SGU Episode 904

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SGU Episode 904
November 5th 2022
904 cobot.jpg

A cobot, or collaborative robot

SGU 903                      SGU 905

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein


GH: George Hrab

AM: Ajia Mae Moon,

Canadian cannabis activist

Quote of the Week

Many people seem to confuse cynicism with skepticism, and believe that critical thinking results in a negative attitude about life. However, this opinion rests on a number of mistaken assumptions about the nature of skepticism. Skeptics must correct these misconceptions if they hope for the wider application of critical thinking.

Phil Molé, American skeptic

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion


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 Thursday, November 3rd, 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 everyone!

S: How is everyone? Bob, how was your Halloween?

B: It was really good. It was really good. I decorated the new house. It was a challenge, and I just actually finished because the party is November 5th, and most of you are coming. Those of you who aren't are sadly too far away.

C: Sorry.

S: Did you get a lot of kids at your new place? What's the traffic like?

B: Did not. Did not. Got 16 little punks.

C: That's a lot.

E: That's all?

B: They were, yeah, they were adorable, but 16. But it was fun. Liz and I, we sat on our porch swing. We had hot cider. I carved a pumpkin, listened to creepy music. It was, it was, it was adorable, fun. And then after that at six thirty, we went, we went in and watched scary movies all night.

C: Is that, is 16, I don't know.

B: Nothing. That's nothjing.

C: Living in big cities, I feel like nobody comes to doors anymore. So 16 sounds like a lot to me.

B: No, no, no. It's nothing. I mean, a lot I would say is 70 is a lot.

E: I remember when it was a hundred.

S: Yeah, no, Evan and I used to go around my neighborhood because it was better for trick or treating than his neighborhood. So he would bring his daughter over, right, Evan? And there were dozens and dozens of groups of kids roaming the neighborhood.

E: Oh, there easily had to be a hundred kids in that neighborhood, Steve.

S: Yeah, but this year we only got three groups of kids. I wonder if it's the pandemic or is just the neighborhood aging out?

B: I think it's the neighborhood aging out. You're just a whole bunch of old fuddy-duddies in that neighborhood.

J: Yeah, but you kind of think that new families would rotate in. I mean, it's not remained static.

S: No, but still my daughters are now away either at college or moved out and all of their friends that they were going to school with in the neighborhood are also moved away. So it hasn't been a complete turnover of everyone in the neighborhood. So but I do wonder how much of a pandemic effect there is, are just people not doing this anymore.

C: But you can easily wear a mask.

B: Now Halloween is still hugely popular in terms of money spent and activities and stuff. It's still a huge, huge holiday. Second only to Christmas in terms of money spent. It's big.

C: Well, Valentine's Day. What about Valentine's Day?

S: What about going to live performances of skeptical podcasts?

C: Ooh, that sounds like fun.

J: Steve, we got something coming up. I don't know if you're aware of this. I don't know if you've even considered the fact that in a short number of weeks, what are we talking about? We're talking about six weeks, five and a half weeks in about five and a half weeks we are going to be in Arizona. Boots on the ground. Four shows lined up.

B: Oh my god. Five and a half weeks.

J: And I think we need to talk a little bit about what this means for the people that are in and around Arizona, because this is we're flying the whole crew out. This is a big deal. I mean, even George. You know what? We got to bring George on here. I want George to tell everyone about all the stuff that's going to happen.

S: OK, let's bring him on.

J: George Hrab?

GH: I'm sorry. I'm still just unwrapping my candy from the weekend. Oh, god. Delicious.

J: Hi, George.

C: Hi, George.

GH: Hey, everybody. What's going on?

Announcements: Private Show (3:30)[edit]

GH: You know it's the season now, boys and girl. It's the it's we're past Halloween. We're getting into Thanksgiving now. And what happens after Thanksgiving? It's the holiday season full on, full on, 100% holiday season, whatever holiday you may be celebrating. And you know what's one of the most difficult things to do during the holiday season, especially if you've been in a relationship for a long time or maybe you're brand new to a relationship and you don't, you're not comfortable, you're not familiar or you've done everything a thousand times. You can't think of something new. The hardest thing to do at the holidays is to get a really good gift. It's really hard to get a really good gift for someone. And wouldn't you know it? We here at SGU Productions have a really, really great gift that you can you can not only give to someone you love, you can give it to yourself. The way the world is nowadays. Give yourself a gift. You deserve it. What else is there to look forward to? We are so excited because we have this Arizona trip going on and you can get yourself or a loved one an incredibly special, unique kind of gift. Am I right, everybody? Guys? Am I right?

S: Totally.

E: Absolutely.

J: It's a ton of fun. That's for sure.

GH: This is going to be above and beyond any kind of private event thing that we've ever done before. We've got the extravaganza's. Those are booked. Those are those are happening, which that that's a fantastic gift. You can get that for yourself. You can get that for your kids. You can get that for a loved one. Maybe you want this gift and your loved one doesn't listen to the podcast. Well, you play them just like this little section right now and you just look at them to go.

J: Well, that's interesting.

GH: Hello. Hello. That's interesting. Sweetheart isn't interesting. And we and we live close to Arizona. We even live in Arizona. We are going to have these two special private events that I am right now formulating a series of games that are going to not only put the rogues through their paces, but they're going to involve the audience in a very special and unique way. This is going to be something that we've never done before. It's going to be kind of common. I don't want to give away too, too much because part of the fun is unwrapping the gift. But imagine imagine sort of combining scavenger hunts along with trivia, along with opportunities to see the rogues be absolutely embarrassed. What else do you want? Right? What else could you possibly want during the holiday season in the middle of December in the desert other than to see maybe Bob being really embarrassed because he couldn't figure out an answer to something and he has to pay a penalty by, I don't know, maybe dancing the Macarena or just something I'm just spitballing here.

B: Not going to happen.

GH: I am formulating a bunch of relief. It's oh, it's so going to happen. It's so going to happen. It's going to be fantastic. Look, in all seriousness, this is going to be if you are a fan of the program, if you've never got an opportunity to see the rogues live, there's going to not only be a chance to have one on one time with all of the rogues. There's going to be a live show that we're recording a private live podcast. You get to see how the sausage is made, and in this instance, you want to see how the sausage is made because invariably, there's always stuff that doesn't quite make the show.

S: All the juicy stuff.

GH: Maybe you wonder to yourself, all the juicy stuff, what doesn't make the show? What arguments? What little f-bombs? What little particular kinds of things might not make the final show? Well, you're going to have an inside viewer's look at this and to see what goes into the process. Let me tell you, as someone that's been on the inside and heard it all, it is so worth the price of admission sometimes. Let me tell you. There's going to be a two-hour-ish private recording thing, which is really fun, and then as if that's not enough, there'll be another hour and a half of just games and trivia and music and singing and scavenge hunting and singing. Again, Bob, probably dancing at some point. Maybe with a shirt on, maybe with a shirt off. I don't know. I'll show you how it works out, but it'll be amazing and so I cannot stress enough how you need to go to this program, go to these shows, go to the extravaganzas and get the private shows. Here's the thing. Here's the really cool thing. The private shows are always different, just like the extravaganzas. You can go to two extravaganzas in a row, and you'll have a very different time each time because there's so much improv involved in each night of the extravaganza.

S: Every time we do that show, the funniest bit is something that's completely unscripted that takes all of us by surprise.

B: Yeah, vacuum cleaner.

GH: 100%.

B: Vacuum cleaner.

GH: That happens two or three times a show, all the time. Yeah, so you do that, but with the private show, with the private super, what are we calling this again?

S: The private show plus because we're just lame at thinking of viewing the games, but it's a four-hour event, so I'm clear. The total thing is four hours, and it's made to have, in the middle, there's a private recording of the SGU, but the rest of it is designed to optimize intimate contact between the audience and the rogues.

GH: Yeah, so you want a photo with everybody? Done. You want an autograph? Done. You want to ask a question? Done. This is all stuff that you get to do plus, again, Bob dancing. I can't get past this idea of just, I'll take it easy.

S: George, there may be prizes too.

B: I'll dance with Cara.

S: You didn't mention the prizes.

GH: Well, there's, oh, gosh. Yeah, so not only will the games be happening, but as you're involved with the rogues and you're maybe on their team, maybe you're cheering them on, there will be prizes which will be giving out very exclusive, very fantastic, only limited to this kind of event, prizes that, again, maybe you want the prize signed. We can make that happen. What do we got going on? Shirts and books and buttons and kazoos and t-shirt cannons and all kinds of stuff is going to be happening.

J: Yeah, we're giving away t-shirt cannons.

GH: We're giving away, yes, we're giving away 400 t-shirt cannons. It's going to be amazing.

S: Hey, if we're going to give away t-shirts, somebody brought the idea that we should shoot them with a cannon. I looked it up. Those things are expensive.

GH: They're crazy expensive.

S: We're not going to be bringing the t-shirt cannon.

GH: We're not bringing the t-shirt cannon, but yeah, but we'll gladly throw something at you. We'll throw something at you. We'll lovingly lob something at you, which may be a t-shirt, maybe some kind of a prize, but it's all part of this four-hour monster event, which is just, it's going to be something that you'll remember for a very, very long time, and if you've been listening to the show for years or maybe you're brand new to the show, it'll be the kind of experience that will. It's funny how sometimes when people come to these programs that have never seen all of you live, how they're sometimes surprised at how you look, how you interact, who's tall, who's short, who's this, who's that, who's aged well, who's not aged so well. People always think I'm taller. I'm always amazed. We thought you'd be taller. No, this is it. This is what you get. This is it. I'm sorry. But that's the kind of thing you get to experience at these private shows. We can't stress enough how excited we all are, and we can't stress enough how excited you will all be after having this monstrous four-hour private show plus event. Look, tickets are limited. That's the thing that we've got to press as well. Tickets are limited because we want it to be a relatively intimate kind of thing. We can't have four, five, 600 people at these things. It's got to be a smaller number of people so that we can have one-on-one time with all of you in various permutations, and we can throw a shirt at each one of you if you answer questions correctly or win prizes. It's going to be wonderful. It's going to be fantastic. What's the dates again there, Jay? Just give us the official dates.

