SGU Episode 863

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


SGU Episode 863
January 23rd 2022
863-Owl-Flight.jpg
SGU 862 SGU 864
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
B: Bob Novella
C: Cara Santa Maria
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
Guest
BM: Dr. Brad McKay, Australian science communicator
Quote of the Week
Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.
Theodosius Dobzhansky
Links
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


Introduction[edit]

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

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Wednesday, January 19th 2022, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening folks!

S: How is everyone this week?

E: I'm feeling good today.

C: We're alive.

J: Pretty tip-top.

What is SGU reading at the moment[edit]

S: So we get a lot of questions what we are reading, so maybe at the top of the show instead of bantering something random we talk about what everybody reading at the moment.

C: Yey!

E: It's on random.

C: Is everybody reading something at the moment?

S: Oh yeah, I always got something keyed up.

C: I wanna see out of the five of us, how many are reading fiction and how many are reading non-fiction right now? I'm non-fiction.

J: Fiction right now.

E: I am non-fiction but I had to put the book aside because tax season for me, so a really have every minute I spend working on, you know, work. So I'm in a tough time right now.

S: Yeah I go back and forth I just finished a fiction series and now I just started a non-fiction book What Remains.

C: What is it?

S: It's a book about forensic science. It's cool it's about death, you would like that Cara.

C: Yep.

S: But also like physical death and also forensic science investigative tool, salving mysteries with forensic science which sounds cool.

C: I like that.

S: I just finished reading the same series I believe that Bob is reading right now.

B: Yes this is a, by Drew Hayes who did Super Powereds, this is based in the world of a basically DND and adventuring but with so many twists and it's not what you think at all, highly recommend it this is the fourth book, I'm almost done with the fourth book. Steve and I just plow through them. It's really I mean it's Drew Hayes, the guy, excellent, he's one of my favorite authors, fantastic series, highly recommend it. And if you have played DND and table-top gaming adventuring, you will there will be a lot of in jokes that you will love. But I guess you don't need to know much about it at all, to really enjoy just great stories.

J: What's it called Bob?

B: It's a NPCs.

E: NPCs non-player character.

B: The series, I'm not sure what the series name is but the first book is NPCs by Drew Hayes.

S: I think that's the series name, NPCs it's actually Spells, Swords, & Stealth.

B: As well, OK.

S: Yeah.

E: Cool. Right after tax season I'll get all over that.

S: It's a fun quick read, if you're looking for something just to turn your brain of and just enjoy fun story telling. It's good.

C: What did you put to the side, Evan?

E: I'm reading Gerald Posner's book Pharma, you know we had him on few months back and I finally did order the book and it came in right before Christmas so I cracked into it all about the Sacklers you now that whole─

B: Oh boy.

C: Oh yeah, don't get me started.

E: ─that whole insanity. I haven't gotten too far.

S: Terrible terrible story.

E: But I'll pick it up again soon.

C: Very cool.

J: So I got two things percolating, Bob recommended I read or listen to Super Powereds, so i have that as a book on tape, and that's good for certain times, you know like if I'm driving or if I'm in the shower or whatever like I'll throw that on. But you know what because of the Dune series, the Dune movie made me crack open the first Dune book, I have like four copies of it in my library.

B: Wow.

J: I just you know it was funny was I haven't read it in such a long time, that I actually forgot how he uses language and I just forgot his way of writing. So I just wanted to re-experience it. And it sucked me right in. I'm like, I'll read a chapter just to─

S: It's so good.

J: ─it's such a good book, it's unreal how good that science fiction is. His world building is phenomenal. And the story is, even if you know the story, it's compelling, you know?

S: It's yeah, it's definitely a sign of a good author in the speculative fiction realm if that they make you believe the world is real. You feel like it has enough depth and nuance and connections like it feels the complexity level of a real world. And when you don't achieve that, it's so flat. it just completely fails.

C: It also feels like homework at that point.

J: Yeah.

C: It's like drudgery to get through, when you're trying to go like, who's that person, why did they?

J: Oh yeah I hate that.

C: What is this reference?

S: Remember together like we were playing some multi-player online games like sword and sorcery type games, and I was looking for a new one, cause we were kinda burned out on the ones we were playing. I played this one game for like 10 minutes and I'm like nope, not gonna do it. Because the story like the background was so cookie cutter flat just generic─

E: I hate that.

S: ─all these weird names that don't really feel like any culture it was just forget it, I can't do this anymore, this is like such crap. Literally lasted 10 minutes. Nope.

J: Yeah, I know of course that's the difference between good and bad fiction.

S: Yeah, totally.

C: So I just finished Mary Roach's book, her most recent book Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law it was really good, if you've never read any Mary Roach I highly recommend her to everybody listening, he's just the best.

B: Oh yeah, she's great.

C: And at any given time I'm always reading for school cause I'm working on my dissertation so I'm reading some like, you know source material from Heidegger like some phenomenology books that are really dense and hard to get through. And to give my brain a brake I opened up, my best friend gave me, she always gives me the best Christmas presents. She gives me like a box just full of crap, she's collected over the year that reminds her of me. And it's the sweetest, so lots of random things. And she got me a book, she's like, I know you've read this book, you've read this book haven't you? And I was like, oh my god, I've never read this book but I've always wanted to. She got me Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

S: Oh yeah I've heard about that book.

C: It won a Pulitzer like 10 years ago and it's got a lot of clout, so he is an oncologist and it's, the way he positions it, I'm about 80 pages in now and it's a page-turner. The way he positions it is it's a biography of cancer.

J: Oh wow.

C: Which I think is really cool. Yeah it's like the natural history of this disease, but he brings it to life trough all the different characters who discovered things, who have done research on it through all of the different specimens, everything from ancient times and ancient writings to today and it's a gosh, it's fascinating.

S: All right we have a great interview coming up later in the show, with Brad McKay who is a GP in Australia talking about fake medicine, so let's get right to our main content. Jay you're gonna start us of with a special segment on 5G and airlines, what is the scoop here?

Special Segment: 5G and Airlines (06:40)[edit]

C: Oh gosh, this has been everywhere!

J: Yeah, you may have herd or read about this, this is something that's going around the news cycle. So right now, here's whats going on. %G, which you should know about because it's infecting your blood and Bill Gates is talking to you through the 5G networks. [sarcasm]

C: (laughs)

J: 5G is about to go live in many places around United States, it is already deployed in other countries around the world like you know Europe I think has a lot of areas that have coverage with 5G. But in United States there's a issue being raised by airline companies about the fact that 5G was supposed to literally turned on today. You today is the 19th, whe you listen to this it will be few days after. But Wednesday the 19th of January 5G was supposed to be turned on. So what the airlines are claiming is that 5G telecom's pose a threat to airline safety. The airlines are calling this a catastrophic aviation crisis. So apparently something big is happening. The idea is that the 5G service is using something called the C-Band and these particular frequencies could potentially effect a large number of aircraft, which would render them unusable.

B: Unusable.

C: Whaaat? And nobody thought about this in advance?

J: Exactly, I love it.

B: It's not happening in Europe?

J: No but I'll explain it all to you and it all make sense, it sounds─

B: You better.

J: ─very confusing but so the back story is in 2021 the US auctioned the C-Band mid range 5G bandwidth. I know that sounds complicated but it's basically a set of frequencies. They auctioned them and the mobile phone companies spent 80 billion dollars buying the rights to broadcast in this range. For 5G.

E: Just the right, yeah?

C: Wow.

J: The FAA put out a warning saying the new 5G transmissions could likely interfere with aviation instrumentation. It starts to make sense now, right? So the 5G bandwidth is very close to the same frequencies used by the altimeters.

C: But then why did they sell it to them?

J: I have no idea, I don't get it. So let me tell you if you don't know anything about aviation, let me clarify. An altimeter they're on all aircraft, they're an essential tool for modern aviation they do more that rely the altitude which is very important, right, you need to know the altitude of the aircraft that you're in at all times.

S: Oh yeah.

J: But they're also interact with the automated systems aboard modern airplanes, like other systems on the plane. And they also hep detect wind shear which is a really big deal. The plane always needs to know what's going on and the plane will actually perform faster than the pilot can in some instances. You know the instrumentation will become aware that wind shear is happening and correct the aircraft, so you can't mess with this stuff. If this is true which I really do think it is it means that flying into a major US airport in bad weather like, let's say it's just lightly cloudy, over the airport, you know, which is not uncommon. You would only be able to use visual approach and not use the instrumentation on the airplane. Think about that.

C: Yeah that's impossible.

J: Do you want the pilot who's flying an airplane, a commercial airplane with hundreds of people in it to only be using VFR which is visual flying instead of instrument flying which is IFR, no! You want them to be using both. You want the person to be using both VFR and IFR to land that monster, right, so it's a big deal. So the telecom companies have responded, they said, they're saying that the 5G technology has been installed in approximately 40 other countries, and there hasn't been any aviation interference issues. That is correct, it is true, I vetted that and that is true.

B: Problem solved.

J: Wait, I'm not done though. Because there's always a little stickler.

S: But wait, there's more!

J: The telecom companies did agree that they'll use buffer zones around 50 airports in United States. Now that this means is that the 5G technology will basically be turned off within certain area around an airport.

C: Crap so we're still gonna have bad service at the airport.

J: YES! That's the first thing I thought of. Yeah so now it's still gonna suck at the airport. So 5G technology in Europe does not use the same frequency range as the 5G technology in United States. The United States 5G technology is very very close to the airline instrumentation. It's too close.

C: This seems like a problem that not only we could've solved in advance, but that like the actual people who gave them permission to do this knew this.

