Episode 848

From SGUTranscripts
Jump to navigation Jump to search
  GoogleSpeechAPI.png This episode was transcribed by the Google Web Speech API Demonstration (or another automatic method) and therefore will require careful proof-reading.
  Emblem-pen-green.png This transcript is not finished. Please help us finish it!
Add a Transcribing template to the top of this transcript before you start so that we don't duplicate your efforts.
  Emblem-pen-orange.png This episode needs: transcription, proofreading, time stamps, formatting, links, 'Today I Learned' list, categories, segment redirects.
Please help out by contributing!
How to Contribute

You can use this outline to help structure the transcription. Click "Edit" above to begin.

SGU Episode 848
October 9th 2021
848 radiation-shielding.jpg
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 847                      SGU 849

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week



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, October 6th, 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 folks.

E: Where's Jay?

S: Jay's still unavailable.

S: He will definitely be back next week with all of Jay's updates.

S: Updates.

S: And Evan, you're gone next week, right?

E: I will be gone next week, yes.

E: 20 year wedding anniversary with my wife Jennifer.

C: No way.

C: What's the date?

C: Next week is also my birthday.

C: What if it was the same day?

E: It's not.

E: It's not because our actual date is October 27th.

E: But this particular weekend we were invited up to a kind of a resort up in Maine for this particular weekend.

E: So we decided to make a long weekend out of it and do our celebration all at the same

C: time. Well, it's close.

C: I love it.

C: Congratulations.

C: I'm the 19th, which actually is also not next week, I'm realizing.

C: But I have a bunch of friends in town that I'm leaving after.

C: So I'm doing all my celebrations the wrong week as well.

E: Yeah, that's all right.

E: No one will tell.

C: Ain't no wrong.

C: It's a two week birthday celebration.

S: This year is Jay's 10th wedding anniversary, your 20th.

S: My next one coming up in the spring is my 30th.

S: 30th.

S: Oh, holy crow.

C: Wow, look at that.

C: You guys are just a decade apart, each of you on your nuptials.

C: Yeah.

E: I wonder if there's anything to that.

E: Numerologists, please email us and tell us what you think.

C: Or don't at all.

C: Don't, yeah.

C: Please don't do that.

Update on SGU Activities[edit]

S: So it's been a while since we've reviewed everything that the SGU does. We get a lot of questions about stuff. And also, it's very obvious from a lot of the questions that we get that a lot of our listeners don't realize that we were involved in other content production, other aspects of the SGU. So I thought it's been a while. We'll update everybody just to make sure that all of our listeners are aware of all the various things that we do. So obviously, the main thing that we do, our flagship, is this podcast, the SGU. And this show will also always be free. That was a pledge we made very, very early on in the show. And that will always be the case. But we have a lot of other things sort of attached to it. For example, we have a Patreon account. And you can become a patron of the SGU. And if you do, there is extra content for you in it. For example, at the premium level, you get extra premium content, which we add to all the time. So you get 120 or something like extra bits and segments and interviews and extended interviews and other stuff that you'd have access to. We also do now, we've been doing this for over a year, and we are looking for ways to make this permanent, is we do a Friday live stream. So Friday at starting at 5pm Eastern Time, we do an hour and a half live stream, which is very unscripted. It's a lot of fun.

S: We have a quiz.

S: Over a year?

S: Yeah, it's been over a year.

S: Yes.

S: Since the early days of COVID.

S: It's not every single Friday, because it's Friday.

S: And every time we have to travel for the weekend or whatever, we have something going on.

S: It's damn near every damn Friday.

S: Damn it.

S: Yeah, it's probably 45 or so a year that we've been doing.

S: So again, we'll always announce online if we're not going to be doing the live stream.

S: But for most Fridays, starting at five, we do do a live stream.

S: And we have a live stage show.

S: Do you guys know that?

S: The skeptical extravaganza of special significance.

S: This has been a little bit on a hiatus because of the pandemic.

S: But we are back as of November.

S: We have shows in, we have a show in Denver, Colorado, which is sold out.

S: And then we have, when we do these extravaganza weekends, we usually will roll in one or two private recordings of the SGU.

S: We have one in Denver also sold out, but we do have one in Fort Collins, Colorado.

S: So go to that one.

S: That's actually going to be a smaller, more intimate affair.

S: So there's plenty of seats left for that one.

S: And you can always go to the skeptics slash events to take a look at what upcoming events we have to buy tickets, you know, to reserve seats.

S: We are trying to book extravaganza dates for this spring.

S: And if you want us to come to your city, there is a place to request that.

S: And if we get enough people from one region saying, hey, come here and do an extravaganza, we'll give that information to our touring company.

S: And we'll, you know, put that to the top of the list to try to book a book event.

B: Hey, why don't we have people send in videos for like the, so you got people sending videos of them like talking about their city.

B: Look how awesome our city is.

B: You should come here and do a show.

B: And then you could also do this after the show.

B: Just a suggestion.

S: You are welcome to send us videos.

S: But if you don't want to do that, just send us an email.

S: And you may or may not know that the SGU has published a book also called the Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

S: It's a bit of a tome.

S: I believe it's 137,000 words.

S: It's essentially our guide to all things skeptically related, all the stuff we talk about on the show, science versus pseudoscience, logical fallacies, different specific pseudosciences, cognitive biases.

B: There's a rumor that the book is just a transcript of every episode we've ever done.

B: Is that true?

S: That's fake news.

S: That's a false rumor.

B: Ah, okay.

S: Now, there's a lot of information in this book that you will never have heard listening to the show.

S: And it is obviously all organized and in one place.

S: And if you ever think, oh, I wish there was one place where I can go and like study all the logical fallacies that keep talking up.

S: This is what that book is for.

S: And also, I understand it's a wonderful gift.

S: And with Christmas coming in, oh, I get to speak about that again.

S: Oh, it's that time of year we can throw out that quote.

S: With the holidays coming up again.

S: In fact, one of the best emails we ever got was somebody was like, hey, is there any way I could buy the book, like by the case?

S: Because I give it away to so many people.

S: We're like, sure, let me tell you how to do that.

S: And we have other books in the pipeline.

S: Another book in the wings.

S: But Bob J and I actually have finished writing book number two, The Skeptic's Guide to the Future.

S: We're now just in the hands of the editor.

S: She's actually should have had it back from them by now.

S: But yeah, we're just waiting for the editor to send us their edits.

S: And then this will be coming out.

S: Actually, the publication date was moved up.

S: And so we're looking at fall 2022.

S: So one year from now.

S: Nice.

S: Oh, my God.

S: So that's how long it takes.

S: And then we're done writing the book to it actually comes out is about a year.

S: That's what it took last time as well.

S: But the writing is done.

S: So we're not going to wait.

S: We're already have lots of ideas.

S: I actually have like 15 or so book ideas for and we're going to start that process, you know, work, you know, on number three, number four, at some point, you know, over the next six months or so, we'll get that going as well.

S: So that's our that's our book publishing empire that we're also adding to the mix.

S: You may or may not know that I have two blogs.

S: My personal blog is Neurologica blog.

S: One of my favorites.

S: That is just anything I want to talk about.

S: It's a lot of neuroscience, a lot of skepticism, a lot of just cool science, some tech, some geek.

S: Yeah.

S: So, you know, so check that out.

S: That's that's yeah, I have a lot of fun writing that.

S: But I also am the founder and the executive editor of Science Based Medicine, which is a health related blog from, of course, a skeptical point of view.

S: And again, these are it's a great place to do a deep dive on a lot of the topics that we talk about or touch upon.

S: The Science Based Medicine is a group blog, so there's you know, I'm not the only person blogging there.

S: I do one article a week, but the other slots are filled by others.

S: We actually have three other social media type things that we collectively produce.

S: You know, Bob, Jay and I produce Alpha Quadrant Six, which is a science fiction review show.

S: Again, we've been sporadic during the pandemic, but now that the studio has been upgraded, we actually cranked out three episodes two weeks ago.

S: So they'll be they'll be putting be being put up soon.

S: We have a Weta video that's that will be put up very soon.

S: Very soon.

S: We went to Weta Works in New Zealand and it's all about their process.

S: Yeah.

S: So there's that.

S: And then Evan, you have a another podcast that you are involved with.

S: You want to tell us about that?

E: The podcast is called Which Game First?

E: A Board Game Podcast.

E: I am one of the co-hosts.

E: It is hosted by Celeste DeAngelis.

E: And SGU listeners might be very familiar with that name DeAngelis because yes, Celeste is the sister of Perry DeAngelis.

E: But what we've done now is that we've turned our love of board games, analog board games into a podcast.

E: Board games themselves has been in somewhat of a renaissance the past 10 years.

E: And it's really gotten a lot more sophisticated and so many things have changed in the entire board game industry.

E: So we talk about that, but we mainly review board games, new, old and all the way back into antiquity.

E: And we have a lot of fun doing it.

E: So that's Which Game First?

E: A Board Game Podcast.

E: You can find us at

C: And Cara.

C: Yeah, so I have my podcast, Talk Nerdy, which I have been doing since before I actually joined the SGU.

C: As of this week, I put out episode 377.

C: So I think that's, yeah, I started, we, I, it's just me, started way back in 2014.

C: So my most recent episode is with Natalia Pasternak, who is an incredible microbiologist and skeptic and activist in Brazil, really fighting back against Bolsonaro's pseudoscience.

C: So I do that every week.

C: It comes out on Mondays.

C: I also, about once a month have been co-hosting God-Awful Movies with the God-Awful Movies boys.

C: And...

C: Fun.

C: Right?

C: It's a lot of fun.

C: I'm just starting my research into medical aid and dying.

