SGU Episode 938

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SGU Episode 938
July 1st 2023
938 CHAPEA habitat.jpg

The CHAPEA mission will see the participants live and work in a 158m2

habitat at the Johnson Space Center.[1]

SGU 937                      SGU 939

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

I hold my theories on the tips of my fingers, so that the merest breath of fact will blow them away.

attributed to Michael Faraday, English scientist

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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, June 29th, 2023, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening everyone.

S: Bob is off tonight. He had some last minute thingy, like he emails us on Mondays, like, oh, could we change the day this week? I said, no, you can't change the freaking day this week. Three days, he knows the rules. Something came up last minute and we couldn't make another day work, so Bob's out. But he'll obviously be back next week. And it's ironically, he's out the week that the biggest astronomy news probably of the year broke.

E: It's only been everywhere.

S: To the point where I think he thinks we're going to wait for next week before we talk about it.

C: Yeah, right.

Titan submersible update[edit]

S: He thinks incorrectly that we're going to wait for him. I mean, I'm going to have to talk about it. I'll cover it, like, basically tonight, and we may go into more detail next week depending on it'll be good to have like a week of the science community meat grinder before we get into that. But anyway, we'll get to that with the news items. We did want to follow up on the reporting that we did last week on the Titan submersible disaster. That news story was really just breaking when we were recording last week.

E: Yeah, it's still developing.

S: Yeah, we wanted to do some follow up. It's pretty clear at this point in time that there was a catastrophic implosion. It happened about an hour and 45 minutes into the descent. It's also pretty clear that the primary reason for this catastrophic failure of the submersible was the poor design of the submersible itself. There's been a lot of criticism of the whole process. I think the big thing is we talked about the fact that this sort of fell between the regulatory slots there, Canadianship and American company International Waters, nobody really had jurisdiction. The company decided, it was their own design of the vessel, and they decided not to be independently certified for the depth that they were going to. They made that decision, and they were using a new design. It's not like they were using a proven design. The big thing was the carbon fiber shell. It was titanium and carbon fiber. Most other submersibles, from what I've been able to find, are pure titanium. Bigger submarines can be like steel, but titanium is better, especially for something small like this. It was an experimental design, and a lot of engineers are saying that, yeah, this is not a great material. The carbon fiber doesn't stress well. This was its third crude descent, and there were some test descents as well, so the stress of the pressure and depressurize must have just put a crack in there, and then that was it.

E: You can't have any failures at that.

S: No, it was the smallest crack, and this was like popping a balloon, but in reverse. This is what will happen.

J: How could they not know that, though?

E: That's a good question.

S: A lot of people say it was basically just arrogance. This guy wanted to be...

C: Hubris.

S: Yeah. Yeah, the SpaceX of the ocean. It's like, yeah, SpaceX has NASA looking over their shoulder and certifying their vessels for crude flight, and you didn't do that. You didn't do what SpaceX did in terms of once you put people in these vessels, and again, that was sort of a voluntary choice. He wanted to mass-produced, streamlined, cost-effective, going down into the deep ocean. It's like, yeah, this industry has been around for decades and with a great safety record by following the rules.

E: Right. Certainly, there were some standards at the other companies and other related industries that follow these rules, whether they're the US standards, the European standards. There are standards. It sounds like this person deliberately skirted any set of standards in order to achieve what he felt he wanted to achieve.

S: Didn't get the independent certification. I think that's the bottom line. They're recovering a lot of the wreckage. Some of the reporting was saying that they have possible human remains, which suggests to me that it's hard to identify what they're pulling out, probably because there's biological material in the wreckage itself, which is gruesome. One of the questions that came up was, what would they have experienced, the people on board that ship? The implosion and death would have occurred faster than their brains could have processed the information. It would have been in milliseconds.

C: The question is, was there any indication in advance that it was going to happen, and how scary would that have been?

S: Probably not, because again, the moment you have a crack in the seam, it implodes. It's not like it would be leaking or whatever. It would have just been instant implosion.

E: Like the end of The Sopranos, Tony sitting there, and cut to black the end. That's it.

S: Exactly. Bullet to the back of the head. Yeah, there would be no time to process what was going on. It just would have happened.

'E: I've never seen The Sopranos, by the way. I just know the end.

S: Are you kidding me?

E: No, I'm not kidding you.

C: I didn't see The Sopranos either.

S: Oh, please. It's a great series. It's a great... Cara you would love it. It's all about doing... The premise is you have a mob boss who has panic disorder and has to go to a counselor to be treated for his panic disorder and anxiety, and the guy's a mobster. You would love it. Anyway.

C: That's very... The Departed, in a way.

'S: Yeah, yeah.

C: Which I also... I did love The Departed.

Media's misguided attention[edit]

S: We have to bring up the fact, because this has been reported, that the disconnect between the way the Titan tragedy was reported and the way the other nautical disaster was reported that was happening basically at the same time, where hundreds of migrants died on an overcrowded fishing vessel.

C: In the Mediterranean.

S: In the Mediterranean. Yeah. Very sad, very tragic. And it is...

C: Horrible.

S: Yeah, it's horrible. It is an interesting, I think, commentary on the priorities that the media has. What's the stories that get their attention?

C: Well, and not just the media. I think there's two different conversations that are both worthy of having. Obviously, we're not going to have the time or the background to have them on the show. But one of them is, why did we pay so much attention to the submersible? And why did we... Most people didn't even know about this tragedy off the coast of Greece. When we were covering the submersible, I didn't know this story existed yet.

S: Yeah. I only heard it incidentally mentioned in the reporting on the Titan.

C: Right. The question is, number one, where are our priorities with regard to the media coverage? But also, as a human species, where are our priorities with regards to how we spend our money and whose lives we want to save? And I think that's a whole other conversation that is deeply necessary because we put a lot of effort, a lot of energy, and let's face it, a lot of taxpayer dollars into saving or into attempting to save the lives of people who we didn't know where they were, who eschewed all sorts of regulatory... We talked about all of this. Now, it's a tragedy that they died. They did not deserve to die. And it's absolutely heartbreaking that they died. And it is also true that there was a boat full of people who were fighting for their lives and we knew exactly where they were, and they were allowed to die a tragic death.

E: And that took place off the coast of Greece.

C: Greece.

E: I mean, the Greek authorities, I guess, were limited into what they could do, I suppose.

C: What does that mean?

E: Well, their Coast Guard. I mean, weren't they... They would be the ones who would be able to get there first to help as many of these people as possible.

C: They could get there.