E: Known, yeah I agree.

J: Who is in charge of the radio waves in the United States?

E: Federal Communication Commission.

B: Captain Radio.

(laughter)

J: The FCC. This sounds like─

E: That's colonel radio.

J: ─a problem at the FCC. Isn't there, I don't know a database, of like all sorts of stuff? Especially dealing with transportation where hundred of people are being put into metal tubes and sent out to 40 000 feet. You'd think they would know about the instrumentation and these things. So anyway, it's, I think after everything I've read, it's a legit concern. You know I figure that people could test this, right Cara? There must be a way test interference.

C: You would think.

J: Cause you get on the 5G local network, have the instrumentation come within a certain radius of that and you'd know right away if it's interfering with them or not. What we do know is that no 5G interference has been detected in Europe.

B: Yeah but it's not apples to apples.

J: I don't know what's happening right now in the United States, as of today I don't know what the absolute latest thing is. Apparently they're saying OK, we're not broadcasting 5G around airports that might be the only thing that needs to be done but you know maybe they can do some tweaking of the frequencies moving these frequencies further apart so there's no interference, not enough of a signal strength or interference that really do any damage. But it's a scary thing to get this close, I mean this week is when the arilines are like whooooa, no, where were you five years ago, you know what I mean.

C: Yeah.

J: I don't get it.

S: Are you sure it was really just this week that they noticed it and was complaining about it or it's just the media got a hold of this this week?

J: That's a good clarification point Steve, I don't, I don't actually know. I think, makes sense that they've known about it, this seems to have been going back and forth for more than a week. This is certainly been percolating for more than a week. But the only thing I can say is, it's important that they use these high frequencies for 5G because the higher the bandwidth, you know the higher the frequency the faster the back and forth communication can be. And that's one of the things that makes it '5G', that's what makes it faster. You also want airlines to be using instrumentation that is communicating super fast as well because you know, airplanes.

C: Absolutely.

J: You know what I mean, so they'll figure it out, thank god nothing happened thank god nothing, they didn't find out in the rears which means planes would've been crashing. But it's you know it does make you loose a little bit of confidence in the agencies and the organizations that are supposed to be on top of this stuff.

C: You know what I can't help think about and I'm wondering if anybody else is having the same experience tight now. The opening episode, season 1, episode 1 of The West Wing, when the president drives his bike into a tree and Toby's on a plane and they send the message to the cockpit and he tries to get on his phone to like call and the Flight Attendant is like sir, you can't be on that phone on this flight and rattles of like the model of the plane and all of the technology on it, and he's like, you're saying I could flummox that thing with something I bought at RadioShack. And it's like all I keep coming back to, is like, oh gosh, we gotta get our communication in order.

J: It does humble you a little bit to all of that, like oh that's nonsense. It isn't because of the frequencies that are being used. Your phone is doing a lot more now than just connecting over these networks. It has local ways of connecting with other devices, there's a lot of intricacy in these thousand dollar devices that we carry around with us.

S: All right thanks Jay. Cara you're gonna tell us about two things I like that go together, zombies and science.

News Items[edit]

Zombie Science (14:56)[edit]

C: Yeah except when you put them together, they go wrong, they go very wrong. So there's actually an article and the more I dug into this the happier I got, because this article was co-authored in Nautilus recently by Natalia Pasternak and some colleagues of hers, and if you don't know who Natalia Pasternak is, I actually recently had her on Talk Nerdy she was recommended to me by Marsh, Michael Marshall. So she is a very kind of outspoken and well respected science communicator and I wanna say virologist or immunologist in Brazil, who like testified before their version of the senate, against all of the pseudo-scientific rhetoric that their Ministry of Health ad that Bolsonaro had been touting. So there's a strong, in the article that they for Nautilus, there's a strong Brazil bias, but I think it's really informative because it parallels what's going on here in the US. And they called this article the attack of zombie science and the subheading which is kind of explains exactly what they're talking about: 'They look like scientific papers. But they’re distorting and killing science.'.

So we often talk on the show about legitimate science and we often talk on the show about pseudoscience. But what we don't often talk about is this kind of in-between point, where the science is sort of done correctly, maybe there's some methodological issues, maybe there were some problems with how the study was registered or with p-hacking or with some other whether it be intentional or unintentional problems, but we don't often talk I think about what is the purpose of this research. There's very often a sort of assumption that all roads lead to enlightenment and that all scientific inquiry is equally valid. And the argument that the authors make in this study and they really link it to Covid-19 and a massive influx of publication that happened around Covid-19, is that, yes there's pseudoscience, yes there's junk science, stuff that patently false, stuff that we can disprove outright, stuff that would never or should never make it to legitimate mainstream journals. And then there's this cultural phenomenon that happens as a result of the publish or perish pressure that a lot of scientists feel. Where it's kind of like, I'm just gonna do a study, even though I'm not really trying to answer any questions that are valid, I'm not really trying to contribute to a body of knowledge, I'm not trying to better the world in any way. I just think this is an easy thing based on the lab equipment I have, based on what's in front of me, based on the stuff I published before to able to rattle of a paper, get it in this journal and now I'm keeping up my CV.

And sadly during the pandemic there have actually been multiple examples of scientists reaching out, very often scientists who volunteer as editors in journals saying what is this toxic garbage, that is gumming up my inbox, that is preventing me, form being able to sift through these mounds of publications and find the legitimate stuff. Like, one of them had a quote something like and he wouldn't disclose what any of the studies were about because he wanted to make sure that the authors remained anonymous Hans Ochs, professor of pediatrics at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, said 'some are material for Saturday Night Live.'. Like this papers are that bad, that they're ridiculous. One author said, one reviewer said:'My favorite example is a suggestion to blow very hot air into a patient’s lung to eliminate the virus.'. And also sometimes these submissions are actually pushing national propaganda, so sometimes these submissions are things were like state sponsored research from across the globe are saying this is an approach that we've been taking, let's look at it and let's see if we can validate it. So there's this institutional response to the pandemic or there's obviously all the papers we've seen on hydroxychloroquine, on ivermectin on things where there's a perfectly large body of literature, certain claims have already been debunked, but a scientist my say, OK, let me just tweak it and apply it to this new contingency, and maybe I can write a whole new paper about it and publish that.

And these reviewers are saying why are we wasting our time, our time, our money, our experience on basically these zombie science papers. They look like science, they actually kind of are science, they don't fall purely into the pseudo-scientific category but they're basically eating our brains and preventing us from putting energy into the legitimate science that's happening. It's a flooding problem, it's a problem of the culture of publication across the globe, and it's a, it's actually a legitimate concern that we I don't think we often talk about or write about.

S: I agree it could be a huge problem, lot of it is, as you say, it's the academic culture publish or perish, you've heard of the minimal publishable unit? Ever heard that term Cara?

C: Yeah. Ye, that's exactly what they're talking about.

S: Yeah you're doing research and normally, I say normally, you do a study, you get all the results, and you publish a paper showing your results. But if you could get three papers out of that same research by breaking it up, and so the question becomes how small a piece can you publish and that's where this idea of minimal publishable unit is, you have to get down to this minimum piece of this, of your research that you can get into a journal. But that's only part of the issue here, there's also again this idea that you're just going to let's reanalyze the data, let do, like there's so many ways that you could just generate lots of noise.

C: Yeah by just like recontextualizing or studying it at slightly different way even though there's no face validity to it anyway, this is not a game changer, this is not a big question in science that people are you know it's one thing and we see this all the time when we cover stories, the discussion section of every legitimate and illegitimate article says more research is needed to answer XY and Z. And you know the culture of science should be that people go, oh, that's an open ended question that people haven't tackled, I wanna take up that course. But more often the culture of science is my lab has the equipment to answer X, my expertise happens in Y and you know some people, I think the vast majority are sort of trying their best to say we're trudging through, we're moving the needle and we're bringing information to unsolved problems. But there's also a lot of science that's literally like I'm gonna solve a problem that doesn't exist. I'm gonna try and answer a question that nobody's asking. And that's the other kind of side of this minimally publishable unit, right? Like not only is how much can I brake down the work I've been doing and just like flood journals with it, but also much can I just pontificate about something that is not actually helpful to anybody. And get a publication out of it.

S: Yeah it's also Cara doing lot of preliminary research, rather then you start with the preliminary research, then you do internal replications and you develop it to the point when you know if it's real or not.

C: Exactly.

S: Then you publish it. At the other end people will argue, yeah but you know other scientist to know about what you're doing as soon as possible so they could build on it. And to that I will argue well that's what pre-print service are for.

C: That's what pre-print service are supposed to be for, you're right.

S: Share your stuff but don't freaking publish it until you know it's real. Until you've done at least it's probably real. Just you need to lower the noise level. Funny aside, so we've been using the term zombie science for year at SBM but we use it in a different way, to refer to─

C: Oh, interesting.

S: ─we use it to refer to things that will not die. Like you think they're dead then they come back to life to eat your brains, right?

C: (laughs)

E: Oh, great.

C: Like Bigfoot.

S: Like seeing acupuncture studies over and over again, it's like, oh, didn't we destroy this two year ago, why is there another study doing the same crap over and over again it just don't go away, they will not die, they're like the Terminator.

C: They say something kind of similar but you're right, referring to something different and I wanna find the specific reference in the article cause it's really helpful:

We think of zombie science as mindless science. It goes through the motions of scientific research without a real research question to answer, it follows all the correct methodology, but it doesn’t aspire to contribute to advance knowledge in the field. (...) As we know from the horror movies, the only way to kill a zombie is to destroy its brain—before it devours ours. The same is true for zombie science. As scientists, science communicators, and citizens, we need to recognize this distortion of science and take aim at its methods before it has another chance to distort, harm, and kill.