J: December 15th is the Phoenix Private Show Plus, so that's the live podcast recording.

GH: That's a Thursday.

J: That's Thursday. That's everything that George is just saying. And then Friday night, we will be doing the Tucson extravaganza, then Saturday afternoon, we will be doing the Tucson Private Show Plus, and Saturday night, we will be back in Phoenix doing the extravaganza.

GH: It's a ping-ponging back and forth across the desert kind of weekend for us, which we are so excited. You have four opportunities if you live anywhere near Phoenix or Arizona or both of those to come to all four, or do one, or do two, or let's say three, or maybe even four, and have the time, have the SGU-est time you could possibly have.

S: Be full of SGU-ness.

GH: Be full of SGU-ness.

J: While we're talking about it, George, the extravaganzas are going to be holiday-themed, and I guarantee you this will never happen again.

GH: That's the other cool thing, yeah, that we're making these special holiday-themed extravaganzas. The extravaganzas are always a great fun time, lots of games, lots of opportunities to watch the rogues try to improvise their way out of challenges that I provide for them, but because it's the middle of December, we're going to have lovely holiday-themed, which again, it's just going to put you in the mood, and it's the perfect present. It's the perfect present. Two weeks before Christmas, or whatever, 10 days before Christmas, here it is, sweetheart. Let's have a holiday extravaganza, and then guess what? I'm going to surprise you with a private show plus we get to hang out with the rogues for another four hours tomorrow, where we did it yesterday and it was amazing. What's the site there? Where do they get the tickets, Jay? Tell them.

J: They can go to for all four of these events.

GH: Do it. Do it. It's going to be great. We can't wait to see all of it.

J: Thank you, George.

S: George, thanks for joining us.

B: Thanks, George.

GH: I'm going to go back to my candy. Wait a minute. Where's my wrap?

S: Don't overdo it. Don't overdo it. Paste yourself, George. Paste yourself.

GH: Well, I got to fit in my Santa outfit. Bye, everybody. Thanks.

J: Bye George.

B: Hey bro.

E: Thank you George.

C: Bye.

Update from Ajia Moon (13:09)[edit]

S: Well, that was fun to talk with George, but you know what, guys? We actually have another guest joining us for this episode. You guys may remember Ajia. Ajia, you've been on the show a couple of times before. Thanks for joining us again.

AM: Thanks for having me back.

S: So remind our listeners what you do.

AM: I've kind of gone to the moon and back since I spoke to you guys last. So I used to own a medical marijuana dispensary, and Canada changed the Cannabis Act in 2018, so we closed to work with the new laws in Canada. I also had to close my original magazine due to the new laws with advertising, and I spent a couple of years just watching the grass grow and figuring out what I would do next. I got bored of watching the grass grow, so I opened the magazine, and I'm back out there and doing my stuff. We had a huge event on Sunset Beach in Vancouver. We had a special guest, Mercurys, and Snack the Ripper, and Golden BSP join us on the beach for a free party. We had 1,500 people show up, and we're about to do the same thing again, but for 420 in Vancouver. Our artist lineup is crazy, and everyone gets to come for free yet again, and my magazine will be ready.

S: Awesome.

J: Cool.

S: Well, you're a patron of the SGU, and we're glad to have you on the show this week. We're going to go through our news items, starting with a Quickie with Bob.

B: All right. Thank you, Steve.

Quickie with Bob: Matter in Neutron Star Collisions (14:44)[edit]

  • [link_URL TITLE][1]

B: This is your Quickie with Bob. Cara, gird your loins. Neutron stars are the second densest thing we know in the universe, being essentially, as its name implies, solid neutrons, but we don't know what even more exotic matter would appear when neutron stars collide, even though we can now directly detect the gravitational waves from such an event. What's happening on the neutron stars? What kind of weird things are created? A new model has been published in Physical Review X, which recently describes the use of nuclear physics models that have been extended, because those models cannot handle such high density events, but they've been extended to include a string theory technique. So doctors Demersic and Jarvinen said regarding this, our method uses a mathematical relationship found in string theory, namely the correspondence between five-dimensional black holes and strongly interacting matter to describe the phase transition between dense nuclear and quark matter. Five-dimensional black holes. I can picture that. Using this new model in computer simulations shows that not only what the gravitational waves would be like that were produced, but also that both hot and cold quark matter can be created by neutron star collisions. So next, obviously, is to compare this, that the model results to the real gravitational waves in the near future of colliding neutron stars, and I'm looking forward to it. This has been your Quickie with Bob, un-gird your loins, people, and I hope it was good for you, too.

S: Thanks, Bob. That was quick. That went by very quickly.

E: It's called the Quickie.

S: Very nice. Neutron stars are endlessly fascinating.

B: They are. I'd rather see one up close than a black hole, actually.

S: Yeah. Although not too close.

E: Well, right. Closest. Yeah.

News Items[edit]

Daylight Saving Time (16:31)[edit]

S: All right. So, guys, this weekend is the end of daylight saving time.

B: Oh, boy.

E: Yeah, that's right.

S: Ajia, do you guys have daylight saving time in Canada?

AM: We do, but it's different depending on where you are.

S: Oh, yeah? That's crazy.

E: Meaning not all the territories or states observe it, or?

C: Or the time when you do it is different.

AM: We do switch at different times.

S: You switch at different times. That has to be not confusing at all.

E: Right.

S: We've been trying to get rid of daylight saving time for a couple of reasons. The big one is that nobody knows how to pronounce it, and they say daylight savings time. (Cara laughs) But, Evan, tell us what's the update on the efforts to get rid of it.

E: Yeah. So the efforts to get rid of it has made the news, of course, this week. There's lots of stories out there right now as it approaches this coming Sunday. You know it's called summer time in the United Kingdom and much of Europe.

C: Summer time. Sure.

E: And for those of you who don't know, this is when you advance your clocks during the warmer months so that darkness falls at a later clock time. And usually it's one hour difference in most cases around the planet, and in the spring you spring forward, and in autumn or the fall you fall back. That's how you're supposed to remember exactly how it works. So as a result, you have one of your days in the spring, it's a 23 hour day, and then you get one coming up this coming Sunday, it's going to be a 25 hour day. And here in the United States it's been in place for quite a while now. It's pretty much since the 1960s we've been using it regularly. There have been a few times in which they've used it in the 70s for full for the entire year. It went on daylight savings, it had to do with energy consumption in the 70s when there was energy issues going on with oil. Since then pretty much it's been spring forward and fall back. Every year we do this. Now a couple updates on this. Number one, as Steve as you alluded to, where are we now in getting this thing fixed? And by fixed I mean rid of it. So we've got the U.S. Senate, which back in March of this year they passed legislation that would make daylight saving time permanent starting with 2023. So essentially once we move into daylight saving time that starts in March of 2023 we'd never come off of it at that point. That would be it. We'd be locked into that.

S: It'd be permanent summertime.

E: Yep. So the Senate has passed that and they passed it unanimously by the way, which is that's-

C: That never happens.

E: That almost never happens.

S: It was by acclimation, right? I mean it's not like it was a formal vote.

E: No it wasn't really a formal vote it was a voice-

S: Still counts.

E: -vote but it does, it counts. So that's part of it. But in our system of government in order to get this law passed it has to pass both houses or both branches of the legislative branch-

S: Both chambers.

E: -both chambers. And the other is the House of Representatives. So over in the House of Representatives it's being held. Held at desk is the term and it's being held by a subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, which is a subcommittee under the Energy and Commerce Committee, House Resolution 69. Now they're saying that the reason that it's held up there is that they're not sure how to move forward with it. Trying to figure it out. They agree it's a good idea to settle on something and make it permanent in some way. But they haven't found a consensus yet on the best way to do it. Do you lock into the daylight saving mode in which you get the extra hour of light in the evenings or are you going to go to standard time, are you going to lock in there, in which that extra hour of daylight will occur during the morning hours? See they are saying that we haven't been able, this is Frank Pallone who's the U.S. Representative and Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. "We haven't been able to find consensus in the House on this yet. There are a broad variety of opinions about whether to keep the status quo or to move to a permanent time and if so, what time that should be. We don't want to make a hasty change and then have it reversed several years later after public opinion turns against it", which is what happened when they tried it out in the 70s. So he says those are the concerns there. So I don't know that we're really going to see anything solid on this, at least certainly not in time, I don't think in time for the 2023 year and I have no idea what that does to the Senate bill, if that means that has to go back and they have to revote on that, who the heck knows. But we've talked about this before on the show and we have some differing opinions kind of on this, at least we've expressed it in the past. By the way, here's Bob, this is for you. At two o'clock in the morning this coming Sunday, we're going to go back to one o'clock, right? That's how it works. On that Sunday, it goes back to one. That means we're going to have a pair of 1AMs. at the same day, right? And that's 60 duplicate minutes, that's 3600 more seconds and five quadrillion 600 trillion additional picoseconds.

B: Ooh, nice.

E: So Bob, that's for you.

B: Well done, well done.

E: Thank you. Thank you very much. And that, hey, those are precious picoseconds of life, if you ask me.

B: (laughs) Precious.