C: And actually, I'm going to have a research poster that I'll be sharing on social media soon and also sharing through some different outlets for recruitment.

C: So I think maybe this is a cool place to say, if you know anybody who's interested in medical aid and dying or going through the process, you can reach out because I would like to hear from them for my research.

S: Yeah.

S: So a couple other things, too, for the SGU.

S: We have a Facebook page where we share science news and make announcements for the show, stream live events.

S: So go to slash the Skeptics Guide and there's another avenue, another portal into the SGU content.

S: And we have a YouTube channel, also the Skeptics Guide, where we have a lot of videos.

S: We also will post a lot of our streaming events.

S: There's a few recent videos up there called a Skeptical Consult, which I'm doing.

S: I did a few sort of pilot episodes over the pandemic.

S: When we hit the 5000 Patreon mark, that'll be a regular thing.

S: We're almost there.

S: So if you take a look at our Patreon page, you'll see we're getting very, very close to that to pulling the trigger on that as a permanent thing.

S: So yeah, so check out YouTube, check out Facebook.

S: We also, of course, have a Twitter.

S: You can keep track of all of our social media shenanigans by just going to the and everything.

S: That's sort of the portal to everything that we do.

S: Yeah, we actually, yeah, we do still have a local skeptical organization, the New England Skeptical Society, which hosts my two blogs and also has an annual science conference we've been doing for like 14, 15 years.

S: The last two have been fully digital, which worked out so well.

S: I think that's what we're doing from now on.

S: We will, we have done other live events.

S: So the plan going forward is just to have Nexus be an annual digital science conference, you know, science and skepticism conference.

S: Two years ago, like the summer before the pandemic, we did what we called the No Show with George Hobb, which was kind of a, which included the extravaganza and also a private show and also we actually ran a LARP for the guys.

S: That was so much fun.

S: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

S: So we are planning, once the dust really fully settles on the pandemic, we're hoping to do the lecture stuff digitally, you know, and then do really fun live events with, you know, people physically together and meet space, something like the No Show.

S: So keep an eye out for that.

S: Of course, we'll be announcing everything, you know, on the SGU, any live events that we do.

S: One more thing.

B: What, Bob?

B: So if you listen to maybe even just one episode of this show, you might already know that this is my time of year, it's Halloween.

B: So I've been kind of working my butt off working at the Forest of Fear, which is our haunt in Danbury, Connecticut.

B: That's open the last half of this month on the weekends, Friday and Saturday.

B: So it's really, I gotta say, it's really epic this year.

B: We really outdid ourselves.

B: Bigger, longer, scarier.

B: We have an area that's so scary.

B: How scary is it?

B: It's so scary that during the children's hour, which I think is like from between five and six, we are going to route them around this one piece because they can't go through it.

B: They, they will be scarred for life.

B: They would need therapy and we don't contribute to therapy.

B: So we're going to do, just going to skip it.

B: They're not even going to go into this one area.

B: But this year I'm primarily responsible for the graveyard I built.

B: It's my magnum opus, my best creation in terms of this haunt, in terms of a graveyard.

B: And I've built lots of graveyards.

B: This one is epic.

B: And if you go through there, you may see me as a zombie in my awesome zombie suit this fall as well, this last half of October.

B: So come check it out.

B: Danbury, just go to, get all the details you want.

B: It's going to be awesome.

S: Clearly we don't have enough to do.

E: And somewhere in there we have families and jobs.

B: Yeah, right.

S: And in between these, we breathe.

S: Yeah.

COVID-19 Update ()[edit]

News Items[edit]






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

Deep Space Radiation Shielding ()[edit]

Will it be safe for humans to fly to Mars?][1]

S: All right, let's get on to some news items.

S: This is Nobel Prize week, but we're going to start with a non Nobel news item.

S: First, Bob, tell us about how feasible is it to send people to Mars?

S: Are we going to fry them from all that deep space radiation?

B: Bottom line, a little bit better than I thought, actually.

B: So yes, this is a new study that concludes that it's not necessarily going to be a radiation death sentence to send people through space for months for a brief sojourn on Mars.

B: So this is from an international team of space scientists.

B: I'd love to be a space scientist, including researchers from UCLA.

B: And it's published in a peer reviewed journal called Space Weather.

B: And if you listen to the show, you know, I'm quite skeptical of a trip to Mars because essentially the radiation is pretty deadly and we've got no near term plans for very effective shielding against it.

B: Actually during Nexus 2021, we had a NASA scientist on who said that essentially she said, you know, we really just don't have good plans for shielding right now in the near term or mid term.

B: You know, part of our plan for dealing with the radiation should be to try to heal the biological damage caused by the radiation after the fact.

S: Oh my gosh.

S: And just get there fast.

S: Get there fast.

B: Yeah, get there fast and deal with, you know, and try to heal the damage.

E: And then put a bunch of Bactine all over yourself when you get there.

B: It's just like, it's so disappointing.

B: So these researchers from UCLA looked at how feasible it would be to travel to Mars in the near future, essentially with shielding technology that we could do today.

B: Right, Steve?

B: So they're not saying with this amazing technology that we might develop, this is what we can do.

B: No, we could do this today.

S: Yeah, their study was aluminum.

S: That was the shielding.

S: Aluminum.

B: That's it.

B: Exactly.

B: And yeah, so they're not invoking, you know, nuclear thermal engines or anything like that.

B: So yes, as you said, Steve, aluminum.

B: So the two primary questions they asked were, is their trip to Mars viable in terms of the maximum acceptable dose of radiation?

B: And with the timing of the mission reduce the impact of the radiation, right?

B: So is the time of the year or the whatever, if you go at a certain time, would it make the radiation more tolerable?

B: And they concluded yes to both of those questions.

B: Both were actually a little surprising to me.

B: So before looking at their conclusions though, we got to, you know, what is this radiation of which I speak?

B: So we're talking about galactic cosmic rays.

B: Essentially this is the one side of the coin here, the radiation coin.

B: Galactic rays are basically from outside our solar system made up primarily of relativistic protons, but they could also include, you know, two or 3% heavier atomic nuclei like helium ions.

B: The other side of that coin is the solar energetic particles.

B: And these are protons as well, ejected from the surface of the sun, primarily protons ejected from the sun during solar flares and propagating outward throughout the entire solar system.

B: Now, all of this radiation is ionizing, which can wreak havoc on cells and genetic material, especially, you know, it's all right, dose, it's all about the dose and how long, and it's just not good stuff.

B: Just stay away from ionizing radiation unless, you know, we do have uses for it.

B: You know, you don't want to be exposed to it for months in space, avoid that.

B: All right, so the study combined two separate models.

B: They had a model of the space environment itself with the cosmic and solar radiations, right?

B: So you've got that.

B: The other piece of the study was a simulation of the radiation and secondary particles as they went through various hull thicknesses, okay?

B: And what that would do to a person inside.

B: Now, they called the simulated person inside a phantom, which I thought was really cool.

B: So the study had just had the word phantom all over it, like, all right, good time to read this in October.

B: Now, the calculations modeled a spherical shell of aluminum and a 25 centimeter sphere of water in the middle.

B: So that's essentially how the equations worked.

B: And the water was the human, right, for these purposes, because we are, after all, ugly bags of mostly water.

B: And that's a Star Trek generation quote, Cara, right there.

B: Very good quote.

E: Okay.

E: I was like, I'm an ugly bag.

B: I thought it was Futurama.

S: This is also like a classic physics joke.

S: It's like, all right, first assume a spherical human.

S: Right.

S: But they do that just to simplify the math, but it's like, it's so common, it becomes a running joke.

B: Yeah.

B: And I think they also factored in the impact of the radiation on various types of internal organs as well.

B: So it wasn't just like, here's a sphere of water.

B: But actually a sphere of water, actually, you know, since we are mostly water, it is not a bad model.

B: Now the radiation models used various possible mixes of the galactic cosmic rays and solar particles because there could be variations.

B: And the simulation also was a Monte Carlo simulation.

B: So check that out online if you want more details about what that is exactly.

B: But essentially it's used to predict the probability of different outcomes when there's lots of different random variables present.

B: So okay.

B: So now their conclusions are designed to be used by a spacecraft designer for mission planning so they could translate this study into a build a spacecraft and plan a mission based on this information to a certain extent anyway.

B: So let's see.

B: So for their conclusions, the launch would need to happen near the period of solar max when the sun is in its 11-year cycle.

B: When in that cycle, it's the most activity, right?

B: So you need to have, you know, lots of sunspots, lots of activity in terms of solar radiation happening in the solar system.

B: So you might say, why?

B: Why do you want more radiation?

B: The reason that is is because the increase in solar particles minimizes the impact of the more deadly and less shieldable galactic cosmic rays.

B: So the more of something that's bad means the less of something that's really bad.

B: So that's basically where they're coming from in that angle.

B: So the shielding, conclusion number two, the shielding should be around 25 grams per square centimeter to attenuate the solar radiation, but it should not be thicker than 30 grams per cubic per square centimeter.

B: Because at that thickness, actually this was interesting, at that thickness, secondary particles are created and those secondary particles shower the inside of the craft and they could be damn deadly as well.

B: So that's interesting.

E: Oh wow, so there's a sweet spot at Goldilocks.

B: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

B: I wish they, you know, just for, you know, excrement and giggles, I was wondering, you know, hey, go to 40 or 50 square centimeters.

S: What would happen?

S: They did 30 and 60 in the study.

S: At 30, that was the optimal.

S: That's when both types of radiation were at a minimum.

S: Yeah, 20 to 30.

S: But when you jump to 60 grams per square centimeter, then you get a dramatic increase because of all the daughter particles.