And they specifically are talking about the context of Covid-19 because there's been a flood of, I mean the number of publications that have occured during Covid-19 and it's easy on the outside to go look at the pace of science, look at how successfull we are, look at all the great science that's being done but really it's sadly a lot of oise with not very much signal inside of it.

S: Yeah, that the problem, to much noise, not enough signal.

All right Bob, tell us about this new information about the origins of life.

Origins of Life (24:55)[edit]

B: Yeah this was interesting obviously, cause I'm talking about it.

C: (laughs)

B: New research on the origin of life finds conserved protein sequences that could link to the earliest proteins at the dawn of life on Earth. The study appeared in a journal Science Advances. So lot's of sciences have a holy grail, right? Or they have multiple Holt Grail, like physics for one has one of the Holy Grail's is developing quantum gravity. So what's the elephant in the room for biology? Now, for biology─

C: Consciousness?

B: ─yes, perhaps─

C: That's one of them.

B: ─I think biology has a few elephants, the one I'm gonna talk about is arguably, is not the biggest or the pinkest elephant but it's still impressive and it is, how did life started on Earth. How did inorganic matter and chemistry become biology? That's clearly one of the Holy Grail's of biology. So now we know, we know that life started during Earths Archean eon, like 4 billion years ago. So now earthlings have made extraordinary discoveries about living organisms cause you know earthlings, we know right, we know with certainty the broad and even the most minute strokes of how to borrow Darwin's words endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved. We know that to such a level of granularity, it's one of the grandest achievements of humanity. But how did it all start? What was the spark of life if you will, and don't tell me it was a deity. What got is going, what was it like, what started it, we have no idea. We've got lot of hypothesis, tons of them. Some are cool, some are interesting some are outlandish but just no real consensus except at the highest level of vagueness. There's really no idea that everyone agrees on that has any specificity. So well here's an idea now that was recently published, it sound intriguing enough for me to skip some physics or astronomy news this week and talk about. The researchers started with a premise - life as we know has to gather and use energy, right? That's a very reasonable premise, most likely back 4 billion years ago, it was photosynthetic or chemosynthetic and we know what that means at a high level, right? Cause photosynthesis depends on radiation from the Sun, chemo-synthesis depends it's from inorganic chemicals that are released from sea floors for example. But what does that mean, gather and use energy at the molecular level, what's happening? What it means is, what's happening is, it means that you can transfer pin particles, oh wait, you're not ready for that.

(laughter)

I meant to say electrons, I meant to say electrons. For life to take energy from the environment it needs to be able to transfer electrons. Bottom line, that's what needs to be done. It seems kind of trivial, you know, but it's absolutely fundamental. Without that ability to remove or add electrons to atoms or molecules, there'd be no photosynthesis, there'd be no respiration, there would be no meatballs!

J: Now you've gone too far.

B: There would be nothing. Our type of biology could not exist, perhaps no type of biology could, that's how fundamental that may be. if it was some sort of biology or life I don't think we would call it those two terms, I can't imagine it. That doesn't mean I'm just a baseline human what do I know. But without this ability life is gonna have some trouble. Taking into account the researchers reason that since metal is great at transferring electrons, right? And since proteins handle almost all of the functions of life on Earth perhaps they should look for the origin of life at modern proteins that bind to metals, that bind with metals. Put those two together, maybe that will give you the insight into the origin of life and that's exactly what they did. So since so many proteins are have been minutely and digitally catalogued they handle this task computationally which of course is the way the things are done these days. So much is online and digitized. Using computers that compared thousands and thousands and thousands of proteins that bind metals inside them generally I'd assume in the course of the proteins they're binding to metals. So what do this comparison tell them? The paper relates, has this good quote: 'Our analysis reveals that the folds that bind transition metal (...) have similar structural geometry and amino acid sequences across the full diversity of proteins.', so that means so what they're saying is the protein code if you will and the structure of the protein that binds metal. It's similar regardless of the protein, regardless of the metal, regardless of the organism, there's huge similarities. Hemoglobin binging iron a pirate protein binding to gold, it doesn't matter, of course I made that last one up. But you get the point, it reminds me of highly conserved genes in our genome, right Steve? We share many genes with bananas for example, you don't wanna mess with those genes, cause they're probably incredibly important if bananas and humans have them. So let's see there's more, microbiologist Yana Bromberg from Rutgers University said:

We also saw that these metal-binding cores are often made up of repeated substructures, kind of like Lego blocks. Curiously, these blocks were also found in other regions of the proteins, not just metal-binding cores, and in many other proteins that were not considered in our study.

So it appears that this universal metal-binding code is kinda fractal, right, like LEGOs, with small sections repeated over and over even in other parts of the protein that are unrelated that are binding with metal. Those were some of the big takeaways from this comparison. So what might all this mean? Researchers conclude that all these shared features, these conserved sequences could have been part of the earliest biological proteins. Bromberg said:

Our observation suggests that rearrangements of these little building blocks may have had a single or a small number of common ancestors and given rise to the whole range of proteins and their functions that are currently available. That is, to life as we know it.

So that's the money quote right there, these conserved protein sequences may still exist because they're fundamental to biology. So fundamental that the very earliest proteins or smaller versions of them called peptides use them perhaps to wrangle electrons in the Archean sea, billions of years ago. OK, so how might that be helpful? Well obviously this theory could potentially critical insight to how life began on Earth billions of years ago. That's onto itself that's amazing, I don't need anything else beyond that and that would be one of the greatest discoveries of all time. Assuming that it's even possible to have that level of certainty and confidence to you could say this─

C: How do you even really validate that?

B: ─right, how do you validate, you have to state it with certain level of confidence, I don't know how high we can get that, but we could potentially say, this is a viable method for biology to have been created 4 billion years ago. Maybe it's not what started out biology but it's a viable way. I think they will be able to say that with some good level of confidence. But there's also some other benefits to discovering this. This could help us fine tune our search for life on other planets, right? If we know how life started on other planet, on Earth, you know and we only have this one data point so if we're gonna be looking at other planets the more we know how life started or biology started on Earth the better chance we have to recognize it or identify it on other planets. Another possibility is that they could also help scientists today working on synthetic biology, right? Since knowing how biology itself started could certainly help making a synthetic version so I'm sure that could be very helpful. So it's really cool, look it up online to get more details and also look up the Archean eon with the first real geologic eon of the Earth. That's a fascinating time, no oxygen in the atmosphere, the crust has just cooled, you could just start walking on the Earth without falling into lava no matter what step you took. Fascinating time period, very different from today and it was the beginning of everything and the beginning of biology on Earth.

C: And it's called the Archean eon, why isn't it just called the Archeon?

B: Archeon, it's yeah it's Archean it's an eon it's not like a, it's not like another designation.

S: An era, epoch.

C: Yeah, but I mean, it's seems like they made a portmanteau, why don't they just stick with the portmanteau?

B: Yeah right. Yeah, I hear you.

Silent as an Owl (33:14)[edit]

S: Cara let me ask you a question what do you know about asymmetric oblique trailing-edge serrations?

C: Did you say serrations?

S: Yeah.

B: Oblique?

C: Asymmetric, oblique.

S: Asymmetric oblique trailing-edge serrations.

C: You're talking about knives, are we talking about knives?

S: Nope.

C: Then I don't know anything.

B: Oblique trialing-egde, cutting-edge serrations?

S: I'm talking about owls.

J: Of course.

B: Oh, feathers?

E: Owls.

S: Specifically their wings.

E: Yes, go on.

C: Their wings, not their beaks? See I'm still, yea, never would've...

S: This is, I love legitimate scientific speak because─

B: Right?

S: ─when used properly it's both informative and it's poetic─

B: Oh I love it.

S: ─and it sounds so deep, you know? Asymmetric oblique trailing-edge serrations.

B: And so concise too, the concision is fantastic, say so much in just a few words.

S: And precise, and precise. Yeah. Exactly. Love it. Anyway, so you know that owls are silent flyers, right? They're, most of them are nocturnal, they hunt little critters and it's to their advantage to be able to fly as quietly a possible.

B: I thought that the leading edge of their wings that cause that, the quiet.

S: No that the trailing edge.

B: The trailing, ha! I was misinformed.

S: It's the trailing edge, that's where most of the noise─

B: Turbulence.

S: ─most of the noise generated by aircraft and wind turbines and birds, are caused by the trailing edge noise. The turbulence that happens at the trailing edge of the wing. There's actually been a couple of different independent lines of evidence that serrations or scalloping is another term I've heard used tends to reduce the trailing edge noise or turbulence. In fact you know how the humpback whales─

C: They're like ridged.

S: ─their main, yeah they have that sort of scalloped back low edge of their, it's the same kind of phenomenon.

B: Yeah! Holy crap.

S: It's all fluid dynamics, right?

B: Right.

C: Phenomenon! Do doo be-do-do.

B: Do doo be-do-do.

E: (laughs)

S: The question is, can we leverage studying how owls are able to fly so silently to in order to improve our technology. So like especially like with wind turbines as they're becoming more common on the landscape one issue is noise. How much noise these generate.

B: Really?

S: Yeah it's actually not that big of a problem but you wouldn't want to live too close to one. Having a bunch of them, there could be noise pollution. Essentially the study that we're talking about is trying to figure out what is the optimal configuration of the trailing-edge serrations in order to absolutely minimize turbulence and reduce degenerated noise. You can also maximize the lift to drag ratio as well by reducing the turbulence. They were able to significantly reduce the decibels that would be produced by wind turbines blades spinning or by aircraft by incorporating this specific design. Asymmetrical is better than symmetrical, and oblique rather than perpendicular. They also found out with owls it's not just the anatomy of their wings that minimize the trailing-edge turbulence, it's how the owls are constantly adjusting their wings.