E: If you think about it that way, during a person's life, if they happen to die during daylight saving, they're going to lose five quadrillion, 600 trillion picoseconds. So I don't think that's necessarily a trivial thing. Now there's some more news about daylight saving. There are some new studies that are out and they have to do, well, one has to do with sleep and the other has to do with accidents. Sleep interference is bad. Well, we all agree on that and I think there are many, many studies that have revealed this, and more studies have confirmed this. And certainly children need lots of sleep and they are perhaps the worst at adapting to sudden changes in those kinds of routines, especially when it comes to sleep. Again, there have been studies published, more recently a 2019 study published in the Journal of Sleep. They found that changes in the clock usually result in a loss of sleep for kids and they have longer and greater disruptions happening among infants and young kids. So the younger you are, apparently the worse it is for you. It can affect children's sleep badly. In some cases, 7 to 28 days they could take to adjust to that time change, a one hour time for a child could take up to almost a month for them to be able to adjust. So that's not trivial. And they say to help offset that, what you should do is in the days leading up to the change, you change everybody's bedtime accordingly to make that adjustment. And you do it by 30 minutes. You don't do it by the full hour. So it doesn't seem so severe. It's more of a gradual ease into it. But then there's this other study that came out just not too long ago. This was late August or early September. In PLOS One, this was reported: "Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals, groups, and large-scale societies". And they specifically reference daylight saving time as one of those reasons, especially at the large scale level. And of these studies, they said: "We demonstrate that one hour of lost sleep opportunity inflicted by the transition to daylight saving time reduces real world altruistic helping through the act of donation giving." And they established it through the analysis of over three million charitable donations. The other studies that they did with this, it triggers the withdrawal of help from one individual to another. And the fMRI findings revealed that the withdrawal of human helping is associated with deactivation of key nodes within the social cognition brain network that facilitates willingness to help others. And they said it also at another study at a group level, the night to night reductions in sleep across several nights predict corresponding next day reductions in the choice to help others during day to day interactions. So yeah, they're saying that here we go, daylight saving time again. Ben Simon was the lead author on this. He says, this is actually the first study to show that there is an impact on people's generosity and pro social behavior following daylight saving time. It's just more evidence of the importance of sleep on people's behavior. Brain areas that are typically active when we think about what other people might want or need were significantly less active following a night of lost sleep directly tied in one of these studies to daylight saving.

S: Yeah. So basically we're grumpy when we don't get enough sleep.

E: Yeah. And less willing to help others, it puts us into a different state.

S: It's part of being grumpy.

E: Yeah, definitely.

S: This is so complicated. So I don't think there's no consensus on this. About a third of people want to keep it the way it is, a third want permanent DSA and a third want permanent standard time. It's a little bit more for the standard time, but it shifts from year to year, the survey, but it's basically a third, a third and a third. So that's why no matter what you do, someone's going to complain. If we make a change, people are going to complain, just kind of ignore them. Just have to decide what the one's best and just go with it and let people complain until we all stop complaining about it. I think there's no question that changing is bad. Going back and forth between the two has its own problems, increased accidents, loss of sleep, et cetera. But the data on what's better, permanent daylight saving time or permanent standard time is mixed and it's just, it's a pick your poison kind of thing. The sleep specialists all say that that standard time is better, that daylight because it matches the circadian rhythm to the light the sun cycle better.

AM: Depending on where you live, that doesn't necessarily apply.

S: Of course, this depends, this is hugely, hugely regionally.

AM: And yeah, because I lived up in the Yukon for about six months and it goes from 12 to 12 to 10 to 14, all of a sudden you're in 22 hour days during the summer and then it just right into winter and it's really.

C: Yeah I don't think adjusting by an hour is going to do a whole lot for you in that situation. And that's, that's really the question though, right, Steve, obviously the permanentness, it might have some difference if it's an hour forward, an hour back, but isn't the main problem, the changing?

S: Yeah. Well, as I said, the changing is definitely a problem. There's no question about that. But if you get to which, which one should be permanent, it's a mixed bag. It sounds like for the sleep scientist say you're better from a medical point of view, you're better off having standard time, but that assumes of course that we don't adjust our school starting time. See, I think we should go to permanent DST and make school start an hour later. A lot of people already have flex time in terms of when they start their day, for work, but we could make that more standard. There's some interesting things. I just did a deep dive on this. Why I have all this loaded up. So one thing is, economically it's all better DST has advantages cause there's basically more economic activity happening in the early evening. Then that's why it's been extended. It used to be six months out of the year. Now in the US now it's eight months out of the year because of the candy lobby for Halloween and the golf course lobby and barbecue supplies, all these things and those activities are increases with DST. The other thing is DST matches better with solar power and energy use. So if we, if we want to maximize solar power, DST is better. I just saw a study today that DST matches better with deer, which you might not think, who cares what the deer want. But the studies showed that by going to permanent DST would reduce 36,550 deer deaths, 33 human deaths, 2054 human injuries, and $1.19 billion in costs from hitting deer on the roadways.

C: Do you have something the second most lethal animal in America or something like that?

S: I don't know. I don't know about that statistically.

B: I've hit three.

S: I've hit one.

E: Oh my gosh. No, I've never. I've yet to hit one. Thank goodness.

J: It's incredible that we have that much data about what goes on in the world.

S: Every one of these gets reported as a, as a, to insurance companies. That's probably why we have so much data on it. And the original reason, the original, we, this was a world war one time idea. Let's let's go to DS DST in order to save energy. It saves about 1% for lighting, but if you include a heating, it flips the other way. So it's more of a mixed bag again, if you include total energy, not just energy or lighting. So it's basically a mixed bag. We just should pick one so that we don't have to change, adjust to it if we need to and go on with our lives.

E: Yeah. Universally, the change is what's the worst part of all.

S: Yeah, exactly.

E: You have to make the change.

S: All right. Let's go on.

Humans Working With Robots (29:51)[edit]

S: Jay, are we getting close to having humans and robots working together?

J: Steve, it's already happening.

S: Is it?

J: Oh yeah. There's lots of companies out there that have some type of automation robot doing some work. What's happening is more and more industries are starting to utilize robots to do a huge variety of jobs. And we have humans and robots, they're working together. And if they work together correctly and if things are optimized, this can have a significant improvement on manufacturing processes. It could save time, it could save labor, it could save costs, everything. It's just a really good thing. And this of course means that more people are finding that they have to work alongside some type of robot. It's just starting to happen. Companies need to make sure that their workers can effectively work alongside robots of course. And ideally companies can help make the experience of working with robots positive for their workers. They don't want it to have this horrible negative experience that happens every day while they're at work. They want it to be as seamless as possible. They want it to be safe. There's lots of factors that they apply here, but a key factor is that humans need to develop trust for their robot coworkers. And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. A human has to be able to accept what the machine is doing and be able to work alongside it. And a big factor in there is the idea that they have to have, simply have to have trust for the work that it's doing. And if companies can establish trust in robotic workers, the quality and safety can easily improve. So trust is actually critical for a shared human and robot workspace to actually function and in the first place. There is already this issue of whether or not some companies that employees of companies have trust in the robotics that are happening there.

B: I think we should distinguish between robots that have been working in factories for decades now would be say, like car manufacturers where they've got a zone that you humans aren't allowed. We're not talking about that, right? We're talking about close proximity with no swinging arms that's going to take your head off. Yeah. I'll get into that, Bob. I'll get more into details about what kind of robot we're talking about. But in this study that I'm about to tell you about, there's a robot called the UR-10 collaborative robot. And it's essentially a robot arm that has five points of articulation that isn't that much bigger than a human arm. But it could just spin and do different it can move in many different ways. So in Human Factors, the Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, researchers at the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University are trying to figure out how human behavior is affected by robots and having them present in the workspace. So for example, when humans get fatigued, and this is counterintuitive to me at least, when humans get fatigued and or stressed out at work, they become more trusting of the robots they work alongside. And just think about that for a second. That's pretty interesting. When they get tired, well, we'll begin to trust the robots that are that are working alongside them more, you'd think maybe the opposite of that, but that's not the case.

S: Look, I'm too tired. You do it.

J: Yeah, maybe that's it. That's a simple explanation. So using functional near infrared spectroscopy on 16 test subjects, researchers looked at their brain activity during the test. And particularly they looked at brain activation, connectivity, subjective responses and performance were measured throughout this study. They were they were studying the brains of the test subjects to see what kind of responses that they were having to having the robotic worker work near them next to them with them. And most importantly, they did something really interesting. So they wanted to know how the test subjects how their trusting behaviors were affected as they interacted and worked with the UR-10 collaborative robot. Now, and like I said, this robot has five points of articulation, it could do a lot of really, really good, very precise types of movements. So what they did was they varied the robot's reliability and the robot's level of assistance during the test. Now, when I say the robot's reliability, the robots would make mistakes deliberately. The researchers were deliberately having the robot's reliability go down and then they tested the test subjects to see what was going on in their brain. And check this out. So this is a quote from the study "significantly increased neural activation was observed in response to faulty robot behavior within the medial and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex PFC. A similar trend was observed for the anterior PFC, primary motor cortex and primary visual cortex. Faulty robot behavior also resulted in reduced functional connectivity strengths throughout the brain." Steve, what did I just read?

S: First of all this is an fMRI study, I'm assuming. You always got to take those with a grain of salt because there's a high noise factor in them. You know what I mean? It's an average of an average.

C: And they're also usually super low ends. You're just looking at a random, a very, very small sampling.

S: But if we assume that that's correct, they're just saying, oh yeah, these frontal lobe parts of the brain are, they're more active when the robot makes mistakes. Is that what, is that the bottom line?

J: So the researchers found that when the robot made an error, that the test subjects trust in the robot lowered. So when the test subject was in a lower state of trust for the robot coworker, parts of their brain began to work harder. And this is the part that I find fascinating.

S: That makes sense, they have to pay attention more. Now they have to monitor what the robot's doing there. Part of trust, this does also, I think it's back to when they're tired, they trust more. Lack of trust is a high mental energy state. And trust is permission to go to a lower mental energy state. I trust you're going to do this. I can relax. You don't trust somebody. You can't relax. You've got to be looking over their shoulder. So that makes basic sense, I guess.

J: So as they like, let me give you a, for instance, they, they lower the accuracy of what the robot arm is doing. And what they found was this translated into more brain activity, which increased the test subjects workload because they began to compensate for the faulty robot. So again on the opposite side of this, when the robots performed well, these brain regions worked well together. So what we're seeing is that the test subjects were showing a fatigue. They were more fatigued and they were working at a higher level of stress when the robot wasn't working as efficiently. So it does have an emotional impact on human workers when and if the robots weren't working in an optimal way. So that might seem obvious, but it is something that they were able to prove. And because they're studying the brain and studying which parts of the brain are lighting up during these very specific moments, it gives them, it teaches them where to look in the future for more clues about a human response. And if you think about it because so many people are going to be working with robots and interacting with robots and at some point even talking to robots, this is a very early study, but we need to study human robot interaction in general. If you think about it, we need to optimize the way robots handle working with human beings in the way that we respond to them working in our space. So it's a very complicated situation, but I find it to be really fascinating because we're right at the beginning guys of robots really starting to go into many different industries and they're going to proliferate. They're going to, they're starting to show up everywhere.