S: So not only, so you have this high energy particle coming in, just to illustrate this a little bit if I can, this high energy particle coming in, with no shielding, it would basically go right through you.

S: It'd do damage as it went through you, but it'd go through you.

S: It's being like, it's basically like a through and through bullet wound.

S: And then, but if you slow it down with the shielding, you end up with a bunch of daughter particles which are low enough energy, they're still high enough energy to be ionizing, but low enough energy to be absorbed by the body rather than pass through you.

S: So it basically maximally transfers the energy of the cosmic rays to your body doing maximal radiation damage.

S: So it's like a sponge.

S: So it's like a shotgun.

S: It's like a shotgun instead of a sniper bullet.

B: Yeah, exactly.

B: Right.

B: But I wonder though, Steve, I mean, go to 100.

S: I know, they didn't keep going to see at what point, how big would you have to get?

S: Basically, we're talking about how thick this shielding is before you actually start to reduce the ability of those daughter particles to propagate all the way through the shielding and would it lower again?

S: But I think the idea here was 60 grams, the thick shielding was the most plausible thickest shielding they could consider a ship having.

S: Thicker than that and it's just going to be too heavy to be a vessel.

B: And therefore, too expensive as well to even get into orbit.

S: Or the rocket equation would be make it impossible to accelerate it to Mars.

B: So also in their conclusion, they say that with the shielding and after 1.9 years, a space traveler would receive 0.5 Sieverts, SV, Sieverts.

B: Sieverts is a common measure of an effective radiation dose.

B: So that's a lot.

B: That's a lot, but that's doable in terms of like an astronaut's career.

B: If you read any of these articles about this topic, you may see the number or the time of four years thrown around a lot.

B: That comes from this next number.

B: They calculated that 3.9 years of traveling through space like this would give the traveler a 1 Sievert rating and that's the career maximum right there.

B: You hit that, you are done.

B: You cannot go into space.

B: You might not even be able to get a real good x-ray.

B: Of course, I'm joking with that one, but that's maximum.

B: You are not an astronaut anymore if you're at 1 SV.

S: 1 Sievert is like a 2% lifetime risk of cancer or something like that.

S: So at some point, it's arbitrary, but at some point you have to say this is where we're

B: going to cut it off. It's a judgment call.

B: So other notes though in their study mentions, they talk about materials that are better than aluminum because I kept thinking aluminum, okay, that's fine, but what year is this?

B: And we're talking about let's broaden our possibilities, shall we?

B: So they mentioned things like a more ideal material, lighter material essentially are things like hydrogen-rich composites.

B: And they say that if you look at these more ideal materials, it would only really get about 20% better and not much better than that.

B: And that translates into about an additional year of flight time.

B: And that's good.

B: An extra year is good, but it doesn't seem like we're necessarily going to get dramatically better than that in terms of shielding, unless we have more of an active type of shielding.

B: But I think they're talking about composites and that's fine.

B: But what about metamaterials?

B: What could that protect?

B: Because metamaterials are amazing.

B: Perhaps there's some metamaterial designs that could potentially be far better than some of those composites.

B: I don't know.

B: But I'd be curious to see if they were really thinking outside the box, if they can dramatically improve just what aluminum can do well beyond the 20% better.

S: So Bob, just to clarify that a little bit.

S: So the 20% better, they think that's like the theoretical maximum.

S: Like if you had an idealized material, you would only get 20% better than aluminum.

S: And that's because what makes a material good shielding against cosmic rays, and that is that it has the lightest elements in it.

S: And of course you can't get better than hydrogen.

S: And so the hydrogen rich- Composites.

S: Lithium, lithium hydride, beryllium hydride, the polyethylene is good.

S: Even carbon composites, which could have a lot of hydrogen in them are good because again, nothing is better than hydrogen.

S: And the reason for that is because that minimizes the production and propagation of- Secondary particles.

S: Yeah, of the daughter particles.

S: But that's just considering the substance itself.

S: I agree.

S: I think it's the structure of the shielding would, you know, some kind of advanced metamaterial-

B: Metamaterial or bubble metal? Bubble metal had some interesting results.

S: We talked about like foam metal and some foam metals are good at some kinds of radiation shielding, but I don't know if they've been tested against like cosmic ray type of radiation.

S: The thing is we have to face the fact that this may be the best we could do for the foreseeable future until some new technology comes by.

B: Well, yeah, right.

B: And they say that, so what they say though is that this makes any long duration mission just like not practical, like going there, going to Mars to live, just not practical with current technology.

B: And I tend to agree because remember the surface of Mars also has deadly amounts of radiation because the atmosphere is so thin, there's no magnetosphere.

B: That said, there may be, you know, I've seen articles recently about ways where you can be much safer on the surface of Mars itself like going underground for one.

B: So there may be ways to shield settlers on that planet that's far better, far better than aluminum shielding.

B: Hopefully it's something that you could construct, you know, on site.

B: So perhaps we can have long term settlements because, you know, you go to, you know, you fly to Mars, that's nine months, that's fine.

B: You're well with your seaverts are great or fine there.

B: But then when you get down on Mars, you need to be protected long term, very protected, you know, because even if you get a minimal dose, you know, a minimal dose is fine.

B: But if you get a minimal dose for 10 years, then that, you know, that adds up until you're toast.

B: So you would have to be extremely well shielded.

B: And that might necessitate going deep underground in Mars to make it viable.

B: So a surface, so these, you know, these surface habitats on Mars might not really be practical at all unless you made it crazy thick, which is not impossible.

B: You know, if you just mine Mars, you know, for the for the metals to do that.

B: So it's interesting to see where this is going to go.

B: And it's it's encouraging to know that, you know, short trips to Mars could work fine, but you'd have to leave, you know, you would have to be a slave to the solar cycle now.

B: And they say that 2030 would be a really good time to go because you got to go during solar max, right?

B: And 2040.

B: So that really stinks.

B: Oh, we got to wait seven years for our launch window.

B: That really stinks.

B: So hopefully, you know, by 2030 or 2040, we'll be ready to actually to go there, even if it's just for a few months of tooling around.

B: I mean, just just imagine, you know, how much work, you know, a few people on Mars could do in a few months.

B: They could do essentially a decade's worth of rover work in just in just a couple of months.

B: So we could be very informative and valuable to get men and women up there.

B: And and even if it's just for a few months, just come back home and then you're good.

B: And then, you know, you'll be kind of safe.

B: But long term, much, much tougher.

S: Yeah, it does make me wonder about because we talked about the train to Mars, where you create a ship that just constantly goes from Earth to Mars and then and then and then back to the Earth and back to Mars.

S: And you just you send people up to the ship and then but then they live on the ship for the for the nine months or whatever it takes to make the trip back and forth.

S: And you only have to the key is you only have to accelerate that once and you can do it over time.

S: And therefore that could have living quarters on it.

S: Like the whole thing wouldn't have to be massively shielding, but you could have places where the occupants are going to spend most or all of their time that are massively shielded.

S: We're going to need something like that if we're going to be like regularly going to Mars or even to farther away destinations.

S: We're going to need massive ships that are just they're so big that we can afford the shielding to fully block the cosmic rays.

B: Right, and it's probably not going to happen this century.

S: You know, right.

S: All right.

Nobel Prize in Medicine ()[edit]

S: It's Nobel Prize time.

S: Cara, you're going to start us off with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

C: You got it.

C: All right.

C: So this year 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is a 5050 share between David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian.

C: And both of them, although not California natives per se, are Californian.

C: So woot woot, West Coast, West Coast.

C: Representing.

C: All right.

C: So let's talk a little bit about these two researchers and what they won their Nobel Prize for.

C: So this was a, like I said, a split prize awarded for research about temperature and touch.

C: And the short, you know how the Nobel Committee always puts out like a short quote of what the research is for, that is quote, for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.

C: So that doesn't tell us much, but it opens up the conversation.

C: So anybody who has been sort of dialed in to biological processes, you know, medicine, physiology, studied this in academia, is aware that there's a lot that's already known about how we perceive the world around us.

C: You know, we have sometimes it's referred to as five senses.

C: Many neuroscientists might refer to there being six senses.

C: So that would be sight, sound or hearing, smell, taste, touch and proprioception, which is kind of knowing where your limbs are in space.

C: If you were to close your eyes, you still can, you know, lift an arm or step a leg.

C: You kind of know where your body's coordinates are.

C: For many, many years, we've known an awful lot about most of these senses.

C: And even though quite some time ago, we discovered that there are particular neurons, particular sensory receptors that then, you know, speak downstream to neural circuitry that are responsible for things like temperature and touch, only within the past few decades did scientists start to really delineate what's happening at the molecular level.

C: And that's what these two individuals won their Nobel Prizes for.

C: Although their work is similar, the two researchers did discover slightly different things.

C: Both of them, by the way, are relatively young.

C: So we'll start with the younger of the two, Dr. Ardem Patapoutian, who is 54 years old.

C: He was actually born in Beirut, and he left Lebanon during their civil war and came to the United States in 1986 when he was 18 years old.

C: He's now a professor at Scripps Research Institute and investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and also holds a research position for the Novartis Research Foundation.

C: So he's not busy.

C: He's not doing much, you know, just kind of a chill guy.

C: So you know, his research has been into nociception.

C: That's the word that we often use for pain reception in neuroscience, but actually nociception specifically refers to noxious stimuli.

C: So it could be pain, it could be mechanical, temperature, chemical sensations, anything that is noxious in its experience.

C: He specifically looked at the Piezo 1, the Piezo 2, and the TRPM8 receptors, actually, you know, was instrumental in discovering these receptors and describing them.

C: And these receptors detect pressure, menthol, and temperature.