J: Oh they're moving them to make themselves more quiet.

S: It's dynamic, yeah. And so what they're trying to figure out is how could we optimally incorporate that into airplane or wind turbine technology. they call this a bionic airfoil.

B: Bionic? I don't like that.

S: Yeah I don't know why they went with bionic but depending on which way the wind is blowing or example you might wanna make tiny adjustments in order to minimize the trailing-edge turbulence. If this research comes to fruition and again this study is very very promising showing many decibel decrease in a trailing edge noise, could significantly reduce noise pollution on airports and around wind turbines. it may also make this technologies more efficient. They were able to reduce the noise by about 10dB, which is huge.

B: Is it?

C: Is it?

S: Yeah, oh absolutely, if you─

C: Or cause decibels are on the log scale, right?

S: Decibels is a logarithmic scale, yeah.

C: Yeah so 10dB is huge.

S: It's huge.

C: It's huger that you would think it would be, because it's yeah a factor, OK.

S: This is the first time, first study to look at owls and why their wigs are so quiet. It's an incremental step, using computer simulations and whatnot to trying to maximize the design not just follow the general shape but to really dial it is and to show how much noise suppression you can get. So hopefully, you know I though it was neat and I like when we use nature as a laboratory another fact that the shape of owls wings is a result of evolutionary pressures over a long period of time. hat's a lot of information, that's a lot of research happening out there. Think of how many owls have lived over the last millions of years, how many birds with different pressures on the anatomy of their wings.

C: So then we use that and we call that biomimicry.

S: Yeah, biomimicry, yeah.

C: I love that.

E: Why not?

C: It's so good.

B: I mean yeah, just capitalize on the millions and millions of years of R&D of nature, come on!

C: Yeah.

E: Right, thank you. We'll steal that intellectual property.

(laughter)

C: Birds wanna make any money of that., nah.

E: See you in bird court.

C: Right. (laughs)

S: Bob to clarify cause you said you thought that was the leading edge it's actually a lot of things, it's not, they have multiple anatomical features that make the flying more quit. It's leading, they're calling it the leading edge comb, a trailing edge fringe a downy wing surface and a unique wing cross section so there's all different aspects of their anatomy that minimize the turbulence.

B: Yeah I specifically remember years ago reading leading edge design of the wing. But yeah I'm sure it's like a multi...

S: But apparently the trailing edge is the major contributor to the noise specifically. All right Evan you're gonna give us another kind of similar thing meaning tat there's an evolutionary angle to it, tell us about the evolution of flowers or flowering plants to b more precise.

Evolution of Flowers (39:37)[edit]

E Yeah you familiar with the term Darwin's abominable mystery?

S: Oh yeah.

C: Hmm, what was abominable?

E: Back in the year 1879 in the letter to his closes friend botanist and explored Dr Joseph Hooker, Darwin wrote: 'the rapid development as far as we can judge of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an abominable mystery'. So he was mystified.

C: He was very dramatic that man.

(laughter)

E: He had a flare to him.

C: Right.

E: Which I like. He was mystified how was it possible that flowering plants became dominant so rapidly in ecosystems across the world. Plants have existed for millions of years without any blossoms then all the sudden in a geologic time scale context flowering plants seemed to have arrived almost out of nowhere. And they spread quite rapidly. This is known as the radiation of angiosperms. Angiosperms are flowering plant life, you know they bare their seed in fruit. Angiosperms can be monocots or dicots, right. Monocots: lilies, orchids, grasses. Dicots: roses, pea, sunflowers oaks and maples. Gymnosperm example from which the angiosperms, the predecessor of the gymnosperms and they are the non-flowering evergreen plans: pine, spruce, fir tree and so forth. And they represent some of the oldest plant life in geological history. But once the angiosperms appeared they relatively quickly started replacing their older peers within a span of only a few tens of millions of years. Which is technically very short. And to this day angiosperms by far the dominant form of plant life on Earth. Now, the major lineages of angiosperms originated a 130 to 90 million years ago, and that was followed by a dramatic rise to ecological dominance a 100 million to 70 million years ago. Again a relatively shot time.

But the problem is it didn't sync with Darwin's theory of evolution. The fossil record challenged, because they realized this in the fossil records from where they were getting these samples, it challenged the slow and gradual modification required by natural selection as a mechanism for evolution. And many of Darwin's critics used those facts against him and his theory for quite a while. Now one of the possible answer to this puzzle or Darwin's puzzle is that angiosperms actually did evolve much earlier that the fossil record had indicated but people just hadn't found them yet, the hadn't been realized. Fossilized flowers are very tough to discover because the fossilization process is long and it's not easy on the delicate nature of the flower material. But Darwin admitted he never much liked having to defer to that as a possibility. It seem more like an attempt to deflect detractor than really being a serious scientific answer to a problem. So this kinda haunted him and this was the abominable mystery that Darwin is quoted as have been written and has come to been known in many science circles.

But as time marched on and so much more of the fossil records had been discovered and mapped out over this past several, century and many decades, there have been a few fossil discoveries of flowering plants that have been dated to per-cretaceous times. There's an example discovered in 2016 out of China, fossilized flowering plant from the Jurassic period a 145 million years ago, so prior to that 130 million years ago. And then in 2018 another sample in China discovered dated to a 174 million years. But those samples were in some level of dispute because it was questionable as to whether or not they were true angiosperms but now, and here's the news item early 2022 we have a report on new fossil found in China dated to at least a 164 million years ago and it is considered to be a true angiosperm. This is a new study published in scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution where a team of scientists from Switzerland, Sweden, UK and China have shown a sample of a flowering plant that originated in the Jurassic. Many more millions of years earlier than the oldest undisputed fossil evidence. The name of the specimen is called Florigerminis jurassica dated to more than a 164 million years ago, it's said to be without a doubt a true angiosperm specimen judging from the presence of the flower bud, connected fruit and leafy branch. It is the earliest fossil of a flower bud yet discovered.

So, this does not put to bed the question, or the mystery or the solve the case as it were and you can close it but it seems to be an important piece of the puzzle. And Darwin appeared to be at least partially right if not mostly right is that it just had not yet been discovered because these flower plants are so delicate they don't really fossilize all that well and therefore there's so many fewer specimens to be found.

S: Yeah but wouldn't a solution also be that evolution is not gradual?

C: Right, that there are explosions of when there're big open niches to fill?

S: Yeah this is the punctuated equilibrium thing. Also like sometimes a clade will hit upon something,a strategy of survival that just works really really well. Like flying. And then so once birds set upon flying they just exploded evolutionarily because it was just a really successful strategy that they hit upon. So I would imagine that flowers could be the same thing it was just really successful way for them to spread and so they spread like crazy and there was adaptive radiation and just evolution took off.

C: We have a lot of examples of that don't we?

S: Maybe I'm missing something in this specific news item or maybe it's just bad science reporting on whoever wrote it up is the idea that, you know Darwin had a problem with that but, evolutionary theory today, in the 21st century is not the classic Darwinism of the 19th century, you know what I mean? Darwin's basic conception was of this continuous gradual change. That's no longer the leading theory of evolution.

C: Yeah he was the first, we he and Huxley.

E: Right.

C: They were the first to talk about this, it wasn't gonna be perfect.

E: Right, of course not, it needed to go though refinement, more discovery more independent lines of evidence and everything else.

S: I mean I just think it should be framed a little bit differently. it terms of like what this actually is solving.

C: Yeah I think that the real takeaway here is holy crap flowering plants came a lot earlier than we thought or Darwin thought maybe they didn't come earlier and hey look, they probably did.

S: What might have happened, I might have to take a look at it─

C: Like that's cool.

S: ─myself Evan, what I suspect may have happened here is that this study has nothing to do with Darwin. It's just that whoever was writing it that was the hook that they found. Even though that it doesn't really jive with modern evolutionary science.

E: No, no it's just about the discovery itself because whereas the prior per-cretaceous specimens they weren't a 100% sure that these were, you know, fully realized to be the angios. But this they said there's no doubt about it, this is like the concrete example this is absolutely, absolutely an angiosperm.

C: You know like the graphs in the textbooks have to be changed, like those kinds of discoveries are really cool.

E: Right, a 130 you just jumped from a 130 million years to a 164 million years.

S: Yeah, exactly.

E: 34 million years, tack it on.

(Commercial)

Who's That Noisy? (48:36)[edit]

Answer to previous Noisy:
radio

S: All right Jay, it's Who's That Noisy time.

J: All right, so just in case you don't like weird sounds, be careful with this one, but this is a sound I played last week, check it out.

[mechanical repetitive sound]

OK guys any guesses?

S: Was there a voice in the background?

J: There is a voice in the background.

E: Is that relevant?

J: I would say yes, every clue is relevant.

S: It's not organic, it's like technological.

J: I think that's a good assumption. All right we got a listener named Eric Bonnet and he wrote in: 'I usually listen too late in a week to submit a response but this week I made it a point to find Who's That Noisy and the download and listen to it first.'. That is pretty smart Eric. 'This sounds like a motorized punch, possibly punching out patterns in leather.'. You know I understand what's you getting at, because this could be like a machine in a factory that's doing a repetitive, you know repetitive task. But there is that weird voice that comes in about halfway through. Take away I think from that idea.

C: Unless the voice was just somebody in the background at the factory, but you're saying the voice is the part of the noisy.