S: What I want to know though, Jay, is what's the difference between a robot coworker making an error and a human coworker making an error? Maybe it's the same.

C: Yeah. That what I was thinking.

J: They were, I agree. And they were, they studied that. They studied humans as well, human and humans working together.

S: And what did they find?

J: Well, from what I read, it seemed to be very similar to the response to the robot.

S: Yeah. So I was going to say the through line here might be that people react the same to working with a robot as they do with a human. And as far as at least that is concerned that they will trust a robot, but that trust will go down when the robot makes mistakes, just like you would read same way you would respond to a human coworker, which is what I think my take on the totality of this research is that, yeah, people will treat robots like people as long as they act like people. They'll be treated like people. The fact that they're a machine makes no difference.

J: See, they did say that if you put googly eyes on the robot arm, that it could anger some people.

E: That could. Yeah.

J: But how cool is this, guys? I mean, we are, we are studying people's brains to see how they react to working with a robot. I just love that.

S: Yeah. There's a lot of angles to this research, making robot faces be expressive, have emotion, having softer robot parts so they could interact in human spaces more. So I think this is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle in terms of robots in human spaces. As Bob was saying, having hard robots on factory floors where people don't go, that's different. That's easy. We've been doing that for decades. But having a robot in your house, that's a totally different kettle of fish.

J: Well, just to make it perfectly clear, Steve, this was a collaboration workspace. They had to work together, they had to, they were touching the same parts. They had to hand things off to each other and do some coordinated movements.

S: Totally.

J: So that I could really see how fatiguing that would be. Imagine you're working an eight hour shift and the robot is having problems over and over and over again. You'd get to the point where you want to pull your hair out.

S: All right. Thanks, Jay.

Lottery Miracle (39:52)[edit]

S: So guys, have you heard, Evan, you sent this to everybody, but you've read the article or heard about the lottery miracle that happened earlier this week.

J: Wait, there was a miracle?

S: Or maybe it was last week.

AM: No way.

E: Yep.

S: So tell me what logical fallacy this is. Here is the headline of the New York post. Now I know the New York post is a rag. You don't have to tell me a high quality journal.

E: Alexander Hamilton founded the New York post. What are you talking about? We love that musical.

S: Whatever. All of the local news had basically the same reporting. This was just the local news reported it this way. It hit the national news, but with all the local news reporting, this is the way it was reported. So here's the New York post headline: "1 in 331 billion chance, same New York lottery numbers drawn twice in one day." What do you guys think about that.

J: That happened?

E: I've never heard of that happening.

S: It did happen. What do you think about the 1 in 331 billion chance of that happening? That seems pretty remarkable.

B: Well, I mean, how many times, I mean, it's a law of large numbers.

C: It's going to happen.

B: Lottery numbers are being pulled all the time, all over the country, although in many countries. So the chance is one place doing the same number twice is not as crazy as you might think.

S: Do you think there are billions of lottery draws?

B: No, there's not. And it is a hell of a coincidence if it happened.

E: And it's a five number system at one through, oh, what's the-

S: 39 I think.

E: Was it 48?

S: I think it's 39.

E: It goes to 39. So numbers one through 39.

S: So it's actually not a big deal at all. And the 331 billion is wrong. It's straight up wrong.

E: They lied to me.

S: So all right. So as Evan says, a five number system, the chance of getting any particular sequence of numbers. So, or the chance of winning with a single ticket is one in 575,757, right? So the chance of drawing the same number twice in a row is what?

E: It's the same.

S: It's the same! So the chance of winning with a single ticket is one in 575,757, the first number could be anything. It's the chance of the second number matching the first number. That's it. That's the probability. So the 331 billion is calculating it for both numbers.

E: You would have had to place a bet if you were betting.

S: If you bet for both numbers ahead of time, that's the 331 billion, but just the fact that, so the other thing, so that's wrong. They're saying it was a one. They said, but experts told us, so experts took out their calculator, squared 575,757 and came up with a number, but that's absolutely wrong. So what's the fallacy?

B: Well the shitty expert fallacy.

S: It's really obvious when you think about it.

C: The bad math fallacy?

S: Really obvious when you think about it.

E: The lottery fallacy?

S: The lottery fallacy! (laughter)

C: It's too easy.

E: Thought it was another trick. First the New York Post, then Steve, I can't take this.

S: Because they're calculating the odds of those numbers coming up rather than any numbers coming up, right? So but it's even a little worse than that because they're deciding on the pattern after the fact. So there's a sort of little bit of post hoc thing. So for example, would they have reported this if the numbers came up twice in a row, even if they weren't both in the same day? Of course they would. The reason why we tend to see a lot of coincidences is because we are retrofitting, we're deciding what the pattern is after we see it.

E: We love pattern seeking.

C: It's like we do it with dice. Yeah. What are the odds? I rolled a seven three times in a row. The same as the odds of rolling anything.

S: In this case, you could say, well it doesn't have to be two numbers coming up in the same day. It could just be two in a row. So this is a daily seven days a week, twice a day lottery. So it's literally 365 opportunities for this to happen every year. So in 10 years, in 10 years, the odds of this happening, 1 in 157. Not that big.

C: No.

S: 1 in 331 billion. It's really 1 in 157. If you consider if this should happen once every whatever, a few decades. The other thing is there are 180 lotteries in the world. So out of those hundreds, this should happen every year or whatever exactly how many times those are those were repeated. But something like this should be happening on a regular basis. And guess what? It does. This isn't the first time this has happened. In 2009, but the Bulgarian lottery turned out the same numbers in one week. And that was considered to be too big a coincidence to have been happening. It's rigged. There's something wrong with the system. It should be happening.

B: Oh my god. It would be extraordinary if it didn't happen.

S: Right. Exactly. And if we extend it out to a week, if we do 14 sets of numbers, that's 91 possible comparisons out of that hundred and fifty seven. So it's basically a bit greater than 50% chance that you go that that would happen. So anyway-

E: It should happen.

S: This kind of thing should be happening. But the fact that I mean, I know that whatever, again, the local news isn't going to get this right. They're going to present it in the most sensational way possible. So somebody because somebody with a calculator is, by definition, an expert. Somebody multiplied those two numbers with three hundred thirty one billion. That was enough for them. They didn't have to think about it for two seconds. And then you see that that was their headline one in three hundred thirty one billion chance. But I knew that had to be wrong or had to be something wrong about that. But it was it was pretty quick to figure that out. And so that concept because I wrote about this and the people were talking about in the comments, every time this idea comes up, some people just have a hard time wrapping their brain around the basic concept of the lottery fallacy. It's like, yeah, but the chance of that person winning was still really low. It's like, yeah, but you're deciding that after the fact. I heard somebody in the comments had another great example. It's like hitting a golf ball into a fairway and the golf ball lands somewhere on the fairway. And let's say it hits one blade of grass dead center. That blade of grass must feel really special. But after the fact, you could say, yeah, what were the odds that that blade of grass was hit by that ball? It's astronomical.

C: That's the sharpshooter fallacy. But the drawing the circle after.

S: That is the similar. There are similar logical problems with that. Yeah. It would be like conclude like something miraculous must have happened because the probability of me hitting that blade of grass was so remote. But of course, yeah, of course, determine that after you hit it. But of course, the probability of hitting some blade of grass approaches one. Right.

C: 100%.

S: Unless you get lost.

B: Unless you're horrible at golf.

S: Or you land in a sand trap, I guess. But if you're driving on the fairway, I mean, let's say there's no sand traps in range. It's pretty close to 100% that you're going to hit some blade of grass. It's the same idea. It's the same idea. So anyway, but again, we talk about before, like somebody winning the lottery twice. It also happens on a regular basis and should happen on a regular basis.

AM: My grandmother won the lottery twice. I've never played.

C: There you go.

S: And they always reported as the probability of two individual tickets winning.

AM: I'd like to point out she probably spent more than what she won.

C: I'm sure of that.

S: Well, actually, I don't know how much she won.

AM: The first thirty eight thousand Canadian. And the second time was over two hundred fifty thousand. She gave me thirty bucks every day, throughout my childhood, all the way up to a very nice.

S: Very nice. But it's a common myth that people who win the lottery fritter away their winnings. Actually people who win the lottery maintain their wealth long term and most of them invest it wisely.

C: Right. I think what she meant is she spent more playing the lottery than she ever won.

S: I hear you. Yeah, she played every day.

E: Yeah. Lotteries have issues.

S: It would be interesting to calculate that. You're better off. You are better off. Let's say you're going to invest ten dollars a week in lottery tickets or twenty dollars a week in lottery tickets. Just put that money in an IRA every week. You'd be better off.

E: Better off.

S: All right.

Mechanical Neural Network (48:37)[edit]

S: Bob, what is this mechanical neural network that sounds suspicious? What is that?