S: Yeah. I mean, obviously...

C: They could get there.

S: It's two different countries. I mean, the American Coast Guard will rescue anyone who needs rescuing if you're within a thousand miles of an American coastline. That's their policy and that's what they do. I don't know what the Greek policy is and how that decision-making happened.

C: But there's a difference between could they follow policy or, yeah, what kind of decisions were made. There's a difference between what's possible and what choices were made.

E: Right.

S: Definitely.

E: I'm trying to read about it. I'm not seeing much really about the response itself to this and what was exactly happening with the authorities or anyone else who could have possibly made a difference in helping save some lives here.

C: I mean, what we do know is that it was well established where this boat was and it was well established that the people on it were in danger. And we have to remember that the situations that underlie these kinds of human rights tragedies are only going to accelerate and will be more and more refugees because there will be more and more geopolitical conflict because what is happening to the planet right now is untenable and there will be more and more people who need to find safe harbor.

Worsening geopolitical tragedies[edit]

S: That's true. This is going to get worse. It's not going to get better. We need to have a conversation about the and this is this really is a global problem.

C: It is.

S: It's like an international problem that requires international solutions.This can't be in every country for itself kind of thing.

C: It can't be.

S: It's going to get worse.

C: Massive similarities between that and the unhoused crisis that we see here where very often we love to say it's somebody else's responsibility and then we actually criminalize existence. And do we want to live in a society where these people are treated like criminals for trying to exist and trying to survive or do we want to live in a society where we help people thrive?

S: Yeah, it's also a cost effective and deficiency thing. Like even if you're going to be cynical, it's not cost effective to allow people to exist in situations like that because they end up costing the system more money because they use emergency rooms and police resources and jail resources or whatever. And in the United States, unfortunately, that's what happens to a lot of people who are experiencing homelessness where they, even like in New Haven where I practice, we see a lot of this. There are people who are like, no, we know that they're in the system where─

C: They're frequent flyers.

S: Yeah, I sis't want to use that term, but the frequent flyers, they're out on the street until they get arrested. Then they go to prison and then until they can't be held anymore, then they go to a hospital until they get discharged and they're back on the street. And that's the cycle. And it just keeps going around. And it happened because Congress decided this is I forget exactly how far back this goes. I think it's like the 80s. They said, what we're going to do is we're going to deinstitutionalize people and give them like halfway homes. And then they did the first half and they didn't fund the second half. So we deinstitutionalized a lot of people and then gave them no place to go. And so they wound up on the streets. And here we are 40 years later. And the same thing is happening like that problem has never been fixed because it's money upfront versus money at the back end.

C: And the funny thing is that takes us back full circle to the submersible because what happens when there are no safety nets in place and when the regulatory bodies aren't there and when individuals aren't working when there's not a system there to support and individuals don't feel empowered to work within the system. Obviously, this is a different situation in that the rogue nature was to eschew any sort of outside help. But ultimately, it's the same thing that happens financially.

S: It costs as more in the back end.

C: There's only so much money. Yeah, there's only so much money in a system and that money is going to go someplace.

S: But I do think I do want to make just to emphasize it, it makes sense on every level. Yes, it's a humanitarian thing to do. It's also the cost effective thing to do. You're always better preventing problems, even if it costs you money upfront, than paying at the back end. Even with medicine.

C: Ounce of prevention, pound of cure.

S: Totally. Preventive care is cheaper than treating people in the emergency room.

E: Heck, yeah.

C: Yeah, it's cheaper to make preventive care free. That's why they're dentists. That's why when you buy dental insurance, you have prophylaxis that's just covered.

S: Yeah, they want you to be healthy.

C: They're willing to fund it. Yeah.

S: Right. That's why my insurance company was happy to pay for a new roof, because they know that a roof problem will lead to 10 times the damage down the road. So the insurance companies know what they're doing in many contexts. They know that sometimes you just pay for things upfront, it's cheaper in the long run. OK, let's move on. Cara, you're going to start us off with a what's the word?

What's the Word? (12:42)[edit]

C: I am. And I want to thank listener Richard Spalding for sending in this word. Richard Spalding, the Latinist. So I don't want to screw this up here. It's like if you ever have questions about Latin or Greek etymology, I'm happy to help. I'm sure that every time he listens to what the what's the word, he cringes at my terrible attempts at pronouncing things or the times when I mix up the the roots. But so he recommended the word decussate. This word I've had to look up the pronunciation like five hundred times and I still feel like I'm getting it wrong.

S: No, it's a decussate.

C: Decussate. Yeah, but there are apparently lots of people say it different ways.

E: Decussate.

C: Yeah, like some people say, decussate.

S: Decussate?

C: Yeah. And also, we very often see decussate written as a verb, but it's also an adjective. And I do think if we're saying it as an adjective, I would be inclined because I think that this is just how language nets out to say it's a decussate pair, but that they are decussating or they have I don't know.

S: And decussation, they have decussation.

C: And decussation. Yeah. So let's talk about decussate, D-E-C-U-S-S-A-T-E. Not to be confused with desiccate, totally different word, totally different root. Right. Like those little packets that you get when you buy things.

E: Well, thank goodness they sound so similar.

C: I know. Right. But no, we're talking about decussate, which you you may or may not have heard before because it has a very specific definition. And really, it's a pretty straightforward definition when you look at the etymology. It's X-shaped. It's something that crosses in that specific X pattern. And we see it across the board. We see it in biology, in zoology, in botany. We even see it sometimes used in rhetoric.

S: Cara, do you know the decussation of the pyramids?

C: The pyramids like in Egypt?

S: Nope.

C: Oh, in the brain!

S: In the brain. That's why I know this word.

E: The brain doesn't have pyramids.

C: Right. And that was that was something I'm going to get a little bit like inside baseball with you in a second, Steve. I'm actually kind of excited to get a little bit wonky with you in a second. But before I do, let's look at the roots. So it comes from the Latin decusatus, which comes from decusare, which ultimately was like to cross, right, to divide, cross, rise, to cross. It actually apparently came from an earlier route, which had to do with a with a coin. That coin, I guess the Roman numeral X was because that was the the worth of the coin. Roman numeral X is the actual root here. So this is a Latin word. And so when you see this used in biology, botany, across different scientific terms, you'll see the word decacet, which comes from the Latin, which comes from decim, which is ten. So to cross is to make like a ten symbol. But interestingly, Steve, what is the analog? Do you know in Greek in the brain? Think about the optic nerves.

S: Well, the optic chiasm.