J: Well yeah, it is, it's one of the clues. Another listener named Gary Record wrote in and said: 'Hey Jay, this is probably going to be a common answer but this weeks noisy sounds to me like a helicopter. The main noise being the blades spinning overhead. I seem to also hear a sound in the background like voices talking over radio.'. I think this is a pretty good guess, I mean it does kinda have that repetitive helicopter fwap-fwap and yeah you know the voice inn the background could be someone over the radio or whatever. Not a correct guess but definitely getting closer to the mark.

And by coincidence the next person's name is Mark Constantine and he wrote in: 'Hi the Noisy this week sounds a hole lot like a tattoo removal laser. I have vivid memories of that laser zapping the 'all aboard' ratio I had on my womb radar.'. What?

C: Womb radar (laughs)

B: He had a tattoo on his womb?

C: No his womb radar, that really funny though it's said all aboard (laughs) good for you for getting that removed Mark. Gosh I hope he doesn't have first hand experience of that cause I hear those are so painful.

J: Yeah so I've heard a tattoo removal laser, you can easily hear one yourself on YouTube. They do have that kind of sound. But then again we have that strange voice in the background. Who is that, is that the person operating a laser that is talking in such a weird monotone voice? I don't know. But good guess, not the right answer.

We have another guess here from Nick Hilton and Nick says: 'It that a recording of pulsar radio pulses?'. That a pretty cool guess too, right and I've heard like this type of thing before that does have that kind of sound. But that is also not correct.

The winner this week, the winner is Gavin Stewart and he said: 'Hi Jay my guess it the woodpecker.'.

C: What?

J: Do you guys recognize that before I tell you everything do you recognize what the woodpecker is?

C: Like the cartoon?

J: No. So this is a Soviet short-wave radio base over-the-horizon radar. So this is one of those big metallic structures that you've probably seen pictures of that transmit radio frequencies, transmit signal and there for a reason and the Soviets built them and I also think that the United States had built something like this. So let me give you a little bit more details. This is from the original person Steve who wrote in, he said: 'The Duga over-the-horizon radar built and operated by the Soviets in the Ukraine near Chernobyl from '76 to '89. This thing was so annoying to short-wave users that some radios came with the woodpecker blanker'. So to explain what that is, it would get rid of the noise that was coming from this gigantic monstrosity that was sending radio waves. Now that voice you hear in the background is actually somebody telling the time. If you listen closely they're just telling you what time it is.

C: Is it in Russian?

J: Let's listen to it again [plays Noisy] I heard the voice say 1 hour 25 minutes. Yeah and I always suspected that this things were erected and existed for other reasons that we don't know about. I mean they definitely could broadcast very very far. They were very powerful. If you think about it as a short, it's a short-wave radio in essence that's sending massive signal out. Very cool thing though. Very interesting, very creepy and also something that could start a conspiracy theory it's like one of those things, what is this gigantic structure you know. So if you wanna learn more about it you can just look up the Duga over-the-horizon radar. And you could read more about that.

New Noisy (53:46)[edit]

J: So I have a new Noisy this week, guys, this Noisy was sent in by a listener named Jacques Hemming and he said his name is pronounced Jake, not Jacques.

(laughter)

J: I just saw that.

C: Read that after?

J: Yeah I kinda did. Thank you Jake but why would you spell that name that way but anyway I like Jacques but Jake is a cool name. Anyway he send in this noisy.

[crackling, reeling sound]

Very cool. What is that? Somebody might know out there. If you have any idea what this week's noisy is or if you wanna send me a Noisy if you wanna actually attach the Noisy to an e-mail in a sound file format, just send it to wtn@theskepticsguide.org.

Name That Logical Fallacy (54:46)[edit]


S: One quick e-mail this week, this is actually Name That Logical Fallacy this comes from Robert Talbert in Dallas, Texas and Robert writes:

I was responding on a video on what would happen to you if you were in outer space. I went to google and looked up the answer and told the guy to look it up, he wouldn't do it saying 'why should I look it up, it is established science'. Is there a logical fallacy that covers this? Thank you very much, Robert Tolbert.

All right, what do you guys think, this is a very quick one but...

C: I don't get it. Can you help me understand what he's saying?

S: All right so I guess they were disagreeing about what would happen to you in outer space.

C: And one guy's saying I know what happens and the other guy says no this is what happens, look it up and he goes why would I look it up, I already know what happens.

S: Yeah why should I look it up, it's established science.

C: To verify that you're remembering it correctly?

B: Maybe the guy so familiar with it and he looked it up so often that he's like I don't wanna look it up again, I know what the consensus is.

C: Yeah I can't tell who's the, who's making the error in thinking.

S: What do you think, that;s the question.

C: I need more context.

S: Well, I read the whole e-mail.

C: I know. It's like, ugh, I don't know.

S: Well let's just say, this is a point in which you can say if this is the situation and this is the logical fallacy so I think that Robert is trying to say that he disagreed what the video was saying. And looked it up on google and found that it was different than what the video was saying. And the other guy wouldn't, didn't agree, wouldn't listen to him and wouldn't look it up because why should I look it up. I already know the answer.

C: So kind of I did my research, one dude on the Internet told me this is true therefore it's established science.

S: Well we don't know why he thinks it's established science. Yeah, that's a reasonable inference that if he was wrong and clearly he didn't look deep enough into the answer. I think it's kind of vague conversation on both sides, because just saying, it's kinda tricky when you're telling somebody just look it up on google. that I think is a reasonable response to somebody who is like sealioning you or just trying to be a troll or denialist. But if you're having legitimate conversation you know you should give a reference to what you're saying and just giving google as the reference─

C: Right.

E: That doesn't work.

S: ─isn't really, isn't really advancing the conversation but saying I'm not going to do any further research, I'm locked into what I currently believe and I'm just gonna label it established science also is invalid. But what's the specific, can we peel out the specific logical fallacy in any aspect.

C: Yeah that either of them are committing.

B: No, we can't.

S: Sometimes what people say it's just a non-sequitur, which is kind of a generic logical fallacy. When it's not even specific enough to be a specific logical fallacy─

C: It doesn't follow.

S: ─it's too vague but I always like to look to see what could be lurking in there. So I think that this is a form of argument from authority, right? He's appealing to the authority of 'established science', he's doing it in a very vague and poor way but it's kind of like saying a study shows without giving a reference to the study it's even like saying I've heard or in the future they will believe this. You can refer to all kinds of different types of authority. The future, science some vague reference to a study or whatever.

C: Or just 'they' that's the one the throws me I used to have professors that would get on us so bad, who is they? Stop. Quoting. They.

S: So that's the not only an argument from authority it's a vague argument from authority. You're not even being specific who the authority is. or you're using some nebulous abstract concept as the authority. Like science. That's what science, you were not listening, the science, you know? It's the same kind of thing. And then just saying look it up on google is, I'm not sure that that's a logical fallacy it's just a not very effective debating technique or argument or discussion technique. Like if you're goal is to achieve some kind of consensus or common ground often people I've been in conversations were there's a disagreement over facts, I'm like, let's look it up right now, together.

C: Together, exactly and then we can agree if this is a valid source, we can, all those things.

S: Yeah then you get to like is that a valid source etc., let's if you can agree ahead of time like let's find, let's see what the first four or five reasonable references have to say about this. Or you know if it's something that's not resolvable immediately like a fact, like what was the year this happened or whatever. If it's not something that's a little bit more nuanced it might be, all right let's you know each do our deeper dive on this and see what we come up with ad then compare notes. If we can, if it's worth it to you. That's a constructive way to move forward but the thing that kills me is that we have at our fingertips the worlds knowledge like the collected human knowledge is literally in the palm of our hands. probably the most important intellectual skill you could have in this day and age is the ability to find information online. Distinguishing reliable from unreliable.

B: Crafting a good google search term. Sometimes you gotta google what to search by, right.

S: The google-fu. Yeah often when I'm doing research on something I haven't dealt into before like my first layer of research is just finding the right research terms.

C: Oh yeah that's a big part of doing scientific research is when you're looking into the journals, what terms am I looking for, what combination of terms am I looking for, cause you can have blinders to an entire field of inquiry if you didn't look at that one search term that's a synonym. I'm wondering though Steve that leads me to question is there a logical fallacy built in to the sort of, we've seen the meme going around, right of like I did my own research and then all the footnotes that are like I watched some dude's video on YouTube. But this idea of like doing your own research and somehow that as an independent source of inquiry online, you know? Just because I found a few videos that reinforce my beliefs I did my own research.

S: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So just to be clear, the word research is used in two different ways and I don't think it's fair to criticize people for saying I did like online research cause they weren't in a lab actually reproducing primary science. That's not what anybody means by that they're referring to literature research. When you're looking at what is out there in science we're talking about published, peer-reviewed papers or even presentations at conferences and yeah there's lot of legitimate scientific resources, that's your literature research. So people are using it to mean literature research the problem is a lot of people who are not formally trained or not have a lot of experience in science they think that YouTube is a legitimate source of information when they're doing their 'literature research'. It's just that they're relying upon biased, poor quality and sometimes just horrific resources for their information their not discriminating, cause they have profound lack of critical thinking skill and media-savvy so they think that some guy on the internet is a reasonable reference, you know? But the other thing is if you're doing like scholarship, there's the also the principle of and this is what they mean by don't cite Wikipedia, you should always backtrack to the primary source.

J: Wikipedia has the sources there.

S: Not use the secondary source, yeah, that's the thing just go though the links and maybe that's, maybe you have to go 2 or 3 steps but get as close as you can or to the primary source if you can, not someone else's interpretation of that. Cause then it's like telephone, where there's some kind of filter in between every step of the way.