B: This kind of came out of nowhere. This is really fascinating. It's a new type of engineered material called the mechanical neural network that takes inspiration from artificial neural networks and machine learning to adapt and improve its ability to deal with unexpected forces and even change shape. So this is an interesting advance by UCLA mechanical engineers, and it's described in the journal Science Robotics, and it's called Mechanical Neural Networks, architected materials that learn behaviors. Now this new approach to material science, it reminds me of metamaterials, Steve, you might be reminded of as well, because metamaterials, we've talked about many times on the show, metamaterials have properties that derived essentially from its micro or nano structure instead of its chemical properties. It doesn't matter really what it's made of, it's just how it's organized. So this new type of material I'm talking about gets its properties from its design and its geometry. In this way, they often discuss how it's similar to Velcro and that it doesn't matter what the Velcro is made of. As long as it has those hooks and those loops, it's going to function no matter what it's made of. That will work because it's basically the hooks and the loops that are doing the work. So a mechanical neural network consists of beams that are organized in a sort of triangular lattice pattern that change length and stiffen when needed and can interact with other beams. That's one of the critical aspects to it. It's that connection between all these little beams that make it similar to neural networks. Now neural networks, we've described them as well on the show, neural networks build up deep learning algorithms by passing or not passing data from one node to a deeper node in the network. The strength of that connection is manipulated and it's called a weight. So mechanical neural networks, on the other hand, they tune the weighted connections between those beams in a similar way by making them stiffer or weaker depending on what they want to achieve in the environment and things like that. So that's how it's similar to the neural networks in artificial intelligence. The engineers say this, they say: "We hypothesize that a mechanical lattice with physical nodes could be trained to take on certain mechanical properties by adjusting each connection's rigidity. The idea was to have the mechanical lattice be able to adopt and maintain new properties like taking on a new shape or changing directional strength" and they finished here saying "Once the many connections are tuned to achieve a set of tasks, the material will continue to react in the desired way. The training is in a sense remembered in the structure of the material itself." So now they show that this idea actually works. They built a prototype, they actually about as big as a microwave, it's like a prototype lattice that they built that was actually able to learn and morph in specific ways when various forces were applied to it. So now in the future, they speculate that this could be used as say, for example, part of a plane wing that could adapt to unexpected things like say internal damage to the inside the wing itself or unusual or strong wind patterns that just were not expected. It could strengthen and weaken connections to maintain important attributes like directional strength because that's pretty much important. You want to be very strong, those wings need to be very strong in the direction of movement. So this thing could actually adapt and change so that it maintains that directional strength regardless of what's going on, whether there's even some weakening of the wings itself or if the connection to the body of the plane is being changed somehow, it could actually adapt to that kind of stuff. Then over time, the algorithm would actually maintain these new properties. So you could easily extrapolate this idea to buildings, earthquake protection, making the building stronger and adapting to earthquakes and many other things. So moving forward, the researchers hope to move from their essentially 2D prototype that they created to something with smaller components that's three dimensional. Regarding this, they say: "The material my colleagues and I created is a proof of concept and shows the potential of mechanical neural networks. But to bring this idea into the real world will require figuring out how to make the individual pieces smaller and with precise properties of flex and tension. We hope new research in the manufacturing of materials at the micron scale will lead to advances that make powerful, smart mechanical neural networks with micron scale elements and dense three dimensional connections a ubiquitous reality in the near future." They even describe ideas to use this in armor to deflect shock waves and also using sound waves in acoustic imaging. So, yeah, this is fascinating. I'm really curious to see where this is going to go. Clearly, though, they need to be able to migrate this idea to the three dimensional scale because that's where the real power of this would come in. I'm not sure how much utility it would have in purely two dimensional applications. But also, and of course, it's got to get a lot smaller and they talk about that micron scale or even eventually potentially nano scale as well. Imagine, could you combine this idea with metamaterials, metamaterials with mechanical neural networks? What would that be like? In a way, this idea, it makes these systems more like a biology that could actually adapt and change to the environment like biology on Earth does. It's fascinating stuff.

S: Yeah. When we research this, that's one of the this embodies a couple of themes that we sort of came up with in terms of future technology. One is that the distinction between biology and machines is going to get blurry as we go forward. Biology will be you'll have more machine components and machines will act more like biology. This is an example of that. But also, one of the real game changing advances for technology is new materials. We've said that before on the show, material science is the thing that changes the game.

B: Cara's favorite discipline. It really is. The stuff that you, a lot of the cutting edge stuff that you get is because of a material science breakthrough. And it's so dramatic and we're seeing a lot of, we say that in the book, Steve, a lot of the materials that we use today very commonly have been around for centuries, if not millennia. But I think some of that's changing now. And especially with automating the research and kind of like research building on research standing on the shoulders of giants, creating having these breakthroughs in material science, I think are just going to come faster.

S: Yeah, I agree. Although I still think the stuff we've been using for thousands of years actually was still going to be around for a long time.

B: Yeah. They'll be coexisting. They'll be coexisting. We're not going to do away with cement and concrete and-

S: Wood.

B: Right, that's not going anywhere.

S: Steel. Yeah. It's not going anywhere. All right. Thanks, Bob.

Special Report: History of Vibrators (55:42)[edit]

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S: All right, Cara, you're going to do a special report. It's not really a news item, but you discussed-

C: It was a science or fiction.

S: And the idea came up about Victorian medicine. Did Victorian physicians treat, "hysteria in women" with vibrators? And there's we inadvertently crowdsourced that claim and we got some amazing feedback. So what's, what's the, we had to do a deeper dive on that, on that specific question.

C: Yeah, Steve. So, so thinking back to that science or fiction item, I think we just kind of like we often do throughout the conventional knowledge that we have, which is, oh yeah, back in the day, Victorian era, blah, blah, blah, doctors, hysteria, they treated hysteria by bringing women to orgasm. They treated it by bringing women to orgasm with vibrators. And apparently some components of that are possibly true, but the larger claims that most of us sort of just regurgitate may actually be a myth. And it's a really interesting story as to how all of this came to be discovered. So there was a book, we're going to start with a book, and this book was written by Rachel Maines in 1999. And the book is called The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction. It was published by Johns Hopkins University Press. So this is not a trade publication. It's an academic publication, which means that it was subject to peer review. So that's something that's important to remember. It was not subject to intensive fact checking like a journalistic publications are, but it was subject to peer review. There were editors involved and it was published by an academic press. So this book that was written has been cited a lot of times, like a lot, a lot of times. And Maines' ideas in this book seem to be the template, the basis for a lot of the folk knowledge that we all use. The interesting thing is it wasn't really made up out of whole cloth. It was like a lot of out of context quotes, a lot of kind of stretches in explanations that ultimately seemed right, felt like, made sense for the zeitgeist that then would be cited and cited and cited, and everybody just kind of knew this to be. So now enter Hallie Lieberman, who at the time is a PhD student. She's a historian. Also Rachel Maines was a historian. And Hallie Lieberman is writing her dissertation, her thesis on technology and technology's use in orgasm. And she goes to her thesis advisor, Dr. Eric Schatzberg, also at Georgia Tech, and then Ms. Lieberman, now Dr. Lieberman, started to ask some questions. And he said it's a good exercise when you're doing this academic type of research to not just read the sources that make up your structure of knowledge, but to see who they were citing. So go back multiple levels and understand the people who you're citing, who were they citing? And so she started to do that with Rachel Maines' book. And she was like, uh-oh, I see some real red flags here. She's citing these different people. And that's not what I'm reading that they said. I'm interpreting some of these quotes wildly differently. And so they started to systematically try to make sense of this book, The Technology of Orgasm. And what they found is that there are three main claims that are made in the book. So you could kind of break down her core argument is that Victorian physicians used vibrators, electromechanical vibrators, specifically on the clitorises of women to bring them to orgasm and that that was a typical treatment for hysteria at the time. And you can kind of break that down into three different main claims. The first one is that clitoral massage with a vibrator, and this was big in Maines' book, was not seen as a sexual act because it was long viewed that sex with women was only penetrative. And the purpose of sex was like it was very male focused. So anything where a woman would have an orgasm from clitoral stimulation wasn't viewed as sex because it was useless.

E: Right. Because what did the man get out of that?

C: Exactly. So that's the first claim was that because doctors didn't see it as sexual because no penetration was involved, it was a perfectly cromulent medical practice. The second claim was that vibrators were widely used to treat hysteria. And finally, sort of the bigger funnel claim there, is that massaging the clitoris, even pre-vibrator invention, was a practice. That physicians did this regularly and it persisted throughout the Victorian era. And basically that vibrators were invented. When vibrators were invented, doctors were like, great, now we no longer have to spend a whole hour doing this manual stimulation of the clitoris to induce this orgasm which will treat her hysteria, but instead we have a tool so our arms don't get tired and it's way easier and I can see more patients and I can make more money. And that's really the crux of the argument. And there's a paper that came out again by these two Georgia Tech researchers, Drs. Lieberman and Schatzberg, that basically systematically, this was in 2018, so quite recently, systematically breaks down every aspect of their argument or of her, of Rachel Maines' argument. You'll see some interviews with Rachel Maines. You'll see some writings where she basically says, oh, well, I was just testing a hypothesis. Not testing, I was just talking about a hypothesis. I hypothesized that that's what was going on. I didn't ever actually say that that's what was going on. But sadly, when you actually read the core text, the tone is pretty assertive. This is what they did. This is why they did it. And remember, this was being written by an academic historian and then she cites a bunch of evidence to support it.

E: Yeah, right. Where are the citations?

C: Well, but that's the thing. It's not just about a citation. It's about what is that citation actually saying and how is it said? And that's the nuance that you get when you read this 2018 review because there are lots of examples that you can pick out. I'm not going to spend a lot of time pointing to them, but maybe she'll talk about an example where doctors were talking about the finger technique used. But if you dig deeper into the original citation, they were actually talking about the finger technique used to do manual massage of other body parts for other ailments. Or they'll be talking about vibrators, specifically electromechanical vibrators being used as a medical treatment. But when you actually dig into the source material and you broaden out what you're reading other than that tiny quote that was clipped out, you'll see that they were actually referring to vibrators to treat all manner of ailments because the vibrators at the time were snake oil medicine. It was patent medicine. When vibrators came out, a lot of physicians were like, it'll treat what ails you. You can use it on your intestines. You can use it in your mouth. You can use it on your butt. You can use it on your foot. And it'll help with heartburn and it'll help with muscle fatigue and it'll help with whatever. Now that's not to say that there isn't some scant evidence in the literature base that shows that vibrators were actually used intravaginally. And sometimes they were used intravaginally to treat, "hysteria". Remember hysteria is a very old diagnosis that goes back to Hippocrates era. They didn't actually use that word, but there were early, early conceptualizations that women's uteruses wandered inside of their bodies and that that's what actually caused all of these super vague symptoms that very often literally just sound like being alive. Being alive. How terrible.