C: The chiasm, which comes from chi, which is the Greek letter X. So I was like, this is cool. I'm seeing some parallels. And then I looked it up. I was like, why do why are some things decasations and some things are chiasm? And I read that chiasm refers to crossings within the peripheral nervous system. And decussation refers to crossings within the central nervous system. But that's why I'm freaking out about the optic nerves, because they're they're like those weird things that are kind of both.

S: Yeah, they're they're well, they're they're they're cranial nerves.

C: They're cranial nerves, but they're definitely still central nervous tissue.

S: Yeah, yeah. So they're they're anatomically peripheral. And developmentally central.

C: That's a good way to put it. And so they have fallen into the peripheral categorization hen it comes to chiasm versus decussation.

S: Now, the decussation of the pyramids, I know people are just dying to hear what these are. So it's the cortical spinal tract, right? So it's the nerve fibers that go from the motor cortex down into the spinal cord to connect to your ultimately to your muscles. And they go down basically what we call ipsilateral on the same side of the brain. And then they cross in the medulla. And that's the decussation. And these are the pyramidal tracts, because that's the pyramidal motor cells in the cortex. So it's the decussation of the pyramids.

C: And do they sometimes call it the medullary? No, they don't.

E: Why is the term pyramid used?

S: Vecause the because the motor neurons that they come from are pyramidal shaped. So they are the pyramidal cells. And this is the pyramidal tract.

E: Parameter shaped, huh?

C: Yeah. Yeah. And then you also see so we've got decussation of pyramids, which is a common one. We've got sensory decussation. We've also got like sometimes, OK, I think I saw somewhere that basil is a good example of a decussate leaf pattern, because when you look at a leaf from above and each subsequent pair, like rotates at right angles, that's a decussate leaf pattern. Even in apparently in tooth in animal, there are bundles of rods that cross each other and they make the same pattern. And then you even see it sometimes in there's like a species of insect called Dysdercus decussatus. And it's got an X on its back. So, yeah, you see it. You see this term a lot, but I thought the part. And thank you so much for bringing it to our attention, Richard. But I thought what was so fascinating was the relationship to me between the Latin decasation and the Greek chiasm. And how we see that used in in neuroanatomy, but also across different scientific disciplines.

S: Yeah, that's a good one.

C: Cool.

S: All right. Thanks, Cara.

News Items[edit]

Ripples in Spacetime (18:51)[edit]

S: OK, here's the big science news story of the week. I always like it when they announce that there's going to be an announcement.

C: I love, right, they love doing that.

S: But it definitely, definitely creates. I know it creates a buzz.

C: But they need that sometimes in science because I'm afraid if they didn't do it and they announced this, even though we know it's amazing, people might be like, so?

E: What happened? Right. Yeah, I blinked.

S: I have learned to moderate my expectations though. You get the pre-announcement announcement because you always think it's something earth shattering, and it never is. This is this is cool. This is absolutely─

C: It's very cool.

S: ─very cool science. Not sure it was worth the pre-announcement announcement. But anyway, here it is. It's a gravitational wave discovery. Now, we've talked about gravitational waves in the past, mainly LIGO. You guys remember LIGO, right? That Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. So this uses two powerful lasers at right angles to each other. And they make an interference pattern when they decussate in at the cross there. And then that is extremely sensitive to very, very, very tiny changes in the lasers. So even gravitational waves distorting the space time continuum, as it moves across these lasers can create a signal, at the interference pattern. LIGO is designed to detect high frequency gravitational waves, the kind that are made when some combination of black holes and neutron stars collide with each other. So two black holes, black hole, a neutron star, two neutron stars, whatever. To do these stellar mass black hole neutron star things collide. That's a massive gravitational event that sends kind of this pulse of gravitational waves throughout the universe. And at some at some point, they cross over LIGO. Now, that has nothing to do with the announcement where that they were about to make. This is a new type of gravitational wave detector, one that detects very low frequency, ultra low frequency gravitational waves. And to measure these waves, they use pulsars. You guys remember what pulsars are? That's a rotating neutron star that that's putting out an X ray, a radio frequency beam that is facing us enough that we can detect it. So you have this like people always liken it to a lighthouse, like this rotating beam of light, except neutron stars rotate hundreds of times a second. So you get these millisecond intervals of pulses and they're extremely regular. It is like an atomic clock in terms of its precision and regularity, as you might imagine. A neutron star rotating would be an extremely regular and precise motion. So the idea is if we have a high resolution radio telescope focused on a pulsar and we record that interval, the interval of the the rotating pulsar for years, literally for years, that we could detect these fluctuations in the frequency of the rotation caused by these ultra low frequency gravitational waves. And the reason you have to observe it for years is because there's a lot of noise out there and you've got to make sure that you're detecting you're pulling a signal from that noise. They want to verify that they're actually detecting fluctuations. And so what the the announcement is that international groups of astronomers simultaneously published five papers. They basically all agreed no one's going to scoop each other. We're just going to all publish at the same time.

E: That was nice.

S: It was nice. But they gathered data for 15 years. This is a 15 year investigation before they were like, OK.

C: that's why they made an announcement for the announcement.

S: Yeah, I get that. They were really excited.

E: Right. Yeah, you can't screw this up.

C: Man, we've been a long time on this.

S: Absolutely.

E: Make sure you get people's attention.

S: So what did they see? What did they discover by looking at pulsar fluctuations over 15 years that they found that there are gravitational waves, these ultra low frequency gravitational waves constantly roiling the background of the universe. Some people have likened this to like the background microwave radiation, but with gravitational waves. So there's this constant background gravitational wave like the again, another metaphor that a lot of people are using is like the surface of the oceans, it's not like glass.

E: It's always moving.

S: It's always. Yeah. There's always waves and movement and everything. And we're just bobbing along on the surface of these gravitational waves. So they detected them. They're there. They're pretty much constant. They're coming from every direction. So there's not like this one source. There's like all over the universe. So the next question is what's causing them? And this does these experiments were not designed to answer that question just to detect them. But they do have a primary candidate. And the gravitational waves do fit the theoretical characteristics that they would expect if this were the source. So it's looking pretty good. But this is still just a hypothesis. If you guys haven't read it, does anybody want to guess what it might be?

E: And we're saying it's not the supernova is colliding with.

S: It's not a collision.

C: It's not black holes colliding with each other.

E: Right.

S: Not colliding with each other.

C: Oh, rotating around each other?

E: Yeah, right. Their interaction is pushing.

S: It's not just black holes.