C: And this is a painstaking process.

C: At the time when this was discovered, you know, we didn't have all of the tools that we have today, even though this was not terribly long ago.

C: But he had to, he and his research teams had to systematically knock out genes, like disable genes and see at what point could they stimulate a cell and it would be insensitive to mental for example, or to touch for example.

C: And so, you know, this is pretty painstaking, you have to do it one at a time, one gene at a time until you find the genes that seem to be implicated or responsible.

C: Ultimately, his team named Piezo 1 after the Greek word for pressure, then a second gene discovered named Piezo 2.

C: And Piezo 2 is actually an important mechanoreceptor for the sense of touch.

C: And also when we think of mechanoreceptors, it's not just about touch, like the sensation on our fingertips, but you find these things throughout the body.

C: So it also came to be known to be implicated in blood pressure because it's a stretch receptor.

C: So able to detect the blood volume within your blood vessels.

C: Also things like respiration, the stretch within your lungs or within the bronchioles and even sphincter control, things like stretch within your bladder to know how full your bladder is before you need to empty it, things along that nature.

S: One small thing, Cara, I believe it's piezo, not piezo.

S: I think you're pronouncing it Italian for some reason.

S: Yeah, it's just piezo.

C: Cara Whitten Piezo, piezo, Greek, Italian.

C: When I see the word piezo, that is piezo to me for sure.

C: Piezo, piezo, tomato, tomato, but okay.

C: Piezo 1 and 2.

C: Just to stay with those names.

C: I'll give you that.

C: No worries.

C: And then, hey, but I worked hard on getting his name, Patiputian, right?

C: I think I did okay there.

C: Yes.

C: It's an Armenian name, by the way.

C: I mentioned that he was born in Beirut, Lebanon.

C: He's Armenian by culture.

C: And so that's an Armenian name.

E: I know someone else with those distinctions as well.

C: Yeah, yeah.

C: And so David Julius, who shares the prize, only 65 years old, slightly older, but still very young in terms of a career in science.

C: He shares the prize for similar research.

C: One of the big distinctions, because he also looked at menthol and temperature, but he also was looking specifically at capsaicin.

C: And we've probably talked about capsaicin.

C: Ah, spice, baby.

C: Spice.

C: Hey, Bob, you love spice.

C: Yeah.

C: And so we know that capsaicin, and we have known for some time that capsaicin was a stimulatory towards these nociceptors, these noxious receptors.

C: We also know that when capsaicin is flooded, meaning that like, right, if you're eating spicy foods and you eat enough of it, you actually have a numbing sensation.

C: And so capsaicin in large enough quantities can dull pain.

C: So at first it's painful and then it becomes dull.

C: And these mechanisms are really interesting kind of at a gross physiological level.

C: But of course, the research just wasn't there yet to know what was happening at the molecular level.

C: So his work helped in characterizing the TRPV1 and TRM, I keep doing that, TRPM8 receptors.

C: And if you noticed, the previous researcher also worked on the TRPM8 receptors.

C: They were able to clone a receptor, the TRPV1 receptor, that receptor that we knew at that point detected capsaicin.

C: But they also found out that there was that heat and capsaicin relationship.

C: So that wasn't really well understood before.

C: So the receptor which we knew responded to capsaicin, which is the chemical in peppers that makes them hot, quote, spicy, also was implicated in thermoception in our perception of heat.

C: There's a massive crossover there.

S: One thing I found interesting, Cara, is that he used the opposite method that Patapoutian did.

S: Instead of knocking out genes to find out which one took away the sensation, he added genes from a catalog of DNA fragments known to be part of sensory cells, adding them to cells that don't normally respond to capsaicin until he found the one that gave it the ability to respond.

S: So this was adding instead of taking away, but the same kind of exhaustive method of looking one by one until you narrow down the specific gene that produces the receptor.

C: He then went on and was able to look at menthol in cooler temperatures, which was a different receptor, the TRPMH receptor, which is also what Dr. Patapoutian was looking at.

C: So pain, temperature, pressure, this is 2021.

C: We still, and it's only from research that was done, you know, 15, 20 years ago, we're still continuing to answer some of these questions.

C: And of course, there are unanswered questions in other areas of sensation and, you know, downstream from that perception.

C: But it does seem to be the case that the interplay between temperature, pressure, heat, heat and cold, which are both temperature, sorry, pressure, and certain types of pain, specifically noxious pain, are complicated.

S: What I found interesting is that, you know, he identified the receptor that senses capsaicin as painful, and it turns out it's the same receptor that senses heat as painful.

S: So it is actually heat when you feel like the burning of a chili pepper, it's the same receptors that we're feeling.

S: It's the same receptor.

S: It's literally burning for me.

B: It's such a sweet heat though.

B: Oh, I love it.

C: And it's such a, and you know, it's interesting because it almost reinforces something that we have had cultural accumulated knowledge about for some time.

C: Everything in us knew that it was similar because we use similar terms.

C: We've always referred to hot and you have to go, heat hot or temperature hot?

C: Like you know, be careful, that's hot.

C: Is it heat hot or temperature hot when we're talking about food?

C: So it's really interesting that there is conciliants there within the actual mechanism as well.

B: The more Scovels, the better.

B: Up to a point, Bob.

B: I don't disagree with that.

Nobel Prize in Physics ()[edit]

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 ][3]

S: All right, let's move on to the Nobel Prize in physics.

B: Oh, baby, speak to me.

S: Talk to me.

S: So this split between three winners.

S: Half of the prize was divided between Sayukuro Manabe from Princeton University in the USA and Klaus Haussleman from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany.

S: And the other half goes to Giorgio Parisi from the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy.

S: So we have an American, a German, and a Paisano.

S: Got the physics.

S: So, all right, so Sayukuro Manabe and Klaus Haussleman worked independently.

S: You know, Klaus published about 10 years after Manabe.

S: But they both contributed to climate models, our ability to model the climate and to predict global warming.

S: So obviously very critical to human civilization today.

S: Manabe specifically was the first one to develop these types of sophisticated climate models.

S: And he demonstrated how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to increased temperatures at the surface of the Earth, publishing mainly in the 1960s.

S: So his work led to the development of models of Earth's climate.

S: He was the first person to explore the interaction between radiation balance and the vertical transport of air masses.

S: And so he did the foundational work that led to basically the first climate models.

S: About 10 years later, Klaus Haussleman was the first one within these models to link weather and climate.

S: So he was able to show even though we cannot predict the weather, we can predict the climate.

S: And how we go from weather to climate and also climate to weather.

S: So he also was able to use these models to find fingerprints of both natural forcing and human forcing in the climate.

S: So he's able to say, oh, this is how we know that solar forcing is happening and what effect it's having.

S: And this is how we know that human forcing from releasing CO2 is happening.

S: And this is how we measure it.

S: And this is how we account for its influence on the climate.

S: So again, critical to the understanding of how human emissions of carbon dioxide are affecting global average temperatures.

S: And then go another decade forward, around 1980, Giorgio Parisi, he wasn't working specifically on climate models.

S: He was working on something a little bit more fundamental.

S: He discovered hidden patterns in disordered complex materials.

S: So essentially developing a theory of complex systems.

S: And this work became critical to improving our climate models because that's basically they are complex systems.

S: So we basically improved the math of these models and showed how a system that looks entirely random, whether it's a material or a biological system or a neuroscience system or a machine learning or the climate, how any of these things we say from nanostructures to the universe, right?

S: His insights really scale the entire range.

S: How you can find the hidden patterns in these apparently chaotic or random appearing systems.

S: And again, just his work became critical to improving our climate models.

S: So that was the unifying theme of those three physicists.

S: They did foundational work that made possible or significantly contributed to our current climate models.

S: Let's talk about those climate models for just a second before we move on.

S: How are they doing?

S: They're doing wonderfully, thank you.

S: So this is a frequently encountered narrative that we see among the climate change deniers that the climate models are not accurate.

S: They're not working.

S: They're running hot, whatever.

S: They're kind of cherry picking the normal back and forth of science and then trying to create this false narrative that the climate models don't work.

S: But there have been multiple evaluations of the climate models and it turns out they have been remarkably accurate.

S: If you track over the last 50 years, we're right within the error bars.

S: The actual warming that has happened, it tracks incredibly well.

S: If you take sort of the average of the best models, especially if you weight the models going forward, like in other words, the models that do better, you give increasing weight to in terms of averaging out the models.

S: Does that make sense?

S: And that the predictive power gets even better.

S: I think it's even more accurate when you weight them towards the more accurate models, which may seem obvious, but I'm talking about like if you said, oh yeah, between 1970 and 1980, these models were really accurate.

S: So how did they do between 1980 and 1990?

S: They did really well, you know.

S: And if you take the ones that did really, really well there and weight them more for later periods of time, it makes the averaging even more accurate.

S: One narrative I encountered recently is that climate models are quote unquote running hot.

S: Have you guys ever heard this?

S: This is part meaning that they're predicting going forward, some of the climate models were spitting out like these really rapid warming.

S: And some of the climate scientists like either something is wrong with these models or it's going to get a lot worse than we thought.

S: Now you guys know what, remember what climate sensitivity is.

S: The technical definition of climate sensitivity is the amount of warming that would happen as a result of a doubling of CO2 concentrations from pre-industrial levels, pre-industrial CO2 was 280 parts per million.

S: So a doubling would be 560.

S: We're currently approaching 420.

S: So we're not there yet, but significant increase in the parts per million of CO2.

S: The range go, you know, there's been a lot of debate over the decades about what the climate sensitivity actually is, but the range has been narrowing with more and more study, which makes sense, and currently it's somewhere between two to five degrees Celsius.