All right guys let's go on with the interview.

Interview with Brad McKay (1:03:08)[edit]

  • Brad McKay is an Australian doctor, science communicator and author.

S: We are joined now by Dr Brad McKay, Brad, welcome to the Skeptic's Guide.

BM: Thank you for having me guys.

C: Yeah.

S: Brad you are a general practitioner, fellow physician working right now in Sydney, Australia and you authored a book that came out last year Fake Medicine: Exposing the wellness crazes, cons and quacks costing us our health sounds like a very promising─

BM: It sounds on brand for you guys.

S: Sounds on brand actually very promising.

E: We put our toe in that water.

S: So tell us about the book.

BM: So yeah, so I work as a general practitioner which is like a family physician I suppose or family doctor if you're in America. So sort of specialize in HIV medicine at the moment but yeah do all sorts of family medicine and sexual health. And I decided to write a book in about 2019 and pitched the idea at the end of the year and then suddenly had Covid spreading around the world so I had lot's of time at home to sit and type and make sure that I was writing a book and not going out partying so it was the perfect time to write. But is sort of ended up being a bit of a mismatch of a whole lot of different things in my life so it's a bit of an autobiography, so a bit of my childhood upbringing, religious family, me sort of like getting into medicine and having this conflicting world between religion and science. And that was a bit of a battle, getting through all of that. And then also having my own medical problems as well, being diagnosis with bone tumor in my back and having my family trying to pray it away.

S: How did that work?

BM: It's didn't work.

C: Spoiler.

(laughter)

BM: So that's sort of like my friendly start to the book is sort of like try to get everybody inside, make me sound like really personable and lovely and then I just rip to shreds whole lot of a pseudoscience and weird and wacky things that I do come across every day working in general practice.

S: And was it more your personal experience or your experience with your patients as a physician that really motivated you to write this book?

BM: It was really my patients so like I started off in a hospital working for a few years and everything is just evidence-based. And you sort of like leave the hospital and then you're working in a room by yourself and you may have a supervisor there and you're seeing patients 1:1 and then they're coming in and like telling you all sorts of weird stuff that you've never actually been taught at all during your medical degree. So like for example I remember one of the first patients I had as a general practitioner was coming in and her thyroid function was all over the place and I'm like what is going on, like I've prescribed you thyroxine but you have no stability with your thyroid, your metabolism is all over the place. And she said: 'oh, no I haven't been that synthetic stuff that you've been prescribing me that's made in a lab. Like I'm a vegan and so I don't want any synth and toxic in my body, so I've been having thyroid extract from my naturopath.'. And I was like, I have no idea what that is, cause I have not been taught that in my training. And so I like looked it, I did little of google search while she was there in the room and going like you're saying that you're a vegan, thyroid extract is made from ground up pig thyroid, so this is, no wonder her thyroid function was all over the place because there's no consistency, they're having capsules of ground up thyroid from animals ad you could have a really high dose, you could really low dose from, you really don't know. And I'm like what am I doing wrong as a doctor. Because I'm expecting her to take a standardized dose that I prescribed, every day. This is a disconnect that I find that a lot of doctors have we sort of don't know what our patients are taking, we don't know what they twisting what we sort of like told them to do or advise them to follow and then that's twisted in some strange realm. And this is just getting worse with influencers, and a lot of social media. There's just a lot of that has developed over the past 15 years of me being a doctor.

S: Yeah, it's definitely increasing overtime. But it's also interesting that it's very typical the narrative that people fall for. She's like yeah I don't wanna take anything synthetic or toxic so I'm gonna take something that is, there's no quality control that's basically like practicing medicine 200 years ago. Let's abandon all modern science, but it's natural. You'll die naturally too, how about that?

C: Yeah.

(laughter)

BM: Exactly. Some of my colleagues will even perform vitamin C infusions and like for all sorts of different reasons and like when I'm talking to them like the red lights are going of in my brain and they're going I'm sure that was debunked before I was even born. Like why are we still giving this to patients? And you've talked about it before on the show where people are often given vitamin C infusions as a cancer treatment. And sometimes we found that that's interacted with their cancer treatment, the chemotherapy, it's inactivated it and so the cancer actually spreads further and works faster to kill them. And the vitamin C infusion doesn't do anything at all rather than shooting themselves in the foot. But now I have colleagues who have wised to that and so they know that high dose of vitamin C infusions could interact with somebody's chemotherapy so now they have a low-dose high-dose vitamin C therapy─

C: Oh god.

BM: ─for patients on cancer treatment so it's sort of like this weird way of justifying putting a line into somebody and giving them a bunch of fluid and yeah, making it safe. Not proven to do anything and then adjusting the dose to fit their protocol. It's just really really wacky across the board and it's still astounding what doctors believe that is evidence-based.

S: So yeah, that's a good question how much of this is patients getting this on the internet or from naturopats or others whoa re not science-based practitioners and how much has it infiltrated just general practitioners, just physicians with a standard medical training.

BM: Yeah, we've gone from alternative therapy to complementary medicine the then integrative medicine and so it all sounds like it's integrative but yeah it's often not evidence-based and there a lot of vitamin bottles behind the counter when you're going into the clinic that are being sold. So there is other ulterior motives that are going on. But I was fascinated that GPs can perform acupuncture there's even like a medicare code where we can get a re-bait for performing acupuncture on our patients. Whether of that's using needles or if it's waving a laser wand at our patients we can get funding from the government to do that. We're very, we're very much wanting to follow evidence-based the governance is wanting to save money and spend it on things that don't work. But there's clearly, there's disconnect where there can be a lot of advocacy for complementary therapies ad it seems legit, your doctor is doing it, they've been taught to do it, at a special college, they've got a certificate on their walls, showing them that they're trained i that area but it doesn't do you any good at all, like this is the major problem. And I think that there is that blurring of lines and I think we often put in on the patients, but we also need to see what the doctors and what they're actually recommending for their patients carrying out.

S: So why is it that you think so many of your colleagues are falling for this?

BM: I don't think it's many of my colleagues, it's probably the ones that I pick on the most the colleagues that really pop up in my eye, I started to make a list a few years ago, of people not to recommend my patients to. Part of it is infuencers from their patients, influencers from their family and like different training colleges. I think a lot of doctors want to become a bit niche as well and they're wanting to up skill. We as general practitioners we're very general of course so we wanna find an area that we could do that our colleagues don't. And so like acupuncture is one of those, intravenous infusions of vitamin C is another. Integrative medicine is another. And it's sort of like putting a little bit of a brand of what we're doing and I thing often GPs and other doctors are wanting to be paid a little bit more as well and so often we're like, doctor's wages were frozen for many many years in Australia for general practitioners. The government wouldn't increase their wage with inflation and so often people had been trying to make end meet, it sound ridiculous that doctors like struggling to live. This is what is sort of like happening a little bit we've highly qualified but undervalued. So if you're able to sell your vitamins on the side or put needles in somebody and leave them there for 45 minutes to get paid for it, yey, great! So it is a little bit of trying to multitask and multiskill but often our critical thinking alarm doesn't go off when we're sort of focused on the extra additional training.

S: Not everybody has a critical thinking alarm. You can certainly get through medical school and become a competent practitioner without, you know you could be essentially well trained technician without being able to think critically. I don't think you could be a good doctor if you do that but you could certainly be sort of technically competent doctor but then you'll fall for all this nonsense, tight, cause you're not a critical thinker, you don't know how to distinguish science from pseudoscience. Cause it this something, you said yourself you were never thought any of this stuff in medical school. Is this a problem that at the medical school level and the training level do we need to be incorporating critical thinking and science vs pseudoscience in medical training?

BM: Totally, so the whole issue with sort of alternative medicine and supplements is that we really don't have the education about it. If there's no evidence for it it's just glossed over in medical school. So we certainly need to know a little bit more about it. I've talked to some of my medical students colleagues at the moment and ask them like what do they know about Chinese medicine, and they just sort of say, uh, I've been taught at medical school that is somebody is on Chinese, like taking Chinese medicine regularly then check their liver function because it's likely to be crap. So that's sort of like the base knowledge, we really, we sort of need to be taught that thing don't work or to be more knowledgeable about what our patients are using rather just the thing that work. I think there's enough sort of packed in the medical training anyway and I think that's the difficulty, like why treat garbage to your students, when you're trying to teach them quality things. But this does impact on patient care later on. Like sometimes it is innocent as well, I ended up having a chalazia which is like a weird gland in your eyelid what doesn't go away, people think that it a stye and then keep on putting on hot compresses, and it doesn't do anything. So I went to see an ophthalmologist and he said, oh yeah, I have all of the chalazias coming in, I recon it's because everyone's wearing masks and so all of the breath from the is being directed up and then drying out their eyes and then causing blockages of glands and then people are getting a chalazia. And I'm like, OK, well that's really interesting, and then he sent me to an optic surgeon, because I had some weird trick thing and he's like, oh no that's garbage, like it's because people are looking at computer screens all the time, Zoom meeting and Skype and so they're bit blinking their eyes enough and so that's not clearing the oil from their eyes. I'm like going, what the hell is going on, like two high professionals and this is the anecdotal story, this is the the experience as well, so unless you actually like look, take a big look at everything and look at the science behind it there could be all sorts of reasons why people are coming in. There could just be bored at home, lockdown and going, oh I've got this lump in my eye, maybe I'll deal with it.

S: Exactly.