E: Either that or evil spirits.

C: Exactly. So first it was the uterus is wandering and then it was like maybe it's not wandering, but something's going on. And then it was like, yeah, some evil spirit. I mean, there's been iterations throughout, throughout the eras, but hysteria persisted as a diagnosis for a very, very long time. And there's no question that that was very much of the zeitgeist, that that was a very sexist and very lacking in good evidence. This was a male dominated field that was studying women in a way that was not very inclusive. But sadly, I think because we get that now, this argument that vibrators were used on women's clits to induce an orgasm, which was non-sexual in nature, at least so these dumb doctors thought, and that way they were treating their hysteria and then the women were loving it so they came back to the doctor over and over. There doesn't seem to be any evidence to support that. Again, a lot of these actual uses that were even remotely close to that claim were intra uterine or sorry, intra vaginal or even intra uterine and they were really to treat things like uterine prolapse or vaginismus, different diagnoses that were related to sexual health or that were related to pain, bleeding heavily, different things like that. But this idea that it was a vibrator, a clit and hysteria, those three things, it looks like Maines took the vibrator component, the clit component and the hysteria component and glued them together. But all of the research that shows that vibrators were used were not used, usually not used genitally at all. They were also not used to treat hysteria. All the research that showed treatments versus hysteria had nothing to do with clitoral massage and all of the research that showed anything having to do with anything around the vulva very often didn't have anything to do with vibrators or hysteria. And so it's pretty interesting that they systematically are able to deconstruct this claim and show that dozens if not hundreds of academic papers cited this uncritically because they assumed, I mean, it's peer reviewed, that it held water and unfortunately it didn't. And so that's why this article is literally called a failure of academic quality control, the technology of orgasm.

E: So it's not our fault that we kind of glossed over it.

C: Well, I mean, it is and it isn't, right? This is such a good example of why we all have to work really hard to be good skeptics. But at the same time, we can't know everything all the time. And that's, it's really fun, I think, when we get a crowdsourced peer review on our show. Oh, maybe I shouldn't say that. What am I opening the floodgates to?

E: Well, it often happens on sort of the off the cuff remarks that we make, which do happen regularly. So that's bound to happen.

S: If we prepare something, we research it and things like that are likely to come up sometimes even then you go three or four levels deep and it's the fifth level that you get the paper that says, or the reference that says, oh no, this is all wrong. But usually we do a pretty good job off the cuff. I just got to remember that things we think we know, if we didn't recently verify them, may not be true.

C: Yeah. And you can, if you Google vibrator hysteria, you're going to find a bunch of articles from pre-2016, 17 that are really credulous and super mainstream publications, scientific, mainstream scientific publications.

E: Not easy to say, okay, that's a problem.

C: Right. So after this kind of was published, then you start to see all of these popular write ups of maybe it's a myth, whoa, we need to be more critical of this. And again, that's not to say that number one, the vibrator hasn't been used historically and isn't still to this day used sometimes as a medical device. It is actually listed, the FDA does have listings of vibrators as the sexual tools for very specific purposes. It's mostly a trade device, right? Mostly we know that vibrators are purchased by women or actually purchased, I shouldn't say by women, purchased by anybody who could benefit from the use of a vibrator specifically to enhance sexual pleasure, specifically as a sex toy.

S: But they're also often sold as muscle massagers.

C: They're sold, yeah. I mean, depending on how kind of puritanical the place you're shopping is and where you live and things, they might be sold that way. But there are some FDA listings for vibrators as medical devices. And of course now there is a lot of really modern literature about enhancing sexual function through clitoral stimulation with a vibrator. Because we have, we're studying this kind of stuff now and we know that it works. So you'll find all sorts of cool, if you want to really read the neat sexual literature sex relationships, therapy, human health, all that good stuff. But when we're specifically talking about literature from the Victorian era and earlier, I think the safest thing to say is there is scant evidence. In some cases there is no evidence at all. In other cases the evidence shows that this was not a regular practice. There were a few kind of French physicians who tried it out and go, oh, we don't really think this actually works. This doesn't seem to be doing anything for hysteria and they abandoned the practice. It just wasn't a regularly used practice we think it was.

E: It went back to electroshock therapy.

C: Yeah. Well, and eventually we started to rename what hysteria was. There was a movement towards recognizing hysteria in men. So then it was okay, maybe this has nothing to do with the uterus. Maybe it's a misnomer. Maybe it's not hysteria. And eventually it kind of, it kind of morphed into what we now see as certain aspects of mental illness. But we didn't understand it back then. It's interesting to see the progression of psychological diagnoses over time as well. That's a whole different kind of ball of wax, but super interesting. And thank you to, I think we had two different listeners who brought that to our attention in the emails.

S: All right. Thank you, Cara.

Who's That Noisy? (1:10:34)[edit]

Answer to previous Noisy:
An enormous forest-based xylophone in Japan from 2011 over which a wooden ball rolls to play Bach's Cantata 147, AKA Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. The instrument features row upon row of wooden "keys," each of which plays a different note. A single wooden ball is released from the top and rolls down the step-like keys, playing the Cantata 147 as it progresses with hollow, xylophonic plonks.

S: Jay, it's Who's That Noisy Time?

J: All right, guys. Last week I played this Noisy.

[click-clacking melody]

All right, you get the ides. Anybody have any guesses?

E: That's that old cartoon where the skeleton plays his ribcage like a xylophone.

B: Oh, really?

J: God, I remember that. I totally remember that.

E: Winner.

J: All right, well, I'll start by saying that I got a lot of correct guesses. People did a very good job on this one. So I got an email from Tracy McFadden, and Tracy said: "Hey Jay, I think this week's Noisy is a model train with a striking device that hits objects along the track that are tuned to a specific note." I have seen something similar done with a moving vehicle hitting things that have been set up along a roadway. I know exactly what you're talking about. And sure, that could make a similar noise. But there was no train noises, and this was not a train doing what you described. Another listener named John McKinnon said: "Hi Jay, this week's Noisy sounds like a xylophone or a music box mechanism being powered by a spinning water wheel. It sounds like the tempo speeds up and slows down, maybe as the rate of water flow changes." You are not correct about the spinning water wheel, but you did get something correct in your guess, and you will figure that out in a second as I go on here. So now I'm just going to get to basically three people who got it correct. So Brian Forte said: "Jay, this is a great Noisy. It's a marble that is running or rolling over a bunch of wooden bars that are cut into specific pitches." That is correct. Adam Hepburn, his family made a bunch of guesses, but I'll jump to his guess. He said, now this is that he identifies the song. This song is called Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring. That's the English version of it. And also, he said, Joy by Apollo 100 is a fun song. As for his guess: "It sounds like a rolling marble sculpture where the marbles are directed to a xylophone so it plays music." That is correct. So you got the song correct. Now I'm going to go down to the last one here. "This is a Japanese wood ball rolling down steps of different lengths of wood bars as part of a musical art display." This was sent in by a listener named Winnie Wan. This is a cool video that you can look up. If you just look up Japanese woods or forest xylophone, you'll be able to see it. So in essence, this is a wooden ball or some type of ball, I think it's made out of wood, that is rolling down a series of steps and each step is a xylophone note. That is a piece of wood. So as it rolls down, it's making these noises. So maybe you can visualize that as you hear this. I'll just forward it a little bit here. [plays Noisy] This ball is literally rolling down as it hits each one of these notes. Very cool idea. It's very pretty. So you should look it up and take a look at it. The location and where they did it is wonderful. So thank you very much for this Noisy. This was sent in by Peter Kennald from Japan. So maybe he even saw this thing in person. You never know.

New Noisy (1:14:21)[edit]

J: I have a new Noisy this week, guys. This Noisy was sent in by a listener named Justin Fisher. Check this one out. This one is very strange.

[spinning, vibrating machine of some sort]

Nutty huh?

E: It's a bit nutty. If you think you know what this week's noisy is, or you heard something cool, you can email me at

S: Thank you, Jay.


with_reduced_spacing_for_long_chunks –

Question #1: Intermittent Renewable Energy (1:15:03)[edit]

S: We got one email. It's actually one email question. There were several emails.

C: Yeah. We did not get one.