C: Like binary black holes?

S: Supermassive black holes.

C: OK.

S: Revolving about each other.

C: Cool. Yeah, that makes sense.

E: It's like a machine churning.

S: Exactly. And this happens when galaxies collide. So if you have two galaxies, each with their own supermassive black hole at the center and they collide with each other. But the black holes, unless it's a direct hit chances are they're going to like zip around each other. And then so they'll be orbiting around each other very, very quickly for millions of years. And the orbit will slowly decay. At some point, their orbital frequency is at just the right frequency that it will create gravitational waves in the right frequency to be detected by this observatory, which I didn't say the name of, by the way. It's the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves, or NANOGrav. So NANOGrav could detect waves when they're in the right frequency. And because you have these supermassive black holes orbiting each other and the orbits slowly decay, they go through a continuum of frequencies. At some point in their history, they're going to be generating gravitational waves at the frequency that the NANOGrav can detect. Now, this is a rare event, but the universe is a really big place. And so it's happening somewhere pretty much all the time.

E: All the time. Yeah.

S: So at any given time, there are gravitational waves from this type of event washing over the Earth. And that's what they were detecting, this constant from every direction around the universe, this churning gravitational waves, with these billion solar mass super black holes, supermassive black holes orbiting each other and just ripping apart the fabric of space time, basically, with their with their immense gravity and energy and motion.

C: Those visualizations that they're releasing, that you can see, like the kind of animated things, is that supposed to be a simulation of what's happening or is that supposed to be a mapping of what we can see in our visible universe?

S: I think that's all just like a simulation just to show you.

C: Oh, OK. So I didn't know if this was kind of like the cosmic microwave background and that we now have an understanding of how the whole universe is like swirling gravitationally.

S: Yeah, I mean, I don't think so. I think it's this is really like the first big proof of concept. NANOGrav works. There are these ultra low frequency gravitational waves all over the place, pretty much all the time. Again, the supermassive black holes is probably where they're coming from. And this is the first round of this new window on the universe. And just the gravitational wave astronomy itself is. So this is just now a new version of gravitational astronomy with the different frequency range. And so now is all kinds of questions they can ask about the structure of the universe. And who knows what they will be now leverage this technology as a new way of observing the universe and we'll see what they can come up with.

C: That's really cool.

E: How can we harness it for human empowerment that's the main question here.

S: But I just think about what it is that they're doing. They're detecting these tiny little fluctuations literally in the fabric of reality of space time itself because of these just unbelievably gravitationally massive events that happen on a regular basis somewhere in the universe.

E: Neat.

S: Very neat, very cool. All right.

Mars Simulation (28:23)[edit]

S: Jay tell us about this Mars simulation project.

J: Yeah, well, NASA has been doing a lot of projects to prepare for both the upcoming moon missions which we talk about a lot and the eventual crewed missions to Mars that are getting closer now. It's like not really that far away anymore. One of the many concerns is the mental and physical well-being of the astronauts who end up going on these missions. It's a hard thing to do. They're put under a lot of pressure. They have to, they're going to be in a small living space. They're not going to be exposed to sunlight. It's just a very difficult thing for them to do. And we need to learn as much about what they're going to go through as possible, particularly missions to Mars, because it takes seven months to get there. So you're traveling in a spaceship for seven months. It's incredibly long time for humans to be in a spaceship. Now, we already have tons of data from the International Space Station on humans living in space for extended periods of time. But the difference here is that the space station has much more interior space. It's right next to Earth. A Mars ship is going to be smaller. It's going to be a very different experience. Much more much more difficult experience to deal with than being on the space station. And another puzzle is what will it be like for astronauts to actually live on a base on the Martian surface? What is that whole thing going to be like? NASA is already talking about what a Martian base would actually be. I don't know if you've seen any of the design drawings that they've been coming up with. They are putting a lot of time into thinking about, how are these bases going to be constructed? When will they be constructed? As an idea, like, will they be 3D printed before anybody goes to Mars? They don't know yet. It's a lot of a lot of questions that need answers. NASA and other organizations, they have currently conducting tests on people living in simulated Mars habitats. Recently, NASA kicked off another of these Mars station simulations, but this one is significant because it's going to last an entire year. Usually these tests don't last anywhere near as long as this. So this mission is called CHAPEA, which stands for Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog. So there are four volunteers. They've already been selected. And in fact, they've already begun this year long journey, working and living in a hundred and fifty eight square meter or seventeen hundred square foot habitat at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This mission started on six twenty five, which as we record, this was just a few days ago. The goal of the of this test is to collect data on astronauts ability to handle the isolation and many other potential psychological stress factors that will likely come with living on the Martian surface.

S: I give them a week.

J: Right?

E: Right. Biodome meets Mars.

J: It's a hell of a thing because they are very far away from Earth. Farther, farther away than any other base, of course, has ever existed. You can't just get in a ship and come back to Earth in a few days. You are months and months and months away. Yeah, you are committed.

E: Are they doing things like simulating the time difference for transmission and communication and that kind of stuff with the outside world that whatever the delay is?

J: In this experiment, they are not changing the Martian day to, they're going to keep them on an Earth schedule.

E: OK.

S: A Martian day is like twenty five hours. It's almost the same.

J: Yeah, it's almost the same.

E: It's almost almost the same. But doesn't a message take─

S: Yeah, there's a communication delay.

J: But they are doing they are simulating the communication delay.

E: Yeah, I would think so.

J: It's critical because let me as you I tell you more about what they're going to do. You'll see why. They don't want to instantly be able to communicate with the people running these tests. So the simulation is really immersive because they not only built the 3D printed base, but they also created an exterior space that simulates being on the Martian surface outside. They even have simulated Martian regolith. So the only thing that will really describe this is if you look up a picture of it. But to try to briefly give you an explanation of what it looks like when you leave the actual building that they 3D printed, which it's supposed to simulate what the base would be like on Mars. They have to go through an airlock and all that stuff, which they have something that performs like an airlock. But when you step outside, "outside", you're in this big bubble tent. And what they did was they painted the outer rim of this tent to look like a horizon on Mars. So it creates kind of an illusion that you're outside in the Martian environment. They do have sand that they colored to look like Martian soil. So they'll walk around and they'll actually be walking on soil and everything.

E: Do they suck out 90 percent of the 91 percent of the atmosphere or whatever?