S: So what the, some of the recent models are saying, Oh, it looks like it's going to be closer to the five degree end of the spectrum.

S: If that's true, we're screwed.

S: I mean, cause then it's already like all of the projections about what do we got to do to prevent the worst outcomes?

S: We're already past all of them.

S: If that's the case, we're hoping it's going to be somewhere in the, towards the average, like three would be nice.

S: Three to three and a half.

S: You will get lucky and it's two and a half or it's definitely not going to be less than two.

S: What does five mean?

S: Five degrees C warming above pre-industrial levels with a doubling of the CO2.

S: Now I know, I know that.

S: I mean, what are the implications of that?

S: The ramifications of that would be, it would, it would trigger, you know, these tipping points.

S: We'd probably settle in at six degrees or so warmer, even if we stopped producing CO2, that would be the new equilibrium point.

S: And then that degree of warming, that's where you get a hundred feet of ocean rise, you know?

S: And like, yeah, the, the, you know, the Antarctic ice shelf falling into the ocean and the Greenland ice sheet falling into the ocean and the North pole going away and the shorelines of the earth being redrawn.

S: Basically, that's, that's what that means.

S: Would Disney World be okay?

S: I don't think so.

S: So how much time, Steve?

B: How long would it take for that to reach that?

S: We're still talking about a century, you know, for that to play out, or even a century and a half, but it just becomes irreversible.

C: And remember, it doesn't happen overnight.

C: It happens gradually.

C: So even though, you know, it might be a century before we're at a hundred feet sea level, it's going to be between now and then.

C: Yeah, it's not going to all happen a hundred feet.

S: That it's slowly rising.

S: But don't panic because...

S: Too late.

S: The climatologists knew that these models were running high.

S: Plus, there wasn't all of them.

S: It was only like about 30% of them were saying, oh, maybe the, you know, the climate sensitivity is towards, you know, the four to five end of the range.

S: So what they did was what I just said.

S: They said they went back and they reanalyzed, well, they recombined the various models, weighting the ones that were most accurate in the past, right?

S: Short term, yeah.

S: Predicting what's going to happen over the last 20 years.

S: And when you do that, those are the ones that were running cooler.

S: And then the average of these models comes back down to the range that we previously were at.

S: Okay, we're, yeah, it's probably going to be closer to three degrees, which is what we were, like the IPCC and the Paris Climate Accords were assuming when they made their goals and their benchmarks.

S: So problems was over before it started, basically.

S: But of course, the climate deniers hit upon, they hit upon these headlines, you know, where like the dramatic headlines, climate models are running hot, you know, are we headed for a disaster or whatever?

S: And to try to argue that the climate models don't work or they're not accurate.

S: But they really, they miss the actual science news, like what's actually going on.

S: And they're just exploiting just the conversation that climate scientists are having with each other about how to optimally interpret and use these climate models.

S: And it's a total non-issue at the end of the day.

S: The climate models are very accurate.

S: They're continuing to be accurate.

S: They're constantly tweaking them, constantly, you know, comparing them.

S: If something doesn't look quite right, they go back and say, all right, what's going on here and they, they work it out, et cetera.

S: The climate models are doing fine.

S: And it is largely thanks to these three Nobel Prize winners in physics.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry ()[edit]

S: All right, Evan, that leaves the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

E: The 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to two individuals, Professors Benjamin List of the Max Planck Institute in Germany and David W.C.

E: Macmillan of Princeton University.

E: And they will share the prize for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.

E: Yes.

E: Okay.

E: What is asymmetric organocatalysis?

E: Or even more basic, what is organocatalysis?

E: All right.

E: So I'll tell you.

C: What is catalysis?

E: Yeah.

E: Well, we're actually do get down to that point.

E: But I'm going to tell you how the newly awarded Nobel Laureate Benjamin List described it.

E: And this was from an interview he did in 2013.

E: He said, organocatalysis is a catalyst with small organic molecules where a metal is not part of the active principles.

E: They function by either donating or removing electrons or protons.

E: And that's it.

E: That's what he boiled it down to.

E: So it's a catalyst, which is a molecule that drives a chemical reaction without becoming part of the new molecule being produced.

E: It drives a reaction.

E: It speeds it up.

E: Okay.

E: There's your basic.

E: But an organocatalyst is a relatively simple molecule containing no metal.

E: And that is the key.

E: No metal in the catalyst.

E: Back in 2000, when Drs.

E: List and McMillian independently made their discoveries, there were two types of catalysts, enzymes and metals.

E: Enzymes are catalysts that speed up reactions in living organisms.

C: Yeah, they're proteins.

C: Almost always.

C: Not always, but almost always protein.

C: Sometimes nucleic acids, I think, can work as enzymes as well.

C: Cool.

C: But you're right.

C: Usually something that ends in ace.

E: And the other are the metal complexes.

E: And these are used to speed up the reactions in all other types of molecules, especially in manufacturing, for example.

E: But they come with some baggage because the metals need to be well isolated.

E: They don't work well in oxygen and moisture environments.

E: The residual metals can end up in the products or the molecules that you're trying to make.

E: And then they have to be catalyzed out as well.

E: And to achieve more complex molecules, some molecules need to go through many rounds of catalysis.

E: So depending on the catalyst being used and the molecule being modified, it can produce pairs of new molecules.

E: And these pairs of molecules are a mirror image of each other.

E: And while one of the pair is your desired beneficial molecule, it has this evil twin, as I like to describe it, that can be a deadly toxin or waste product or other things, frankly, that you or the environment don't need.

E: They described it as the left hand, right hand, what is it?

E: Chiral.

S: Chirality.

E: Chirality.

E: The handedness compounds.

E: Left hand, right hand.

E: So that means you take your left hand and your right hand.

E: Yeah, they're the same, but they're not the same because you put one over the other.

E: Obviously, the thumbs don't line up.

E: Only your middle finger lines up.

E: So they're the same, but they don't have that symmetry.

S: Yeah, there's no way you could rotate one so that it equals the other.

S: They are mirror images of each other.

E: Mirror images, right.

E: And again, one compound can be very beneficial and the other one, in some cases, deadly.

E: Remember the drug thalidomide?

E: Oh, yeah.

C: Oh, did that have to do with chiral?

E: Yeah, developed in the 1950s, manufactured with both handedness compounds.

E: One performed very well in reducing morning sickness in pregnant women and the other caused birth deformities.

C: I recently learned that the antidepressant that I had been on for quite some time, which is a really old antidepressant called citalopram, it has both right and left handed molecules, which means you get...

C: And then Lexapro, which was a newer version of it, only has the active handedness, which means you can take, not always, but less drug, get more active effect and fewer side effects because that other handedness, which was not active, but was still carrying all the side effects was included in the earlier form of the drug.

C: And I think you see that a lot with older drugs that were kind of developed to be more effective.

C: Yeah, yeah, that makes total sense.

E: Right up to the year 2000, in fact, Cara.

C: Yeah, yeah.

C: I mean, it's not that old a drug.

C: I mean, I'd been on it for 10 years.

E: Right, right.

E: But up till 2000, the chemical world of catalysts broke down.

E: You know, it was enzymes and metals.

E: Those were your...

E: There you were.

E: You were classified as one of those two things.

E: But with the discovery of organocatalysis, a new age of chemistry was effectively ushered in and it took off at warp speed.

E: And it's not just the organocatalysis, the asymmetric organocatalysis.

E: So goodbye to the unwanted evil twin byproducts of molecular chemistry.

E: If you can use organocatalysis to get rid of those unwanted and undesirable twins, effectively.

E: So it became a very big major tool in chemists' toolbox, as they described.

E: They achieved the desired results using a method that's, well, relatively inexpensive, very precise, very fast, and much friendlier to the planet and all of us who inhabit it.

E: So there's this environmental impact.

E: What's that all about?

E: Well, it's... catalysis is responsible for 35% of the world's gross domestic product.

E: Wow.

E: Isn't that incredible?

E: Yeah.

E: I mean, think about that.

E: I don't think it's a stretch to say that it's...

E: Catalysis is everywhere, you know, omnipresent, happening all over the world all the time.

E: You had this older method, which produced all kinds of bad effects and things, but basically, you know, that was taken away with the new discovery.

E: So the new discovery wound up reducing the number of reaction steps.

E: So in other words, what used to take, say, 12 reaction steps using a metal, may now only take four or five using the asymmetric organocatalysis method.

E: And one of the examples was the strychnine test.

E: You know what strychnine is?

B: Mm-hmm.

E: It'll kill you.

E: Yeah.

E: Poison, deadly, very bad for people, very bad for animals, bad for crops, but good for testing the effectiveness and efficiency of your catalysts.

E: Because the asymmetric organocatalysis procedure, they discovered that when you're making strychnine, it's 7,000 times more efficient than having done it the original way of creating strychnine.

E: And it's used, obviously, in so many things, drug technology, you know, batteries, solar efficiency, everything down to the...

E: Every product that you can think of, cosmetics, cars, everything.

E: So about the two professors who got here to receive the prize back in 2000, MacMillan was working with metal catalysts that were easily destroyed by moisture, but he wondered whether he could develop a more durable type of catalyst using simple organic molecules.

E: And in that effort, he made his first discovery.

E: He worked with nitrogen to form an aminium ion, which proved to be a very good, in fact, excellent asymmetric catalysis.

E: At the same time, also in the year 2000, separately, again, individual discoveries, Dr. List wondered whether an entire enzyme was really required to obtain a catalyst.

E: Now some enzymes contain upwards of, as I read, 350 amino acids, but are all 350 amino acids required to be a catalyst?