S: But I mean, there were several emails about this topic. I'm just going to combine them into one bit of feedback. And I knew this was going to happen. I basically was setting people up for this. So whenever I talk about renewable energy, I get this feedback. I think it was last week before I mentioned that if you do simulations, do analyses, how much intermittent renewable energy can we have on the grid at one time? And because these are not on demand sources, we have no control over when the Sun shines or when the wind blows, that there's a limit to how much of that the grid can take and still be able to balance supply and demand. Because the electricity grid has to exactly balance supply and demand moment to moment second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour. And we do that by turning supply on and off. You can turn wind turbines off, but you can't make the wind blow if it's not blowing and you can't make the Sun shine if it's not shining. So we got to take it when it's available. So how do we balance these things? We balance them in a couple of ways by having other sources of energy that are on demand, so-called dispatchable energy, by networking these over a large area so they balance out and by having overcapacity you have more than you need so that some, the wind's always blowing somewhere. So that you're getting wind from someplace, but spread over a long enough area, it tends to, to average out, but that means that you need a lot more total capacity than the actual energy that you're producing. But of course, that's true of every source of energy. Every source of energy has a capacity factor and actually not bad for wind. It's really bad for solar, it's only 22%. It's getting over 50% for wind, depending on where we put it in the bigger wind turbines are better. It's only in the 50 something percent for fossil fuels and nuclear is about 92%. That's the best. But in any case, I made the point that if you do simulations, you could, a grid could take maybe 30% intermittent sources before you start to get into trouble, meaning you can't effectively balance supply and demand or the costs tend to start shooting up in terms of trying to go beyond 30% penetration. And it always happens that people respond and say, oh no, but this study showed that you can, or that analysis showed that you can, or this place has it. And cause I get it, there are people who are very enthusiastic about wind and solar and they want to believe that we can have a 100% wind and solar. But the, it's just not true. And the examples are always flawed. So one person, for example, said, yeah, but the UK has more than 30% wind and solar and they're doing just fine and they plan on going to 60% or 70%. But actually in the email itself, they gave the answer to why that's not a counterexample to what I was saying. Cause they say they just, they sell their excess electricity to Norway that has, that gets most of its energy from hydroelectric and they get extra energy from France, which gets most of its energy from nuclear. That's the point. The UK is not an isolated grid. It's it has a specifically has an interconnection to someplace where it could sell its excess energy and to someplace else where it can get energy when it needs it. You have to consider that as a whole. So the wind and solar may be 40% of the UK, but it's, it's not 40% of the UK, France and Norway that which is the actual grid we're talking about here. So if we're talking about, for example, the Eastern in the Eastern grid. So the, the United States basically has two big grids, the Eastern and connect and the Western interconnect. And then it has, Texas is a smaller grid. Alaska is also a smaller grid and Quebec is also its own grid. But otherwise we have two big grids. So we have to consider what the balance is on each of those grids. But the other thing is even if it's technically interconnected, you have to consider the capacity of that interconnection. So even though we technically could share electricity between Connecticut and Indiana, we have to consider how much electricity can we send between those two locations and at what cost. So having more sharing in order to compensate for intermittent sources increases transmission costs, which is why even though wind and solar is getting super cheap, it doesn't necessarily decrease the cost of electricity when you add it to the grid. There's two reasons why that doesn't happen. One is because at least in the United States, they immediately charge their customer for the cost of adding it. That gets added onto your bill. And second, it increases transmission costs. So how do we solve that problem? The big answer is you upgrade the grid and there are studies which show that when you invest in upgrading the grid, you get more than the money you invest back in reduced transmission costs and it increases your ability to add intermittent sources to the grid. So if you ask, how much can we add right now? That's where that 30% figure comes in. If you say, what could we add theoretically in the future? The answer is it depends. It depends really on two big things and one is how much money are we going to invest in upgrading the grid? So we need a more robust grid. We need a grid that is able to share electricity over a wider area and we need a smart grid that will balance loads second to second. The other big thing is, I'm sure you guys would guess, grid storage. The more grid storage you add, the more intermittent sources you can have. So that's the other type of feedback you get. People say, oh no, we can get to 70, 80. All you need is all this grid storage. Yeah, I know that. That wasn't my point. The point is we can't add it now because we don't have the grid storage now. And so these models which say we can get up to 70% wind and solar, they always include really optimistic projections about grid storage and also grid upgrades in addition to realistic but still optimistic projections of wind and solar costs. I buy that those costs are going to continue to come down, although we don't know where they're going to peak in terms of, we can't assume that trends will continue inevitably. You pick the low hanging fruit and then the benefits tend to plateau at some point. But even if we assume very cheap wind and solar, you only get past that 30, maybe 40%, depending on which analysis you read. And again, I've tried to, I've read every one I could get my hands on, every one that I could find just to try to say, what is that number? What's the number of penetration of wind and solar? And there's a range of estimates based on a range of assumptions, but that 30 to 40%, that's basically the average. That's where it comes in. To get past that, there's always assumptions about grid storage and grid upgrades. Yes, I get that. That's why we need to invest in those two things so we can get past that 30%. Even then though, you're only going to get up to 40 to 60% unless you have ridiculously massive grid storage. And that's what I think a lot of people don't understand is that when you're talking about high levels of grid storage, you're talking about multiple orders of magnitude beyond what we can realistically add in the next five to 10 years. There's a lot of electricity going through the grid. And storing it for even a very short amount of time would just take massive grid storage. Massive grid storage is the kind of thing we should be thinking about as, we'll have that in 40 to 50 years, seriously. Not the next 20 years. The next 20 years, we are going to have incrementally increasing very modest amounts of grid storage. Unless there's a technological breakthrough, I can make batteries out of nothing. You know what I mean? The kind of things that people are researching, but that we're not mass producing at this point in time. And there's always things, we talk about grid storage they're making breakthroughs in more efficient compressed air grid storage and whatever salt melted salt grid storage, whatever. Yeah, those are all great. And that will, that I'm counting that as adding incrementally to our grid storage. But when you look at how much you would actually need to get to high penetrations of wind and solar, it's massive. That's decades and decades away. So we have to be thinking about what's our energy mix going to be over the next 20 to 30 years, and then what's it going to be after that? And if you, you can't have a solution that's 30 plus years away and say, that's our solution now, because by the time that comes in play, it's too late. It's your past 2050, all the bad stuff has happened. Obviously it could still get worse, but we will have blown past the two degree Celsius goal that we're trying to keep under, let alone the 1.5 one. So for the next 20 years, 30% wind and solar, that's basically all we're going to get. And beyond that, it really becomes implausible. And so what's the rest going to be? That's really the only question. And it shouldn't be fossil fuel. So it's got to be something else. After 30 years maybe we'll have some, some game changing grid storage kicking in that'll be a game changer, but not in the next 20 to 30 years. Okay. But I'm happy to be wrong about that. But again, none of the references anybody sent me contradicted that they all had these other assumptions in there that were not correct, that don't apply to what I was saying. All right, let's go on with science or fiction.


Science or Fiction (1:25:27)[edit]

Theme: Apples

Item #1: Evolutionarily, apples have been around for about 12 million years, but the oldest archaeological evidence of apples being used as food goes back to 3160 BCE.[7]
Item #2: John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) promoted the process of hybridizing apple cultivars, and his basic process is still used today to produce most commercial apple trees from seeds.[8]
Item #3: Even though the US is the second most apple producing country in the world (after China), only crabapples are native to North America. Edible apples were imported from Europe in the late 16th century.[9]

Answer Item
Fiction Process still used
Science Crabapples in N. America
12myo, eaten since 3160 BCE
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
12myo, eaten since 3160 BCE
Process still used
Process still used
Process still used
Process still used

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

S: Each week I come up with three science news items, four facts, two real and one fictitious. And then I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one they think is the fake. We have a theme this week. It's kind of a fall theme, although it's a little bit late, but it's still a perfectly acceptable fall theme. The theme is apples.

J: Apples?

S: Yeah Jay, how do you like them apples?

E: You can't beat me to that.

S: All right. Three things about apples. Two real, one fake. Here we go. Item #1: Evolutionarily, apples have been around for about 12 million years, but the oldest archeological evidence of apples being used as food goes back to 3160 BCE. Item #2: John Chapman, more famously known as Johnny Appleseed, promoted the process of hybridizing apple cultivars and his basic process is still used today to produce the most commercial apple trees from seeds. Item #3: Even though the US is the second most apple producing country in the world after China, only crab apples are native to North America. Edible apples were imported from Europe in the late 16th century. Ajia, as our guest, and since you've played this twice before, you get to go first this week. Yeah. Do you know what your history is? I mean, what your score is for your previous Science for Fiction? Your record?

AM: I think my record is bad.

S: Well, you have an opportunity to turn around. Show us what you know about apples.

Ajia's Response[edit]

AM: I believe the crab apples being native to North America is true. So I'm going to go with that fact. Let's find the fiction. We're going to go with an educated guess. I'm going to go with number one is the fiction. I'm probably going to regret that later.

S: Yeah. The 12 million years old, but only 3160 BC. Okay. Jay, you seem to want to talk about apples. You can go next.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: Apples. The first one about apples 12 million years, but they have archaeological evidence 3160 BC. I mean, I see no reason why that can't be true. I mean, whatever apples came from had been around for millions of years, just like tons of other plants and things like that. So I think that's probably fine. Johnny Chapman Appleseed. This guy, he's a bastard. Never trust Johnny Appleseed, Steve, I'm telling you. I don't know. So this guy was walking around, he's dropping seeds he's trying to-

E: Here we go. We'll get 10,000 corrections probably on that next week.

J: He's spitting them out as he's eating them. And then mixes a couple of these plants together. Next thing you know, you got Fuji apples, right? Is that what we're saying? Steve? Hello?

S: Yeah. Self explain.

E: He hears everything you're saying.

J: I don't remember. I remember reading about this guy when I was young. I don't remember what he did. I'm pretty sure he's real. Let's start with that. But I don't know if he had anything to do with the hybridization of apples. So I'm going to put that one on hold. The third one, even though the US is the second most apple producing country in the world after China, only crab apples are native to North America. Damn. Crab apples in America, in the Americas. I mean, it makes sense. It makes sense that but then you got to talk about Native Americans and what were they doing? If they were going to be messing around with any fruits, it was probably apples. Damn you, Steve. This is a tough one. I'm going to say that the Johnny Appleseed one is the fiction.

S: Okay, Cara.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: I didn't even know Johnny Appleseed was a real person. I thought he was, that was a nursery rhyme or something.

E: Like Peter Cottontail.

C: That's so terrible. He doesn't sound real. But clearly that's not his real name. His real name was John Chapman. People called him Johnny Appleseed probably because he did something with apple seeds. So that sounds, again, cromulent. There's a lot of cromulants in this episode. But did he hybridize different cultivars? And is his basic process still used today to produce trees from seeds? I don't know. When you say, Steve, and you probably can't answer this because I'm going fourth, but when you say evolutionarily, apples have been around for about 12 million years, do you mean apple? You don't mean apples as we know them today, I'm assuming. You mean some lineage.

S: Not the species, not the specific varieties that we know today, but they were apples. They were called that. You know what I mean?

C: There was something different enough about them to make them apple-y.

S: They were technically apples.

C: Okay. All right. So that could be the case, but it could also be that something that was the predecessor of the apple is that old. And oldest archaeological evidence is super, super old. That would make sense if they're naturally occurring. And of course, finding archaeological evidence of something that does not preserve very well is probably really hard to do. So yeah, there could be something to that. And then are crab apples apples?

J: Yeah, they're apples.

C: Oh, okay.

E: They're not crabs.

C: So I buy it. I buy that crab apples are native, but regular apples aren't native to North America. There's a lot of things that we think of as being quintessentially American. American as apple pie that we imported from somewhere else. So I don't know, I feel the Johnny Appleseed one has the most myth associated with it. Also, I didn't know he was real until right now, so I'm going to say that's the fiction.