J: They won't, but they will make them wear simulated gear and everything. Now, another thing that they have outside is they have treadmills outside that will simulate them walking for hours to go to a certain place somewhere on the Martian surface. So if they're going out on a space walk or whatever you want to call it, they get on the treadmill and they're like, all right, you got to walk on the treadmill now for three hours to simulate the fact that you walked far away from the base.

C: Oh, my God, what a depressing experiment.

J: Right. I know.

C: They don't get any of the glory. You know what I mean? They just walk on a treadmill for three hours.

J: The crew. This crew includes a commander, a flight engineer, a medical officer and a science officer. Sounds very Star Trek.

E: Spock. Yeah.

J: They'll do a large number of activities to perform science experiments. They're going to be taking care of the habitat that they're living in. They're going to be growing crops for food that they will actually be eating and relying on. They'll be going out, like I said, exploring the Martian terrain and they'll have to deal with limited resources, including food, water and air. Now, this is where it gets interesting, because they will be deliberately having systems fail and having them have to deal with the failure of those systems.

E: Sure, yeah.

C: Oh yeah, the psychological pressure of that.

J: So they might have to ration water or become creative in how they deal with their air supply because of broken machinery or whatever. This mission is the first of three that they have currently planned. The first one focusing on cognitive and physical performance data centering on crew health and and how well do they perform under pressure and everything. This mission has a simulation mission control that will communicate to the people, like I was saying before, that will be living in the simulation. Again, there's a 20 minute delay that they're going to use. I know the delay can fluctuate depending on how far the Earth is from Mars, but I─

S: By a lot.

J: ─guess it's anywhere from five to 20 minutes.

E: Sure.

J: And as an example they might send out a message for help. Hey, we're having trouble with this system. Can you please give us the schematics on how to fix it? And 20 minutes later, they get a sure we can. And then they have to go, well, can you set like every time they talk, it could be 20 minutes. It's really tricky.

E: Yes.

S: It's as much as 40 minutes round trip. It's like 20 minutes.

C: Oh, right.

J: It's crazy, right?

E: Right.

J: So they'll be simulating equipment failures and all sorts of other stuff that's going to be hard for them to handle. And they're just going to be watching them on the video cameras to see what they're doing and how they're reacting. NASA will take this information that they gather.And of course, they're going to use it to help design habitats and situations and protocols and all sorts of things that will suit the needs. And the mental and physical health needs of the astronauts that eventually do go to Mars. One thing to consider is once we send people to Mars, they're very, very, very far away from Earth. We can only send a spacecraft to Mars once every 26 months due to the orbits of both Earth and Mars. If you've ever watched the orbits of the two planets, there's an optimal time to have a spacecraft leave Earth so it can get to Mars the quickest. And that that quickest is seven months. This means that a round trip visit to Mars at its the least amount of time would almost take four full years to go there. Then you got to wait. Then you could come back. That's four years.

S: Yeah, it's no joke. Even a one year simulation is not really fully simulating a Mars mission.

E: No.

C: And also, I'm assuming that even with a one year simulation, there are limits, legal and ethical limits. And at a certain point, if somebody needs to be rescued or saved, they're not going to let it get past a certain point.

J: No way.

C: Whereas we don't have those safeguards on Mars.

E: Someone bursting an appendix, they're going to pull them out.

C: Exactly. Or they have to ration water, but then they actually are getting close to death.

S: They're not going to let them die.

C: Yeah. Exactly.

J: Now, I've seen pictures. You could look, go online and look up pictures of this whole complex that they have. It's not big.

S: It's not big. I found a walkthrough. It took me some time, not just pictures. It's pretty small. There's like a main work area. There's the bedrooms, two small bathrooms, and that's it. And then there's the outside little area that you have to go through an airlock to get to.

J: One thing occurred to me, the longest distance in their, in this simulation that they've made, like you, I think like the longest distance might be 30 feet that you can actually look away from yourself. That's close. That's very claustrophobic.

S: I think they're going to have VR up there though.

E: I hope so.

S: I think I saw that in one of the─

J: Yeah, I agree.

E: Oh my, I think that would be essential for this mission.

S: And also not just for just for psychological health, but they're going to be using it as part of their work cause they're going to have them do simulate the kind of work they would be doing if they were on Mars. They're going to have a schedule. They're going to have stuff to do.

C: Because Mars is bigger than 30 feet.

E: And they're going to, and so like you said, they're going to grow their own food or attempt to do that and stuff, but they're, but in the meantime, they'll be eating MREs and whatever else.

S: Yeah. I mean, they'll be supplementing it. They'll have their food and their water and they'll be supplementing that with whatever food they can grow. They're not going to be growing a hundred percent of their calories. But having fresh food, first of all, it's healthy. It's also psychologically very helpful. Even if it's just a supplement to your if you're eating an MRE to get 90% of your calories, but then you're eating some leafy greens just for some added nutrition.

E: And how far do vitamin supplements go in a situation like this?

S: They're very helpful.

C: But you still need calories.

E: But you still have to, yeah. No, I get that. And fiber.

S: And fiber. Right. Yeah.

J: But I bet that they'll get good Intel out of this because they are immersed in this environment. They're going to feel the stress. They're going to feel it. It's going to get scary for them and they're going to go through a lot over the next year.

E: It's going to be a long year.

S: Oh, totally. I get cabin fever. Like there's a bad storm out. We're stuck in the house for two days. I got cabin fever.

E: Two days.

S: But I guess it's different if you, I guess if you're going in knowing that this is it. I mean, you've got to be mentally prepared. Expectations obviously pay a big role, you know.

J: You know, look at COVID, right? We all got, we all had to hunker in in our homes and isolate. And basically COVID caused an epidemic of mental health issues in the United States. You could still go outside. You could still go to the store like this is so different. This is like humans have not experienced this yet.

C: But the big difference here, and we do have to remember this, is that there is a big psychological buffer in that they are choosing to do this. This is not happening to them. They're goal oriented in this behaviour. That's not to say that it's going to be fully protective, but good God, is it going to be quite protective.

E: And they've achieved sub-level of pre-screening, whatever that is, to make sure that, okay, this person has a low chance of having these kinds of psychological issues.

S: Well, they said that they're, they're basically simulated astronauts. The four people that they chose went through the same kind of screening process that an actual astronaut would go through. So they're in good physical shape and all that stuff so they've been psychologically profiled already.

C: But yeah, even beyond that obviously suffering, panic, all of these things are deeply linked to our perception of the situation. And so somebody who is choosing to do something for, whether it be personal, professional or national sort of glory or whatever their motivations are is very different than somebody where it's punitive. This is not a punishment for these people. No, we have to remember that.