E: Well, he experimented with one amino acid called proline, and proline was excellent at catalyzing a chemical reaction.

E: Proline has a nitrogen atom that can provide, which means to add or accommodate, which means take electrons during chemical reactions.

E: So in the year 2000, they each stumbled upon this and opened up the new, wonderful, wonderful exploding world of chemistry and making new molecules and better ways to make them.

S: And part of what I like about this is that this is made for industrial production of chemicals.

S: Because it's one thing, we always talk about this.

S: Yeah, this is a proof of concept in the lab, and isn't that interesting?

S: That's great, but unless you could crank the stuff out on an industrial scale, who cares?

S: That's what this is all about.

S: This is about making things at an industrial scale, and that's why it was so critical to modern chemistry.

S: The last 20 years, it's been a revolution.

S: Really has been.

S: All right.

S: So those are the Nobel prizes for 2021.

S: Always fun to talk about those.

S: Some of them anyway.

E: Yeah, more coming, but...

E: All the three science ones.

E: The science ones, yeah.

E: The hard science.

SGU Recommends[edit]

  • Oats Studios

S: So we're going to do another SGU recommends, where we chat about something we've encountered that we thought was interesting or cool or instructive or whatever.

S: Have any of you guys heard of Oats Studios?

S: O-A-T-S?

B: Is that Hall & Oates?

S: Oats Studios.

S: This is created by South African director, Neil Blomkamp.

S: Oh, of District 9.

S: District 9, Elysium, Chappie, I think it's three big movies.

S: So excellent director.

S: I liked all those movies.

S: And he has what he calls an experimental studios.

S: They produce a series of experimental short films.

S: Cool.

S: I binged through all of them on Netflix this week, and I was blown away.

S: Totally blown away.

S: Oh, great.

S: Oh, great.

S: I can't recommend it enough.

S: Bob, you would love them.

S: They're so- I'm there.

S: What's it called?

B: Oats Studios?

B: Oats Studios.

B: On Netflix.

B: So here's the thing.

B: I'm going to go watch it now.

B: Bye.

S: Again, it's an experimental short films.

S: What does that mean?

S: So some of them were these self-contained funny little stories or whatever.

S: But about half of them, it feels like you're watching 20 minutes out of a movie.

S: You know what I mean?

S: Or 15 minutes or 10 minutes out of a movie.

S: In other words, in a good way, they developed all of the intellectual, artistic, narrative elements you would need for a full-length movie just for a 15-minute short.

S: And you feel like you're coming into the middle of the action.

S: The first one is about an alien takeover of the Earth.

S: And they had completely tweaked out aliens, a whole history, how they work, their technology.

S: Completely fleshed out characters that are fighting against them.

S: I mean, again, this is the amount of back story and development that you would feel is appropriate for a high-end epic movie, not a short.

S: You know what I mean?

S: Yeah.

B: Sounds like a lot of work.

B: Exactly.

B: So much work.

B: Is the goal here to produce a full-length movie based on these shorts, the ones that get picked up or something?

S: I don't know.

S: I don't know.

S: I mean, I bet you would think that they are.

C: Black Mirror is similar to that.

C: They are, I mean, they're not short shorts, but it's a TV show that is cinematic for all intents and purposes.

C: They're like mini movies.

S: Yeah, yeah.

S: That's the point.

S: They're like mini movies.

S: This was different, though.

S: This is like, you didn't feel like you were getting a self-contained story.

S: I saw the first one, and I literally thought that it was the first episode of a series.

S: And then I go to the next one, I'm like, what happened to the first thing that I saw?

S: It was so, you know, it wasn't- Sounds a little disappointing.

S: Because I didn't realize what I was getting into.

S: I was disappointed.

S: I want more of that first one.

S: I want a whole movie or a whole series based upon that first short that I saw.

S: But then the second one was another short that was just as awesome, and I want a movie about that, too.

S: And there's multiple of those.

S: Really, really good.

S: Really, really good.

B: That's an interesting idea, because I could see Netflix.

B: You know, Netflix is always looking for new stuff, right?

B: I mean, you get a specific episode in that series that really gets a lot of great press and great reviews.

B: They could say, all right, let's make 10 episodes, full episodes from this.

B: One short.

B: I wouldn't be surprised.

S: Totally see that happening.

S: They totally do.

S: And it has good, like Sigourney Weaver was in the first episode.

S: It's high production value, good actors.

E: It didn't feel like just an extended trailer, Steve?

S: Well, yeah, look, it could be like an extended trailer of a movie.

S: That's what it could be.

S: But it isn't.

S: It's just an experimental short film.

B: Now that you've mentioned Sigourney Weaver, I did see something flash by with her, and I thought, hmm, that looks interesting.

B: I've got to check out that movie.

B: And now I just remember that.

S: Cool.

S: It's just dropped October 1 on Netflix, the first volume one, the first season.

S: And so I caught it pretty soon after it came out.

B: Any horror-based episodes?

B: Totally.

S: Yeah, absolutely.

B: I'll have to focus on those first, because, you know, it's October and all.

S: Scary.

S: Halloween coming in.

S: I'm just going to binge it from the beginning.

B: I mean, just amazing.

B: No, it's October.

B: It's horror at night.

B: Sci-fi is November.

S: Horror is October.

S: Visually stunning.

S: Visually stunning.

S: So I highly recommend it.

S: All right.

S: Great.

Quickie with Bob: Biggest comet ever? ()[edit]

  • Large Comet

B: Bob, you're going to give us a quickie with Bob.

B: Well, thank you, Steve.

B: This is your quickie with Bob.

B: Possibly the biggest comet ever detected is hurtling towards our solar system.

B: Cool.

B: You know what I love about this?

B: It's called Bernardinelli something.

B: I forget the last half of the name.

B: I don't think it was important.

B: Oh, wait, wait.

B: Maybe it was.

B: It's called Bernardinelli Bernstein after discoverers in 2014, when it was near Neptune's orbit and thought to be a minor planet for a while, so big that they figured it's got to be a minor planet or a dwarf planet, until it started showing some commentary activity.

B: Like wait a second, that coma is basically, that's a comet.

B: So now estimates based on its albedo put it at perhaps, albedo is coefficient of reflectivity, how bright it is, puts it at perhaps 62 miles, 100 kilometers across, or more.

B: Some earlier estimates put it between 100 and 200 kilometers.

B: That's about a thousand times more massive than a typical comet and perhaps 10 times the diameter.

B: So this is Brobdagnagian.

B: This is big, big boy.

B: Now no worries though, no worries though.

B: Its closest approach to Earth called perihelion, it was around 2031, will be at a distance of 10.11 AU in astronomical units, each unit being 93 million miles.

E: It's about a billion miles.

B: So yeah, approaching a billion miles away is the close approach to the sun.

B: Yeah, it's not going to get very close.

B: It'll basically get to like Saturn's orbital distance and then start going away.

B: So that means it won't be visiting the inner solar system, which is too bad though, because the closer you get to the inner solar system, the closer you get to the sun, which means the more, the bigger and more dramatic the tail is, and that would be a monster tail.

B: But we'll never see it, not in our lifetime at least.

B: Long after this trip, once it starts heading back to the other end of its orbit or its greatest distance, which is aphelion, which is about 54,000 AU or 0.9 light years, it's going to go really far away and it's going to take, of course, it won't visit us again for over 4 million years.

B: So if some of us are around, maybe we'll take another look in over 4 million years.

B: So yeah, so there you go.

B: Dramatic, you know, I wish it were going to come really close to the sun, but really far from the earth.

B: That could have been something.

B: So that's all I got about this one.

B: Look it up online for more details.

B: This has been your quickie with Bob.

B: I hope it was good for you too.

S: Bob, any chance that when it comes close to Saturn, Saturn will kick it into a closer

B: orbit to the sun? Nobody's talking about that.

B: I think it's going to be quite far from Saturn.

B: That would be cool, but also kind of dangerous because, I mean, this is quite an elliptical

S: orbit. This is a planet killer.

B: Yeah, this is a tenuous, very tenuous connection to the sun because, I mean, it wouldn't take that much of a nudge when it reaches, when it gets really far away to nudge it away.

B: I mean, it was nudged from the Oort cloud, right, a long time ago into our solar system.

B: So it wouldn't take much to nudge it and never see it again.

B: But you know, it's actually a little bit closer this time than it was the last time, they think.

B: This time it would be even a little bit, you know, it would be only eight AU away.

B: But yeah, so just a monster that, oh man, I wonder what that would look like.

B: But cool.

Name That Logical Fallacy ()[edit]

S: All right, we have a quick name that logical fallacy.

S: This one comes from Jim in California.

S: And Jim from California writes, I often hear versions of the below quote as a response to COVID vaccine, both on social media and in meatspace.

S: It strikes me as a logical fallacy, but I'm struggling to figure out which one.

S: I've been listening to this year since 2005 and look forward to every week.

S: Thanks for the great work.

S: Die hard long timer.

S: All right.

S: Yeah, the quote is we all know measles, mumps, rubella and polio shots are vaccines and have been proven to work.

S: They were tested for many years giving to humans.

S: The COVID shot has not proven anything.

S: People are still getting it.

S: If you think that means COVID, if you get the COVID vaccine, you show fewer symptoms and can pass it on freely.

S: So what's the purpose of this shot?

S: Not dying.

B: Basically, it keeps you out of the hospital.

B: That's a major goal.

S: So if there is a lot of misinformation in there, but if you had to put a logical fallacy on the argument, what would you say?

C: Can we just summarize the argument really quickly?

C: What is the core of the argument?

C: What is the point of something if it doesn't give me 100% protection?

C: Yes, that's correct.

C: I see.