BM: Like it's not necessarily that it's masks or looking at a screen but yeah and this is what science is about, really like bringing their curtain back and looking at the big picture rather that us being doctors going, oh I reckon it's this. And I think that doctors tend to go into that grind we're sort of have our own experience and come to our own conclusions but we don't take that next step of going, hey maybe I'll investigate this further. Sometimes wo don't have time to do that. And so we stick to the same rhetoric all the time.

S: So tell me a little bit about the regulations in Australia, so if you like have a patient for example who tells you some horrific story about somebody's putting poison under their tongue. What do you do? I mean is there a way to deal with that? In terms of government regulation?

BM: Yeah so certainly there's the medical board Aphra is in Australia. So you can make a referral or a report. You can make it either anonymously or with your name, unfortunately one of my friends ended up reporting a doctor and then a, by accident they actually released their name to the person that they reported so the anonymous part of it was a bit of a fail. So that is a big big concern, like there should be this anonymous measures in place and yeah the medical board will come in if there's something that's horrendous and it's harming patients they'll step in pretty quickly and they'll stop them from practicing pretty soon. Otherwise they'll put restrictions in place, so certainly recently the end of last year there was a doctor down in Melbourne that was staring up an ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine clinique, and yeah providing there as protection against Covid for all of his patients. And certainly the government came in preety quickly and said, no you cannot practice, there was another doctor who writing like hundreds and hundreds of vaccine exception certificates for patients to get them out of having Covid vaccines because it was a requirement in Australia, particularly if you're trying to work in different organizations you're needing to be vaccinated. So he was stopped from working, turned out he was in his 80s and brought back from retirement so he just went back to retirement. So yeah, that was his addition to Australian society. Lots of medical exemption certificates for vaccinations. So yeah there are check and balances but sometimes it's just it just doesn't work. And people, if they are providing vitamin C infusions or selling lots of vitamins it sort of like, well is there enough to report somebody, like yeah you've gotta have something pretty catastrophic to really spike people's interests and make the authorities pay attention.

C: We're still getting, Steve did you see, even just yesterday I think we got an e-mail from a listener saying you know, my relative's doctor wrote them a script for hydroxychloroquine for Covid. Like, that's still happening here all the time.

E: Yeah it is.

S: Yeah that has the actually layer of being politicized.

BM: We sort of see the political divide that's happening in America. Like, overall like Australians very much onboard, so more than 95% of the population here is vaccinated against Covid, like we had phenomenally successful immunization rates. It is mandated in some states, mainly Victoria. The rest of the country it's not mandated but yeah we love vaccinating, there are a few loud voices and there are many protests that have happened over time but and it's seems to be a culmination sort of like Q-Anon followers and anti-vaxxers mixed in with free the children signs, there's all sorts of different people who are coming together to form these crowds─

E: Yeah the remnants.

BM: Some of them are vaccinated and they are protesting against vaccination which is interesting. But we also have, we've recently Novak Djokovic as well, did you guys hear that story?

C: Yeah, big story.

E: We know all about it.

J: What a train wreck.

BM: Oh my god.

E: Well he has a very long history of some terrible anti-science quackery pseudoscience. No surprise that he's gone down that path.

BM: Yeah, like there were quite a few stuff ups with the government of course with the immigration like multiple levels of failure, the final ruling was saying ah yeah he won't get his visa to come and play in a major tennis tournament in Australia mainly because he wasn't vaccinated and was sort of like trying to twist the boundaries of the rules. So if we are sticking to the rules you need to be vaccinated to come in. Even if you have had Covid that's not an excuse, that's not a medical exemption to come into the country, you need to be vaccinated. And so I could understand we're sticklers for the rules in Australia so it was there. But there was also talk about him having anti vaccination sentiment so we're not wanting him to be successful in coming to the country because we are wanting people to be vaccinated and we've currently gone into code brown in Victoria where basically the hospitals are in meltdown. If you've got an earthquake or fire, a bush fire if you've got a flood, these are all sort of code brown. We've got this Covid code brown that's happening at the moment. So very very touchy in Victoria so understandable but all and all I think we're getting better at stopping anti-vaxxers from having air time on the radio and television and having that false balance. A lot of people are saying oh well it's just my side of things, it's just my point of view and I need equal time to talk about this on the radio and in the media. And so we're getting bitter in Australia going back to them and saying, no you don't, you have like 5% of the time maybe. Vast majority of people are actually against what you're standing for. And so we do want to plow on and protect as many people as possible.

S: It's funny just as an aside, code brown means something very different in America.

(laughter)

BM: What does it mean in America?

C: Code brown like you gotta exit the room quickly.

S: We have like a code blue, code blue is like somebody having a heart attack and needed a team there. It's just a joke where we say like there's a code brown in room 10 so the nurse needs to clean things up.

(laughter)

BM: We've got code black as well where there's like a threat, so somebody is picking a fight in an emergency department so that's the everyone runs down for the code black and doesn't really wanna go there. But yeah, code brown, yeah.

S: All right well Brad, this has been a lot of fun, we're glad that Australia has somebody like you caring the banner for science and reason and medicine. Who would've though we'd have to fight medicine to be based on like evidence and logic and science.

BM: I know, trying to convince people to improve their health and to get vaccinated and protect themselves from potentially lethal disease. It's a weird battle, this is what we've been saying previously is that people often just go on their own routes, they'll do their own research online and getting bad advice, they're becoming experts in their own─

S: Mind.

BM: ─in their own rabbit hole I suppose. So yeah, we are getting better and we're getting better at addressing this issues and trying to identify that this is happening so identifying misinformation, identifying disinformation and doing something about it. So I'm very hopeful for the future, I'm very hopeful that doctors will be able to take more note of what our patients are doing ad not just sort of go, oh yeah something TCM, don't know. We really needed to drill down that's the only way of getting rid of the lot of the pseudoscience by explaining that to our patients and really trying to be clear about what's good and what's healthy and what's just fake medicine.

S: Yeah I totally agree, the biggest problem I encounter on my end is shruggie problem people who just like 'meh', you know what's the big deal. Even physicians, they don't see the threat this poses. And I don't get it, I don't know why their not outraged.

B: Yeah but Steve sometimes I think meh who cares about the shruggies.

(laughter)

S: All right Brad, thanks a lot. Thanks for joining us, keep fighting the good fight down under.

BM: Sam to you guys up over. But yeah thanks for having me, it's been fun.

S: Take care.

Science or Fiction (1:24:10)[edit]

Answer Item
Fiction rapid test
Science quantum computing
Science brain
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
Jay quantum computing
Evan quantum computing
Cara rapid test
Bob rapid test
'

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

Theme: Advances in technology

Item #1: Scientists report on a new rapid test for SARS-CoV2 that requires only minutes and has a near 100% sensitivity (compared to the 94% sensitivity for the rapid PCR test which takes several hours).[5]
Item #2: Researchers have developed a brain surface sensory array with 2048 sensors, more than 10 times the density of those currently in use.[6]
Item #3: Nature reports on three separate teams who have demonstrated >99% accuracy in silicon quantum computing systems, essentially removing a major obstacle to the technology.[7]


S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts, two real and one fictitious, and then I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fakeroni. You guys ready? We have a sort of a theme, this is three news items, but there's a technology theme to the items, these are all alleged advances in technology. OK.

J: I want all of those things to have happened.

S: Then why don't you go first Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: I'll go first, OK this first one here, now this scientists who are reporting that the new rapid test for SARS-CoV2 they say it requires only minutes and has a near 100% sensitivity. OK that's umm, so if this is true Steve, what you say if this is true, it could be great, it would be fantastic. I see no reason to disbelieve any of this, right, I don't know the mechanism, on how the PCR test completely functions meaning I don't know why it takes so long to get the results. I just assumed it was backlog. But maybe it needs to sit there and percolate for a little while for it to do its thing, I don't know. But I don't see a reason why that's that I shouldn't believe that. I like that one, so it's definitely going to be between two and three for me.

So researchers have developed a brain surface sensory array, now we've heard about these before, these are, Steve can I ask is this the king where they actually put right on top of your brain inside your skull?

S: That's right.

J: It is, OK, that's a, this is a big deal. I've seen and read you know, quite a bit about these. They literally have to put it right on top of your brain, it's touching the surface of your brain. I mean, again, why, I'm not surprised by this. Of course they're gonna continue to advance that technology you know Elon Musk has money invested in stuff like this as well. Which means that there's just money happening at it, so sure, they increased the amount of sensors by an order of magnitude? I don't find that that hard to believe. You I'm sure at some point the size is gonna matter because you only have so much surface to your brain and who knows exactly where they need to put those things. But OK, let's go to the last one.

Nature reports on three separate teams who have demonstrated >99% accuracy in silicon quantum computing systems. The silicon quantum computing systems, that's the part that got me when you first read it, I didn't realize that quantum computing systems were relying on silicone. I don't know, I might be just super ignorant right now. I've read quite a bit about these, we actually wrote a chapter about quantum computing in our book. So OK, what's the thing Steve, the silicone component is now, they're saying it's 99% accurate.

S: Yes the accuracy is the new bit. It is what is new here.

J: Right, it's the accuracy. Do they always use silicone for quantum computing?

S: No, but if you do it makes it easier to interface them with existing computers.

J: Right, that's, OK that's cool. OK so 99% accuracy. I think this is the fake. I think this one is the fake, it seems kind of obvious because this is a leap forward a giant leap forward if I'm recalling things correctly about where were at today. I think w=one of the big problems was the accuracy. So 99% is really really fantastic. So I'm gonna say this one is the fiction.