E: But if a real tragedy does happen, let's I hate to think of the worst or suggest death of anything, not them─

C: No a tragedy will happen eventually.

E: No, I get that. But let's say inside this, as you're doing this simulation, one person's, close relative dies, mother, whatever. Are they going to then hit the escape button at that?

C: Exactly. I don't know. Yeah. Where's that line for them? That ethical line.

E: That is tough to think about. Oh, my gosh.

C: There are certain ethical standards like Nuremberg, standards that they have to follow. We know this. But then there are other things that are probably going to be their choice.

E: Gosh. Yeah. I wouldn't want to have to make a choice like that. Oh, gosh.

S: All right. So we'll keep an eye on this one and see how they do.

Multimillion Dollar Psychic Scam (42:04)[edit]

S: Evan, tell us about this multi-million dollar psychic scam.

E: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you have to start in 1994 with this one. This goes back ways. Cara, we're in 1994, right? You know there used to be something called snail mail?

C: Yeah, I remember that. I just got I just got a letter in the mail. It was nice.

E: Oh my god.

S: Wait, we just called it mail.

E: Right. Yes, there was no other mail to compare it to. Cara, you said you got a letter from someone?

C: Well, I got a card. I got a thank you card for my friend's wedding. It's nice though, it was hand written.

E: And let me guess they hand wrote a little message in there for you. Now, isn't that nice?

C: It is nice. I kept it. I keep every handwritten note that anybody gives me.

E: There you go. And that is actually a very pertinent point to this to this news item.

C: OK, interesting.

E: 1994 when some interesting letters began appearing in people's mailboxes. These are not just any people. They were mostly people who were elderly folks. These were handwritten letters. They contain certain personal touches and emotional triggers that, well, only a handwritten letter, let's say, can convey, especially to a generation of people who really only ever knew handwritten letters as their main form of communication between their loved ones and their friends at the time. Yes, you could make a phone call. But other than that, your people wrote letters regularly to everyone. So there's something emotional tied to that. And I think, Cara, you get a handwritten letter nowadays. It says a lot more even now, I think, than maybe it did then. Now, the letters were from people purporting to have psychic powers. The authors of these letters claim to have seen a personalized vision of the recipient, often with a personal fact about them, a sprinkle of truth, if you will, such as their date of birth or an address at a house that they had grown up in when they were a child. And in the letters, the psychics offered promises of great wealth and happiness, along with magical remedies to overcome sicknesses and ailments that especially people of this age would be experiencing. Now, all these promises you could have, it's just a modest fee. Some of the psychics would send their assistants for as little as you only had to give them five dollars. Wow, it's a deal. But some as much as forty dollars for assistance. And to some, that still may seem like a bargain. Just send your money and you receive back a psychically infused trinket, this unique supernatural object that the purchaser should keep close to them in order for their financial fortune, their mental health and their physical health to all change. Yep. In addition, some of the letters offered personal astrological services and studies, and if you give them more money, they'll give you certain astrological charts and readings and those sorts of things. So once a victim makes a payment in response to one of these letters, something began to happen. The people would then receive another handwritten letter and another. And then from another different psychic this time, and then from another person also claiming to be a psychic, all these letters would start appearing. Sometimes dozens, dozens of different letters from all these places, all coming to that person. So five dollars here, twenty dollars there, forty dollars there. It results in some cases of individuals spending thousands, tens of thousands of dollars to scores of psychics over the course of not just a few years, but decades, two decades in fact. This started in 1994 and it continued into 2014 until authorities were finally able to put a stop to this crime and start making some arrests. So this is this week's news item. Meet Patrice Runner, a 57 year old Canadian and French citizen who was convicted by a jury in New York for perpetrating a decades long mass mailing fraud scheme that stole and they're calling this theft. He stole more than one hundred seventy five million dollars from victims apparently just in the United States. And that's considered the in a way official number. But on Wikipedia, there are references that showed the scam claimed more than two probably more than netted two hundred million dollars.

J: Wow.

E: Yep. And no matter pretty much how you choose to look at it, this scam actually has earned its title of its own. It's known as the Maria Duvall scam. And this is considered the biggest scam of this kind in history. So reportedly, the number of victims that this trap ensnared over these two decades, if you want to compare it to something like the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme of their victim, this scam ensnared 60 times the number of people that Madoff did. Their estimates are one point four million victims in the United States alone, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Services. Now, it's not as, you don't necessarily compare those two scams as far as money is lost. Madoff was like 19 billion. But you can count I mean, how many hearts were broken and indignities suffered by these victims, one point four million of them. Not to mention that certainly that's this targeted group of people retired, living on fixed incomes who can some of the people who can least afford this kind of abuse, not like Wall Street people investing in something like Madoff. So I don't know that's really fair to compare the two.

C: Althugh, remember, a lot of people who lost their money to Madoff were like everyday people.

E: That's right. They were retirement funds. And yes, there were plenty of those victims as well. But this one in particular definitely, definitely attacked people who were on to the fixed incomes predominantly. And it wasn't just the U.S. It was a worldwide operation operating many countries. The U.S. Department of Justice were the ones who were able to put a stop to this thing first after two decades of this.

S: Yeah. When you use the mail system, then each one is a felony, right?

E: Yes, that's right.

S: Each individual letter becomes a felony.

C: Wow.

E: Patrice Runner sentenced. Let's see what he's got here for his counts. He has eight counts of mail fraud guilty, four counts of wire fraud guilty. Two other counts. Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Conspiracy to commit money laundering. That's 14 counts each count up to 20 years in prison. That's 280 years. And I hope he gets it all nonconsecutively. Let us hope. All right. This person needs to go away for─

S: No, consecutive Evan. Nonconcurrently is what you meant.

E: Nonconcurrently. Thank you for that correction. Appreciate that.

C: Back to back.

E: Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, the Maria Duvall scam, I don't know if people are familiar with it or that there's it's there are many, many versions of it. But the Maria Duvall character is the figurehead. Basically, that the scammers use this this Italian woman, pictures of her from like the 70s and the 80s. The figurehead sort of the psychic. Well, basically, and here's the short story on her. You could do a whole big long segment on her. She was she was a psychic. She's operating in Europe during like the 70s and 80s. But she had she gained some level of celebrity. And then these almost what? Industrial level of scammers came in, paid her to use her likeness, use her name so that they could perpetrate the scan using her images and things like that.

C: Weird. That's basically like she was like the Trump towers of her era. It's like a huge licensing deal.

E: Right.

C: Fascinating.