S: Oh, yeah.

S: That's an obvious fallacy, which is the nirvana fallacy.

C: Yeah, nirvana.

C: Yes.

C: Yeah, it's not perfect.

C: We might as well do it.

C: Here we are now.

C: It's crap.

S: Yeah, if it's not perfect, what's the point of it?

S: It's not 100% protection.

S: Right.

B: Even with that expression, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

S: Yeah, exactly.

S: Yeah.

S: I've even seen comments, even in my own blog, where people are writing that, oh, it doesn't prevent infection, but they're interpreting quote unquote prevent as 100%.

S: If it's not 100% effective, it doesn't quote unquote prevent infection.

S: Yeah, which is just not true.

C: It prevents infection in a lot of people all the time.

S: Yeah, you can prevent 5% of infections.

S: That's still preventing infections if it reduces the number of them.

S: That's just an English problem that they're having.

S: But it's all random.

S: It's all geared towards downplaying the effectiveness of the vaccine and questioning its efficacy and its benefit.

S: Right.

B: Real quick though, Steve, just today they released news that some studies show that in the first few months of the vaccinations that went on earlier this year, they say that 36,000 elderly survived that probably would not have survived in just the initial rounds of the vaccine.

B: 36,000 that certainly would have died.

B: Most almost certainly would have died, didn't die because of the vaccine.

B: That's just over a couple months.

S: That's pretty effective.

S: The approved COVID vaccines, so yes, the primary outcome was a reduction in clinical symptoms, right?

S: So they prevent presenting with clinical COVID.

S: We also know that they reduce the risk of being hospitalized and they reduce the risk of dying from COVID.

S: But there is data that shows that among people who are vaccinated, the probability of them testing positive for COVID is also reduced.

S: And that is evidence that it keeps at least some people from catching the disease and therefore passing it on.

S: So this notion that you're going to get it and pass it on at the same rate is not true.

C: Well, it just shows a fundamental kind of disconnect between the understanding of the way that not just epidemiology, but like virology works.

C: I think we're so used to like this very binary thinking of like, I have a disease or I don't.

C: It showed a positive on a reagent test or it didn't.

C: But really, it's all a shade of the viral load.

C: If it's below detectable, we're not going to show it on.

C: You see it with these new ads for the newest HIV medications that say like, this medication has been shown to keep you undetectable.

C: And studies show that if you're undetectable, you can no longer transmit the disease.

C: It doesn't mean the person no longer has HIV.

C: It just means that their HIV is so well managed that it's no longer clinically relevant to them.

C: Yeah, you're right.

S: It's black and white, very simplistic thinking.

S: And it's not how medicine works, not how biology works.

S: The other thing is, it's what I find interesting is all the anti-vaxxers who are suddenly singing the praises of the mumps, measles, and rubella and the polio vaccine.

S: Those were real vaccines.

S: I mean, let me tell you, they were proven to work.

C: It's because they had no control when their parents gave them the vaccine when they were young.

C: So there's also...

S: It's got a lot of autism with it.

S: Yeah, it's also their nirvana fallacy.

S: They're overstating.

S: Like, they're 100% effective.

S: You don't get infected at all.

S: It's like, wrong.

S: None of them are 100% effective.

S: And you can still get the virus.

S: It doesn't replicate, have the ability to replicate.

S: There's not as much of a viral load.

S: You don't pass on as much.

S: There's not as much of an inoculum.

S: It prevents and significantly reduces the spread, absolutely.

C: Well, and also look at the cultural manifestation of the virus at the time, right?

C: You didn't get that vaccine in the midst of a global pandemic.

C: You got that vaccine as a child because there's a low level of this virus circulating within the community.

C: But for the most part, different pockets of the globe have herd immunity.

C: So you're working together with these different strategies to reduce the spread.

C: It's going to be completely different in the midst of an outbreak where everyone around you will have it, if not protected from it.

C: Like that's a very different story than getting a measles, mumps, rubella vaccine as a part of your normal course of vaccination.

S: They're also playing games with like, oh, the CDC redefined a vaccine in order to include these vaccines.

S: It's like, no, they didn't.

S: They tweaked their language.

S: This is just the CDC giving a layperson summary of like, what's a vaccine?

S: What's vaccination?

C: Right, because this type didn't exist before.

S: But it's not even about that.

S: It's not even about the fact that it's an mRNA vaccine.

S: They're just saying like, vaccines are a part of an infectious agent that you inject into somebody in order to produce immunity.

S: Like that's just a generic definition of vaccine.

S: And they tweak the language from saying like, provide immunity to produce immunity, whatever, to make it seem like, oh, they had to change the definition so that these vaccines, which don't really prevent infection, could still count as vaccine.

S: It's like, no, you're completely wrong.

S: I actually went to the way back machine, looked up the old language, compared it to the new language.

S: They're the same exact thing.

S: They just, they actually were tweaking the language in order to reduce people from misinterpreting immunity.

S: The thing is, people colloquial think immunity means 100% protection.

S: But all they were trying to say is that it produces your immune system to produce antibodies.

S: Right?

S: It produces the actual immunity, not the metaphorical immunity, like legal immunity.

S: You know what I mean?

S: Right, right.

S: So they're just trying to avoid a colloquial misinterpretation of the word, not redefining vaccine, as if the CDC gets to unilateral define what a vaccine is.

S: Again, it's this childish thinking of that, like you clearly have no idea how the world works, how institutions work, how medicine works.

S: It's just ridiculous.

S: But whatever, they latch on to these memes, like, you know, this is not a real vaccine.

S: What you're referring to, Cara, is when they say, well, the mRNA vaccine isn't a real vaccine.

S: It's gene therapy.

S: It's not gene therapy.

C: It's a vaccine.

S: No, it's absolutely not.

S: You're injecting an element of the virus.

S: In this case, it's the mRNA, which is also part of the virus, to produce the protein rather than the protein itself.

S: And it's just another way of getting the protein in the body.

S: It's ridiculous.

C: Yeah, in many ways, a better way.

C: A better way.

C: It's very effective.

C: A faster way.

S: And it provokes immunity.

S: It has all the core elements of what a vaccine is, just a different way, logically, of doing

B: it. Right.

B: Instead of injecting the protein, they're injecting the instructions to build the protein,

S: you know, right? That's basically it.

S: It's not gene therapy.

S: It doesn't change your genes.

S: Right.

S: Well, the people who are making these observations don't care about the facts.

S: Let's just face it.

C: You're right.

C: That's the other frustrating thing.

S: Let's face it.

S: All right. 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_Email_Correction #1: _brief_description_ ()[edit]

Question_Email_Correction #2: _brief_description_ ()[edit]

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Answer Item
Host Result
Rogue Guess

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

Theme: Microbiology
Item #1: If every virus on Earth were laid end to end, they would reach about 100 million lights years.[5]
Item #2: There are 100 million times as many bacteria in the world’s oceans as there are stars in the observable universe. Item #3: The rate of viral infections on Earth is about 1 trillion per second.

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

S: I'm going to challenge my panelists to tell me which one is the fake.

S: We have a theme this week.

S: I really like this theme.

S: I think you're going to like it too.

S: The theme is, it's about microbiology.

S: It's incredible numbers dealing with microbiology.

S: Oh, gosh.

E: Your number's up.

C: There are literally trillions of lots of things inside of our body.

C: Yeah.

S: I just heard Cara volunteering to go first.

S: Okay.

S: I think you're due anyway.

S: Don't be hard.

S: All right.

S: Here we go.

S: Item number one, if every virus on earth were laid end to end, they would reach about 100 million light years.

S: Item number two, there are 100 million times as many bacteria in the world's oceans as there are stars in the observable universe.

S: Item number three, the rate of viral infections on earth is about 1 trillion per second.

S: All right, Cara, go first.

Cara Response[edit]

C: Bacteria.

C: You're talking about, sorry, when you say there are 100 million times as many bacteria in the world's oceans, you mean individual bacterial cells, not types of bacteria.

C: Yeah, individual bacteria.

C: Okay.

C: That's just in the oceans?

C: Mm-hmm.

C: Geez.

C: Imagine what about soil bacteria?

C: What about the rate of viral... 1 trillion per second.

C: That could be including all organisms getting infected.

C: It's not just people.

C: We're very... No, it's all organisms getting infected.

C: Yeah, but of course there's so many things.

C: Insects get infected with viruses.

C: Everything gets infected with viruses.

C: That one doesn't seem too nuts to me.

C: I feel like the idea, maybe the ocean bacteria one might be a little off.

C: Maybe it's something like, okay, it's 100 million for both of those.

C: Once again, just to reiterate, a trillion viral infections per second on Earth sounds bananas, but there are also so many organisms that I'm going to say that that's science.

C: Then the other two have to do with a big number, which is 100 million, which is one order of magnitude less than a trillion, right?

C: No, billion.

C: Right, billion.

C: Oh, you're right.

C: A million, billion trillion.

C: So six order, seven order.

C: Wait, three orders of magnitude?

C: Four.

C: Four, you're right, four.

C: So 100 million, then a billion, 10 billion, 100 billion, then a trillion.

C: Yes.

C: Okay.

C: That's not that big.

C: So these numbers are... Ooh, trillion is a lot.

C: Okay, let's see.

C: 100 million light years, though.

C: What?

C: How big is a light year?

B: Just under six trillion miles.

B: There you go.

C: There's your trillions.

C: Okay, so 100 million of six trillion, so now we're talking a lot.

C: Every virus on earth laid end to end, and they're tiny.

C: Viruses are so tiny.

C: Maybe it's less than that.

C: Maybe it's like a light year.

C: And then 100 million times as many bacteria in the world's oceans as there are stars in the observable universe.