S: OK, Evan.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: The first one about the new test 100% sensitivity and in only minutes when you compare it to 94% sensitivity and taking several hours, that seams like a leap you know quite the leap. Especially regarding the time I mean several hours to minutes, that's pretty big. But I do think that that's gonna turn out to be science, there's been so much going on with Covid test testing and trying to find new and better ways to test, I'm not surprised they've made significant advances in relatively short amount of time.

The one with the brain surface sensory array, I have no clue. You know, really wish Cara went before me on this one. I'll just say that. But more then 10 times the density of those in current use, that order of magnitude, OK but again I have no information on this. But the one I think for a lot of the reasons Jay pointed out I think I'm gonna go with him on silicon quantum computing system one that one being the fiction. And from some thing I know Bob has reported on in news items in recent months in years that this would be a huge leap to have just sort of some out and announced now I think they were looking at a time scale of something like this, you know, much further later in the decade at least. So I think this one is the fiction as well.

S: OK, Cara.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: I definitely think its between the rapid test and the quantum computing because these are both like, was there a major leap forward in technology. I guess the brain interface one is too but that one does seem like yeah, 2040, it's just like they added more sensors, right? I'm sure that was a big technological problem but it was scalability. Let's just add more sensors and figure out how to do that to get more I guess resolution that seems reasonable.

The other two, I just I don't think I know enough about it. I don't know why the Covid test is the one that feels fishier to me. Why would we think that we would have somehow solve both of those problems in the same fell swoop? Made it faster and more sensitive. Wouldn't one of those things have been worked out first? I don't know, that one's the fishy one to me so I'm gonna say it's the rapid test that's the fiction.

S: OK and Bob.

Bob's Response[edit]

B: I agree with most about the 2048 sensors, 10 times the density, fine, that's totally not surprising. the other two I guess are, the quantum one I guess the thing is not the accuracy because conventional quantum systems they are about 1% you know error, error correction. They key is though to get them to point 0.00001%, that's when you're really gonna see real amazing stuff. But I guess the big thing here is that you have a silicon quantum system that is basically at par with conventional quantum computers in terms of error corrections so I guess that's pretty big. And I haven't looked at them too closely but I guess you have interfacing them with regular computers would be obviously much more convenient. Regarding #1 though the Sars-CoV-2 tests, only minutes, that's big, that's super fast and crazy sensitive, I mean that's gold, that's a Holy Grail that crap, what more could you want accept one that's instant. I mean minutes, go take a pee, come back and here's your answer. I wanna go with Cara, Sars-CoV-2, say that's fiction.

J: Thanks Bob.

B: You know, I did research the quantum article with Steve so umm...

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: OK so you all agree with #2, so we'll start there. Researchers have developed a brain surface sensory array with 2048 sensors, more than 10 times the density of those currently in use. You all think this one is science. Did I sweep you guys this week? And this one is... science. Nope, no sweep. Yep, this is science, this is pretty cool, so obviously this is a technology we've been following on the show for years. This is a pretty nice incremental advance, you know? And it's not so much that there's more electrodes.

B: Order of magnitude the density, it's a nice incremental leap.

S: Yeah it's the density, it's still not a transformational technology it's just doing what we were doing better. But it's just a big one, you know it's a big incremental, and it's not just more and more electrodes, it's that they're much more densely packed, so you get as Cara said the magic word 'resolution'. This gives super-high resolution the ones that are currently in use are more like 64 sensors.

J: Oh jeez.

S: Between 16 and 64, this is between 1024 and 2048 so it is more than a order of magnitude greater. Now there are some like research grids that could get up to 2056 but they're not currently in use outside of research. Theses are the ones that like a surgeon will put on to your brain to see exactly where your seizure is so they can then take that part of the brain. So resolution is key, this is a technology that is currently in use for neurosurgery.

J: What's the area though Steve? What's the are that the 2048 is that a small area or is it a really big area?

S: No it's pretty small.

J: How close are they to neuron-level granularity?

S: Oh, orders of magnitude away.

J: That's what I'm waiting for kids.

S: Yeah the thing is like, looks like a kind of a wide postage stamp, that kind of size.

C: OK, that's still a lot, like a postage stamp size?

S: Yeah. That's tiny though.

C: No, that's what I'm saying that's still a lot of stuff packed into a small are.

S: Oh yeah yeah yeah, so that's a high density, it's not big though.

B: Few more leaps like and that and we'll be really cooking.

C: True but we would have to actually get better at like our surgical technology at that point. Like it's not really helpful to have something that's super super resolved if we can't even get to that part of the brain or...

S: Yeah, again, this is on a surface, we're already doing microsurgery so that's not that big a deal.

C: That's true.

S: But you're right that's the deep structures that are still difficult. And sometimes like if a seizure is originating in a deep structure we might even miss it on the scalp surface electrodes. Like it doesn't even show up.

B: I want a super-computer on every damn neuron.

(laughter)

B: Or wirelessly interconnected. Done! Done. Game over. That's all good.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: All right let's go back to #1 Scientists report on a new rapid test for SARS-CoV2 that requires only minutes and has a near 100% sensitivity (compared to the 94% sensitivity for the rapid PCR test which takes several hours). Bob and Cara you think this one is the fiction, Jay and Evan you think this one is science─

B: Cara hold my hand!

S: ─and this one is the fiction.

E: Dang it!

B: Noice! High five!

S: So the news item that inspired this fiction cause I read the headline it's like new rapid Covid test using AI. OK, this is interesting, let me look at that. But it turns out it's not like a screeny test, this is if you have pneumonia, they use artificial intelligence to look at your chest X-ray and distinguish Covid pneumonia form other kinds of pneumonia.

C: That's pretty cool though.

S: That's totally cool, it is, it's very very cool. But I had to make something of the fiction so I said all right, we'll just pretend it's an actual screening test and give it numbers that are kind of unrealistic, as Cara pointed out, this could be the Holy Grail of Covid testing. And then it's the near 100% sensitivity that's I think the hardest part. Both the PCR test is like almost a 100% specific, if it's positive, you're positive. But if it's negative, it's only 94% that you don't have it.

B: Oh, OK, that's interesting.

C: Oh, gotcha, OK and then it's like, it's even worse for the rapid antigens.

S: It's even worse, yeah. Those are like 79%.

B: Yeah basically, if you passed them you're not shedding but you may still have it and you may be shedding in few hours.

S There's also technique, if you're not getting enough of your mucus on the q-tip and doing everything correctly and just you made it fail, you know whatever it's not a 100%.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: All of this mans that: Nature reports on three separate teams who have demonstrated >99% accuracy in silicon quantum computing systems, essentially removing a major obstacle to the technology that is science.

B: That's cool, good news Jay.

J: Yeah, thank you.

S: Very cool that is good news.

E: Nice try Bob.

S: What they're doing is the quantum unit that they're using in two nuclei that are entangled to an electron and that electron can you could essentially interface with that electron and you can also entangle it with another pair of neutrons if you want to─

B: But when does the silicon come in?

S: ─and then build silicon quantum computing I mean nano computer chip. So a quantum and a nano in the same thing.

E: Sounds like a hybrid.

B: Yes.

C: It's a hybrid.

S: And yeah it's 3 different teams were using this technology and reported on their findings each with slightly different rates of error. But they're all grater than 99% like 99. whatever .8, .7, .4, a little bit more with two cubits than with one cubit so again we'll have to see how well it scales. And Bob you're right I think we're still, this is an important proof of concept sort of taking us in potentially a new direction with quantum computing but we do need to get that error rate couple of orders of magnitude lower than that. Down into the range where you can do the error correction will be able to keep up with the errors. Interfacing with silicon, we use silicon computers basically to do the error correction that apparently is a huge feature of this new approach.

C: As soon as you said that Bob I was like we got this, as soon as you were like, 0.1 not a big deal, 0.0001, yeah, now we're cooking.

S: But this is like yeah the dirty little secret of quantum computing that the error rate is the biggest problem.

B: That's king and even more important than cubits, you know you can have a small amount of cubits, if you've got like no error correction, if you've got a 100% error correction you are golden. You are goo. So yeah that's a huge thing if we can't tame that, we are not going to go anywhere.

E: I need some science or fiction error correction.

(laughter)

S: Well I'll help you with that Evan, you were wrong! Wrong sir!

E: You get nothing! Good day sir!

S: You get nothing good day! All right Even, you do get to give us a quote.

E: I do, so at least I have that.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:39:18)[edit]

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.
Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975), was a prominent geneticist and evolutionary biologist

S: Yeah, that's a really placid quote.

E: Yeah it is.

C: I love that.

S: I was kind of surprised we haven't used it already, I guess it was too obvious.

B: Or if we did 15 years ago, who cares, we're using it again.

C: I wasn't here, it doesn't matter.

S: Yeah if we did it was definitely PC. Pre-Cara.

E: It's actually the title of the article he wrote back in 1973 and a cool article basically you know attacking creationism.

B: It says it all too, it says it all.

S: It's completely true. You can't understand why biological systems work the way they do, how they developed the way they do you know unless you accept within the evolutionary paradigm. It's like so, it has incredibly powerful explanatory capability.

B: And predictive.

E: It is the substrate upon which it is all built.

S: Yeah, absolutely. All right guys. Thank you all for joining me this week.

J: Of course.

C: Thanks Steve.

E: Thank you Steve.

Signoff/Announcements (1:40:24)[edit]

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 theskepticsguide.org. Send your questions to info@theskepticsguide.org. And, if you would like to support the show and all the work that we do, go to patreon.com/SkepticsGuide and consider becoming a patron and becoming part of the SGU community. Our listeners and supporters are what make SGU possible.

[top]


Today I Learned[edit]

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[8]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

Vocabulary[edit]


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