E: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And in the end, she herself she's suffering with, elderly age, dementia and other things, when she was questioned about this thing, they ultimately caught up to her. She through her herself and her agents basically said, look, she was scammed, too, because she never knew about this stuff. She never wrote any of the letters that was being sent around in her name. They just paid her for some permissions, but she wasn't really, fully known. Who knows how much she knew or didn't know? It's kind of all on the point at this point. But again, it's considered one of the biggest scams that has been foisted upon people.

S: It's great that he's going to jail. It's terrible that it took 20 years.

E: It's terrible. Yeah, no, absolutely. Right. Yeah. I mean, that's how non sophisticated in the same way sophisticated enough to avoid and allow to perpetuate this thing for the better part of a whole generation. And we all look, I think we all have people in our lives who are elderly and need assistance of some kind, whether it is direct relatives or friends and other people. It's important for us. We're doing what we can as far as skeptic community goes and trying to remind people psychics are not real. These things are not real. But that helps to a degree when people are so invested in this. That said, it is there is a world where you can't get them off of it. But at the same time, what you can do sort of locally is try to protect your loved ones as best as you can with the information of what you do know and try to take care of a few people that you possibly can make a difference. I have relatives. I have relatives who are older than me in my family. And I know they consult astrologers and psychics and these sorts of things. And I do my part to remind them in a very loving and caring way that these things─

S: Don't give them money.

E: ─are scams. Please do not do this with your money. It's about as best as you can do, but you have to do it all the time, especially to protect the ones you love. The Department of Justice is not looking out for your mom. Or your elderly grandfather or someone like that. You're the best. You're one of the best means of trying to protect them as best as possible.

S: Individually, yes, but they but they are trying to do their job. So if you do encounter any fraud like that, do report it. They do have hotlines especially for for elders.

E: There is. And in fact, I have the information right here. The National Elder Fraud Hotline. This is for the United States. 1833-FRAUD-11. That's 1833-372-83-11. That is the main source. And the Department of Justice recommends that if you feel like somebody 60 or older is being frauded, please contact them and see what guidance and what you can do through them.

S: All right. Thanks, Evan.

E: Yep.

Who is Most Susceptible to Misinformation (52:16)[edit]

S: All right, Cara, tell us who is the most demographically speaking, who's the most susceptible to misinformation?

C: Yeah, this is going to be such a great reveal. And, Steve, you can't spoil it. OK, I know that you read this. So before we get to that, I want to actually do a quick and dirty about the reason for this news item. So there was an article that was recently published in Behaviour Research Methods. It was actually published today as of this recording called the Misinformation Susceptibility Test or MIST, a psychometrically validated measure of news voracity discernment. So basically, the researchers were like, OK, we know misinformation online is a problem. We don't have a verified psychometrically sound measure. Like we think about psychological tests, right? Everybody. Well, I don't want to say everybody, but most of you have probably taken at least one psychological test in your life, whether you were screening for depression or anxiety, whether you were taking an IQ test, whether you were, taking a personality test. But there's a whole field called psychometrics, which is test design and development and reliability and validity. It's a complicated field. But the researchers of this study, they took it upon themselves, which is a huge undertaking to design a test in order to discriminate whether somebody is susceptible to misinformation online or how susceptible they are. So that's what the publication is. It's we develop this test. We used some really interesting psychometrics like item response theory to develop it. We came up with three different formats of the test, the MIST 20, the MIST 16 and the MIST 8. So remember, MIST stands for Misinformation Susceptibility Test. And so it's a 20 item test, a 16 item test or an eight item test. It only takes like one to two minutes to do it online. It's open access. You can log on right now and take it yourself and see how you net out.

E: Oh, I'm scared.

C: And so they were able to get a huge normative sample, right? Like over eight thousand people they normed this test on. And this the article is mostly wonky psychometric stuff. So it's how did they do the IRT, the item response theory. How did they do the factor analysis. How did they do the exploratory graph analysis. Basically, how did they determine whether this test was reliable and valid. But they also, in developing this test, gave it to people. And when they gave it to people, they started to see patterns in people's responses. And that is the part that we want to really get into, because it's fascinating. But again, just to reiterate, like this was normed on over eight thousand people. Oh, and here's another kind of interesting titbit about it. They actually used AI, they used Chat-GPT II, I think, the second version of chat GPT to develop the test items. So that's kind of cool. Like the actual headlines were AI made. So I thought that was kind of interesting tidbit. So let's look at the actual results of this. And it's on, by the way, it's on YouGov. I don't know if you guys know YouGov. I was just reading about their like mission statement and stuff. Yeah, we've talked about them before. It's pretty interesting. Like they're multinational. They're in the UK, America, Europe, Middle East, India and Asia Pacific. And they basically have like over 24 million people who come on the platform and they amass consumer data for governments, for obviously advertisers as well. Cut to the actual MIST study where a bunch of people go online and they take this MIST test. What do you think that they found? And I want to ask you guys a pretty straightforward question. And sadly, it just has to be posed to you Evan and you, Jay, because Bob's not here and because Steve already knows the answer. Do you think that older people or younger people were more likely to be susceptible to misinformation online?

E: I think it's younger people only because all of their information they get is online, whereas an older person might still have some kind of hybrid of information that they're getting from, say both online, whatever newspapers, it's still a print books and that kind of stuff.

C: See, this is why I don't do science or fiction. Good job, Ev.

E: Oh, am I right there?

C: Yeah, you're right.

E: Oh crap.

C: I almost thought that maybe our we would be biasing this question because of the news item that you literally just did. But yeah, here's something really interesting when it and I'm just reading this directly from the coverage. When it came to age, only 11% of 18 to 29 year olds got a high score on the test, which means they got more than 16 headlines correct, while 36% got a low score, so that's 10 headlines or fewer correct. The rest were in between. So by contrast, that 11% that got a high score of those 65 and older, 36% got a high score and only 9% got a low score. And so here are some other ways that they were able to look at the differences between groups. The longer people spent online for fun each day, the greater their susceptibility to misinformation. So that tracks with exactly what you were saying, Evan. 30% of those spending zero to two recreation hours online got a high score compared to only 15% of those spending nine or more hours online. Those who tend to watch or listen to legacy media did the best on the test. So people who identified Associated Press, NPR, Axios, different news outlets like that tended to have higher scores, the lowest scores were people who got their media from Snapchat, then Truth Social, then WhatsApp, then TikTok, then Instagram. Those were the top five. We also found that Democrats did outperform Republicans, 33% of Democrats achieved high scores with only 14% of Republicans. But that's only in the high score bracket because what's important to remember is that a quarter of both parties followers were in the low score bracket.