C: Ooh, observable.

C: I like that.

C: That's a good caveat.

C: I'm going to say that that one is science now that I read that word, observable universe.

C: So yeah, maybe I'll do the end to end viruses.

C: I bet you it is bananas like that, but maybe it's like one light year, not like 100 million light years.

C: I'll say that's the fiction.

C: Okay.

C: Because viruses are small.

Evan Response[edit]

S: All right, Evan?

E: Yeah, I'm going to agree with Cara.

E: I was leaning towards that before she sussed it out.

E: 100 million light years is far.

E: I mean, that's far.

E: And as far as the other two go, 100 million times as many bacteria in the world's oceans as there are stars in the observable universe, I'll refer back to the original Cosmos series with Carl Sagan in which he talked in this specific episode about the grains of sand on the planet on all the beaches of the earth is more than all the stars in the observable universe.

E: He used that term specifically.

E: So if that's just sand on the beaches now spread out into the ocean at the viral level, 100 million times that, yeah, that seems like that would fit.

E: So I'll use Carl's information there to help me there.

E: But the viral infections on earth at about one trillion per second, like Cara said, so many things, so many live things on the planet that it's a big number, but that just goes to show you how many organisms and everything are alive on this planet.

E: So therefore, the 100 million light years fiction.

S: Okay.

Bob Response[edit]

S: And Bob?

B: Yeah, I don't have a lot more to add.

B: Just 100 million light years is just, it's nuts.

B: Times six trillion miles.

B: That's I tried to do it on my phone and you got the numbers wouldn't even go that high.

B: So that's got, I'm thinking, all of these are kind of surprising at first blush, but that one is extravagantly so.

B: So I'll say the 100 million light years as well.

S: Okay.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: So you all agree.

S: So I guess we'll start with number two.

S: There are 100 million times as many bacteria in the world's oceans as there are stars in the observable universe.

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

S: This one is science.

S: Yeah.

S: Yeah.

S: So it's just a lot.

S: It's still a lot, man.

S: It's a lot.

S: 100 million times.

S: Times.

S: Basically, there's as many stars in 100 million universes is how many bacteria there are just in the world's oceans.

S: And I think, you know, what that's what is that number?

E: The number of stars in the observable universe?

S: It is 400 billion.

S: Well, then there are 100 million times the bacteria in the ocean.

S: So the number of bacteria are 13 times 10 to the 28th.

S: So knock that down.

C: Wow.

C: Oh my gosh.

C: Really?

C: That's making me question to the 20th.

S: Yeah, be 10 to the 20th stars in the known universe.

C: If that's how many bacteria there are.

C: Think about how many viruses there are.

C: Oh gosh, you guys, we probably got this wrong.

C: It's probably a way higher viral infection rate than that.

S: Well, let's find out.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: Let's go to number three.

S: Oh, yeah.

S: No, he's laughing.

S: Rip the bandaid off, Steve.

S: The rate of viral infections on Earth is about 100, I'm sorry, is about 1 trillion per second.

S: That sounds like a lot, doesn't it?

S: It does sound like a lot.

S: That's the real, that is the fiction, the real number.

S: Oh my gosh.

B: It's 1.1 trillion.

C: No, it's going to be 10 to some ungodly number.

S: Quintillion?

S: 1 times 10 to the 23rd infection per second.

C: That's Avogadro's number.

C: What is that, Bob?

B: 10 to the 23rd.

B: That one I don't know off the top of my head.

S: That is 14 orders of magnitude greater than 1 trillion is what that is.

S: Wow.

S: Right?

S: No, it's 12.

S: No, it's 11 orders of magnitude.

S: So yeah, and this is, you kind of had the right thought process.

S: So if you think about, as soon as you think about viruses infecting bacteria, then you should think, all right, that gets you to a big number and you might think, yeah, that 1 trillion per second is just not enough.

S: It would be much higher than that.

S: If you think about all the viruses and all the bacteria and all the oceans of the world.

E: It's the per second part of that.

E: 10 to the 23rd.

B: I got the number, guys.

B: 100 sextillion.

B: Sextillion.

B: One of my favorite numbers.

S: Viral infections remove 20 to 40% of all bacterial cells each day.

None Wow.

S: How many?

S: 20 to 40% of all bacterial cells are eliminated every day by viral infections.

S: Everything else, non-bacterial, is just a round off error to the viruses infecting bacteria.

C: What a planet.

C: Holy shit.

S: Yeah.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: So let's go back to number one.

S: If every virus on earth were laid end to end, they would reach about 100 million light years.

S: I'm not buying this crap.

S: That's crazy.

S: I'm not buying this.

S: That sounds crazy.

S: I mean, I have to make that a science or fiction.

S: Bob, I did the math.

B: You could lay every atom on the planet side by side and it wouldn't be that much.

S: Let's see.

S: Bob, I reproduced the math.

S: So let me walk you through it.

S: One light year is 9.5 times 10 to the 15 meters.

S: So let's round that up to 10 to the 16 meters.

S: 10 to the 16.

S: Jesus.

S: 100 million light years is 10 to the 24.

S: There are 10 to the 31 viruses on earth with an average length.

S: Again, I sort of averaged, I rounded it off to 100 nanometers, which is 10 to the minus 7.

S: 10 to the 31 viruses times 10 to the minus 7 length gives you 10 to the 24 meters.

S: Exactly 100 million light years.

S: It works.

S: The math works.

S: It's because there's so many freaking viruses.

E: Well clearly 100 million light years worth.

S: Yeah.

S: I was blown away by that.

E: Yeah.

E: That's a fact that will mess you up.

C: But the math works.

C: The math works.

C: Bob, I just looked it up and based on some really intense calculations, based on the exact atomic radius of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and calcium, if you were to take all of the atoms in a typical man, a 70 kilogram man, it would encircle the solar system 58,000 times.

C: Jeez.

B: Yeah, that's a similar mind blowing event.

B: I mean, it's like, what the hell?

B: These vast numbers and distances, we just cannot intuitively grab them.

C: And remember, that's just one person.

C: So if we were to take all the atoms on earth, it would be way more than all the viruses obviously.

S: Yeah, totally.

S: Yeah, it's just our inability to span incredible scales, right?

S: You think about how tiny bacteria are, their world is ginormous.

S: The oceans to bacteria are greater than the universe is to stars, right?

S: But of course they're also much more densely packed in than stars are.

B: Gee whiz.

B: So their universe is more interesting than ours.

S: Yeah.

S: You think about something as tiny as a virus, how could it be 100 million light years?

S: There's just a lot of them.

S: There's a lot of them.

S: There's a lot of them.

S: Yeah, really incredible.

S: I love this one.

S: This is like really blows your mind.

S: And it's funny, you guys did a good job, I think, of reasoning through it.

S: And you kind of were on the right track, just with the trillion per second.

S: Per second?

S: If you just thought of bacteria, I think you would have figured out that that's...

C: And Steve, you were so right on when you picked the one you picked to be the gotcha, it was the gotcha.

C: Like that was the one that inspired you to do this whole news item, right?

C: Oh yeah, totally.

S: That was it.

S: I built it around that one, absolutely.

S: And it held firm.

S: It doesn't always work.

S: It doesn't always work.

S: You guys, sometimes you pick out, that's the gotcha, that's the one that Steve wants, I think is the fake, but this time, yeah, it was...

C: But they were all bananas.

C: Yeah, right.

C: Yeah, they were all.

B: That's part of it.

B: Various lengths of bananas.

None Exactly.

C: Multiple bananas.

E: Cara, your mid-game meltdown was warranted.

C: I was like, oh no, new information!

S: By the way, Evan, you misquoted Sagan on Cosmos.

S: He said there were more stars than grains of sand, not more grains of sand than stars.

S: But as it turns out, he's also probably wrong.

S: There's about the same order of magnitude of grains of sand on the beaches as there are stars in the observable universe.

S: That was based on a calculation by astronomer Bob Berman.

S: However, if you include all the sand on earth, it's many more times the number of stars in the observable universe, not the entire universe, but the observable universe.

S: So a lot of complexity there, but you did misquote what Carl Sagan said.

S: But as a consolation, you get to do the quote.

Skeptical Quote of the Week ()[edit]

It’s never shameful for even a wise man to keep on learning new things all his life. Be flexible, not rigid. Think of trees caught in a raging winter torrent: Those that bend will survive with all their limbs intact. Those that resist are swept away.
– Said by Haimon in the play ‘Antigone’ by Sophocles (YYYY-YYYY), _short_description_

S: Give us a quote.

E: Okay, this week's quote was provided by listener Stefan from Minnesota.

E: Thank you so much, Stefan.

E: It's never shameful for even a wise man to keep on learning new things all his life.

E: Be flexible, not rigid.

E: Think of trees caught in a raging winter torrent.

E: Those that bend will survive with all their limbs intact.

E: Those that resist are swept away.

E: Said by Heyman in the play Antigone by Sophocles.

E: Nice.

E: I barely remember Sophocles.

S: It is amazing how much intellectual stuff the ancient Greek philosophers worked out.

S: Like they really did establish the basis of human civilization and thought and philosophy.

S: And science.

S: Yeah, the first time we started really thinking systematically, we kind of worked out a lot of the basic stuff.

E: You know what I mean?

E: Yeah.

E: Then it got lost for quite a while.

E: Not entirely.

S: Not entirely.

S: Well, not entirely.

S: No, you can't.

S: From the perspective of Europeans, yes, but not from the perspective of the world.

Signoff/Announcements ()[edit]

S: All right.

S: Well, thanks for joining me this week, guys.

B: Sure.

S: Hey, thank you.

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[6]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description




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