S: Okay, Bob.

Bob's Response[edit]

B: I mean, nothing would surprise me here. I want Johnny Appleseed to be true, so I'm going to say it's fiction, so I'll be happy either way.

S: That's it? All right.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: Okay, I'll get to the core of it here and say that, yeah, I think the Johnny Appleseed one, something's wrong there. Obviously, John Chapman was a person, but did he really hybridize apple cultivars? I don't even know. Really? I don't know that part of the legend of him, not that I know much about it, but I don't know. That doesn't sound right. I mean, Cara said that that has, I think, the most wiggle room in it for it to be fiction, so I'll say that's fiction.

S: Okay, so you all agree with the third one, so we'll start there.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: Even though the US is the second to most apple producing country in the world after China, only crab apples are native to North America. Edible apples were imported from Europe in the late 16th century. You guys all think this one is science, so were apples in the Americas prior to the 16th century? And this one is science. This is science. Yeah, so recent introduction to North America, but yeah, we only had, only crab apples are native to North America. What do you think is the most popular variety of apple in the world?

E: In the world? The green apple?

S: Green is a three. Granny Smith is three.

C: Okay. Number three. Oh, not a red delicious.

S: Two.

E: And number one...

C: What's it called? Fiji? Fuji?

E: It's called the...

S: Fuji's four.

C: Fuji's four, okay.

E: Is it the Macintosh 2C?

B: Crab apples.

J: Steve, is it the Honeycrisp?

S: That's five.

C: Oh, is it red or is it green?

S: You guys would be doing good if you were on a Family Feud or something.

S: Yeah, seriously.

E: Good answer. Good answer.

C: But then the other team would steal it with the very first one.

S: They would. They would steal it and they would say...

E: Oh, there's Macintosh. There's Fuji. There's Pinkly.

C: We didn't say Macintosh yet.

S: Macintosh is six.

C: No.

S: The Gala apple. The Gala.

C: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

J: Those are good.

C: Those are yummy.

E: Is it Gala or Gala?

S: I don't know.

C: I don't know. Those are sweet and sour.

B: That's number one.

S: Of those, my favorite is Honeycrisp.

E: Honeycrisp tends to be the-

S: There's a local apple orchard that does the pick your own thing. My favorite one to eat off the tree is the Goldencrisp. It's basically a yellow apple, a golden apple that they hybrid with the Honeycrisp. It is amazing.

J: Steve, when you eat that golden apple, does it heal up your hit points?

S: It does. Totally. Gives you a morale bonus. All right. Let's go back to number one.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: Evolutionarily, apples have been around for about 12 million years, but the oldest archeological evidence of apples being used as food goes back to 3160 BCE. Ajia, you think this one is the fiction. All the rogues think this one is the science. So did Ajia beat the rogues?

B: This might be the fiction.

S: This one is... This is science. Sorry, Ajia.

B: 12 million? That's a long time.

S: 12 million is a long time, and they were just wild apples, and there are wild apples still in the world. I mean, you could just go and, you can eat them. They're actually edible wild apples, but the apple was-

B: Does it fall far from the tree?

S: -very easy to cultivate.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: Which means that John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed, promoted the process of hybridizing apple cultivars, and his basic process is still used today to produce most commercial apple trees from seeds. So John Chapman was a real person, Cara, who was colloquially called Johnny Appleseed because he did promote a process of hybridizing apple cultivars from seeds, right? So he was all about producing apple seeds. The problem is his process did not work, and we don't use it today for a very good scientific reason. And the reason, does anybody know this reason?

E: It has to be a genetic reason.

S: Yeah, it is a genetic reason.

E: Good.

S: Do any of you grow apple trees in your backyard?

E: I do not.

J: No.

C: No.

S: I do, and one of the things you learn when you plant apple trees is that if you want your apple trees to actually produce apples-

J: You need something to pollinate them.

S: You need another kind of apple tree to pollinate them.

B: What?

S: You need different cultivars that are complementary. I mean, they'll still produce apples, they just won't be big or good, or a lot of them.

B: What the hell, man?

S: Because apples are extreme heterozygotes. They're extreme heterozygotes. What that means is that when you produce an apple from a seed, it does not produce the same cultivar that you got the seed from.

C: Gotcha. So it's got all this recessive stuff popping out. That's cool.

S: Yeah, yeah. So you cannot produce a stable cultivar from seeds.

J: That sucks.

AM: Clone it?

S: You have to clone it. So if you buy an apple tree, those are graftings. They take the honeycrisp apple tree, and then you have to just take clippings from that and graft it onto rootstock, and then you sell those trees to orchards or people who want to plant them.

C: By the way, isn't that faster and cheaper anyway than growing from seed?

S: Well, there are other advantages. The other things you do is you graft them onto dwarf trees so that you don't have to climb up these 30-, 40-, 50-foot trees to pick your apples.

C: Oh, nice.

B: Holy crap.

S: So you put them on dwarf trees. You put them on trees that are going to be really productive. So yeah, absolutely, it's a better technique for those reasons as well. But also, if you want a specific cultivar, it's your only option. You cannot get a reliable result from a seed. It doesn't work. Johnny Appleseed totally failed.

C: So why was he so, is it just because we didn't know all this other stuff?

S: He became a folk hero. He really was pushing this. Even at the time, even at his time, we knew this, but he was promoting, no, we need to be planting apples from seeds, and he really tried to sell it, and he went out west and planted seeds everywhere, and he set up an institute to promote the whole idea of growing apples from seeds, and it didn't work. He never got it to work.

C: That's hilarious.

E: And he never abandoned it?

S: No, I guess not.

E: He was a con artist then.

C: Or he had a lot of motivated reasoning.

E: Yeah, a ton of it.

S: I don't know.

E: It's going to work, damn it.

S: Yeah, a late-life conversion or whatever, but from what I was reading, it's nope, he really pushed the whole apples from seeds thing, and it didn't work. It never worked.

J: That bastard.

S: And we don't do that because it's not a good idea.

J: You know what? Johnny Appleseed is dead to me. (laughter)

E: t would make a good T-shirt.

S: It's for the same reason that apples don't do well when they self-pollinate. If you cross-pollinate with other varieties, they do much better. And I experienced that firsthand, because I had one apple tree in my backyard. The tree is big, healthy, beautiful, and produced crap, these small few apples. Then I planted, and I read about it, and I'm oh, I've got to plant another freaking apple tree. I planted another apple tree next to it of a different variety, and I make sure I got a good match with the original, and it had a dramatic effect on my apple tree production. It had a dramatic effect. I produce hundreds of big apples now.

B: What the hell? What selective pressures would do that?

S: I don't know that it was a selective pressure. First of all, it doesn't really matter to the apple. It still works for the apple. Animals will still eat it and spread the seeds.

B: But fewer apples means fewer chances of spreading your seeds.

S: No, but the thing is-

E: Is it fewer or just lower quality?

S: That's an artificial thing, Bob. It's because I have this cultivar that was selected to be a clone. Now I have a tree that's producing basically clones, and that's why it doesn't work well. But a wild apple tree would already have more variation built in, so it would be fine.

C: And it would probably also be not growing alone.

S: Yeah, right.

C: A wild apple tree would be growing with other wild apple trees.

B: It doesn't matter. Johnny Appleseed doesn't give a crap if he is in a position to give anything, because no one's going to be talking about us in 150 years.

E: He's a pure seedoscientist.

B: Nice.

MA: It says here online that the only surviving tree he planted is on the farm in Richards in Phyllis, Nova, Ohio.

B: Wow. Just one.

C: Only one.

AM: Of every tree he planted.

S: Yeah. I mean, he's the guy with the pot on his head, right? I don't know why he wore a pot on his head.

C: See, this is why I thought he was just in children's books. Come on, you guys.

J: I will never look at him the same way again.

S: But yeah, but he was a serious apple scientist who just was wrong. It's okay. It's okay to be wrong. Okay.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:40:43)[edit]

Many people seem to confuse cynicism with skepticism, and believe that critical thinking results in a negative attitude about life. However, this opinion rests on a number of mistaken assumptions about the nature of skepticism. Skeptics must correct these misconceptions if they hope for the wider application of critical thinking.
Phil Molé, American skeptic

S: Evan, give us a quote.

E: "Many people seem to confuse cynicism with skepticism and believe that critical thinking results in a negative attitude about life. However, this opinion rests on a number of mistaken assumptions about the nature of skepticism. Skeptics must correct these misconceptions if they hope for the wider application of critical thinking." That was written by Phil Mole, who is a columnist at Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, among other skeptical magazines out there. This is back from 2002, 20 years old. 20 years ago.

S: I mean, he's correct, but it's one thing to say, yeah, we should do this. We should correct that misconception. Here we are 20 years later. I don't know that we figured out a way to do that.

E: It's easier said than done.

S: Yeah, somebody should do that. Yeah, it's easier said than done. And actually, it's arguably worse because since then, the deniers have hijacked the word skeptic in a very negative way. So it's still, unfortunately, a brand with a lot of baggage. But it's ours. Damn it.

E: Yeah. And we'll keep working at it forever.

S: Or we'll switch over to something else like the brights. That will work out.

B: Oh, god.

J: I thought we said we'd never mention that again.

E: Have we fully told that story? Have we?

S: Yeah. It's a symptom of the same problem. That's why they were trying to come up with a different term because we need a term that doesn't have the baggage. And we'll come up with one that has different, worse baggage.

E: Oh, gosh.

B: It's pretentious and annoying.

S: Ajia, thanks for joining us again.

B: Yeah.

S: It was a lot of fun to have you on the show.

E: Thank you, Ajia.

AM: Thanks for having me.

S: And thank you all for joining me this week.

E: Thanks, Dr.

J: Well, thank you, Steve.

B: All righty, then.

Signoff (1:42:06)[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 Send your questions to And, if you would like to support the show and all the work that we do, go to and consider becoming a patron and becoming part of the SGU community. Our listeners and supporters are what make SGU possible.


Today I Learned[edit]

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[10]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description




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