E: I see. OK. So the internet needs to come with a warning labels, basically saying.

C: So basically, and the biggest outcome was that on average, adult US citizens correctly classified two thirds of headlines that were shown as either real or fake. So they're doing better than a coin flip, which I guess is good.

E: I think it's going to get more challenging in the future. I think it will.

C: I think it will because for exactly the trends we're seeing, right? And this runs counter to what a lot of people think that like boomers are going to be more likely to be susceptible because they're not digitally savvy. Well, being digitally savvy doesn't necessarily mean that you are a skeptical consumer of news.

E: No, not at all. Plus the tools available for people to mislead others are growing more sophisticated as well with the language learning and everything.

C: The actual test items on this test, some of which were real headlines and some of which were fake headlines were invented by ChatGPT. So like by definition, they use that very, truism in their test development. And so that you'll see a lot of quotes from, from these different researchers. Of course, these are all psychologists basically saying yes, there's this fear around AI and around these, language learning models, but also we can be using these things to our advantage to help us learn. We can be using these things to help inform the public.

E: Yeah, I hope so.

C: And so I would recommend anybody who's interested to go to YouGov to take this, this online misinformation poll, see how you do. It's called MIST. Maybe share it with your friends and family. See how they do. And if you're not where you want to be, maybe we can bone up a bit on our internet skepticism.

E: You got to keep in practice.

C: And by the way, this was led at the Cambridge social decision-making lab. So these are obviously, social psychologists and psychometricians who are interested in online behaviour and decision-making. So pretty fascinating study.

S: Now, bullshit detection is now a key critical skill in our information overwhelmed society.

E: More necessary than ever.

S: Yeah, absolutely. All right.

Malaria in Florida (1:00:26)[edit]

S: One more quick news item. We're having the first reported cases of malaria contracted within the United States in 20 years. The last reported cases were in 2003. There are now a total of five cases, four in Florida, one in Texas.

C: I win.

E: Cara has pack marks on both those states.

S: Usually in the US there's a couple hundred cases every year, but they're all contracted from people who traveled outside the United States, usually to areas that have a lot of malaria unsurprisingly. Malaria has been considered eliminated from the US but we now for the first time in 20 years, we have a few cases. So a couple of things. So one quick history on the treatment of malaria in the US, this became, eliminating, at the time they were calling it eradicating, but they later changed their terminology. Eradicating is from the world. Eliminating is from a region. So the US, this is during World War II, there was a lot of malaria, and especially in the Southern States in the US and, and so they created an office to, government agency to, with the primary goal of eliminating malaria in the US. This organization became the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, based in Atlanta, because that's closer to where people were twice in Atlanta. Because that's yeah, in the South where, the swamps are and the mosquitoes and the malaria, and they were successful basically in essentially eliminating malaria from the Southern United States. Obviously it hasn't gone away completely, but enough so that it was no longer a health issue, right? It's not no major health issue. They mainly did it through mosquito control, but also educating people about proper behaviour in terms of minimizing the risk of getting bitten by mosquitoes.

C: But also, isn't there something to be said about the fact that like malaria is treatable?

S: Yeah, it's a very serious disease and it could be fatal.

C: It can, but there are a lot of diseases that can be like streptilococcus infection is also a very serious disease that can be fatal and we're very lucky that we have access to medications and it's true prevention efforts probably are the most impactful here, but if you do get malaria in the US we're lucky. We have a healthcare system that allows for us to be able to treat these things relatively readily. And part of the reason that malaria is so devastating in developing countries is simply because there's not access to the treatments.

S: They won't be able to get the antibiotics very quickly.

C: So there's antibiotics that you can take and anti-parasite, right? Cause it is a parasitic─

S: It's the parasite, the Plasmodium falciparum. And although the cases in Florida where the, where the Plasmodium vivax, it's a related parasite that is not quite as bad as the one that's more common in Africa.

C: Oh, that's good to hear. But we have drugs for that as well.

S: Yeah.

C: Okay. Good.

S: So, and the symptoms are all pretty nonspecific. Like, it's fever and aches and nausea.

C: I've heard from people I've talked to who have had malaria. They're like the worst flu you've ever had in your life. It's like the flu on steroids.

S: Yeah. Bad headache, apparently. So yeah. So if you do get symptoms like that, you definitely need to seek medical attention, but also they the CDC is reviewing like this is good behaviour in terms of minimizing your chance of getting malaria. So first, if you don't allow there to be any still water in your property. So any water that's not moving is where, mosquitoes breed. And so you don't want to have pools of static water on your property. And also cover your skin if you're going to be out, especially in the, at dawn and early evening, which is when the mosquitoes are biting and use bug spray, use effective, but bug spray, which is also very important.

E: And they think they can get this back under control?

S: Yeah, they will. Again, like in 2003, there was eight cases and then there hasn't been any for 20 years. So hopefully we'll go another 20 years without there being any cases. But a good reminder and it's also, there are other mosquito borne illnesses out there. So it's not like it's the only one. So even when malaria itself is not going around, there's other reasons not to just let yourself get bitten by mosquitoes.

E: So what do you think the case in Texas is about? Because that's not exactly swampy, unless there are swampy parts of Texas.

C: Yeah, there are some swampy parts of Texas can be pretty swampy.

S: There are mosquitoes there.

C: Yeah. Oh yeah. We got lots of mosquitoes in Texas.

E: It's a very dry state.

C: No, no, no, no.

E: You're down by Galveston, right? Galveston.

C: Yeah. And like, honestly, even I grew up in Dallas and we had a lot of mosquitoes. I mean, Texas has West Nile, Texas has mosquito borne diseases.

S: We have West Nile in the Northeast. We have the, equine virus, Eastern Equine virus. There's other mosquito viruses that we have to worry about. So, yeah. So one question that comes up with this is, is global warming making this worse? The again, it's always hard to tie any specific events to global climate change, but the World Health Organization and the CDC and other organizations have been tracking this and there's a good correlation between rising temperatures and the extension of the malaria range and season, which which makes sense. Basically it's moving farther away from the Equators and for those parts of the world where there's like a mosquito season, that season's getting longer because it's staying warmer.

E: There you go.

S: The numbers do track pretty well with that. So it does seem that there's going to be more mosquito borne illnesses with global warming.

E: And we can't eradicate mosquitoes because they're still vital to other animals that in the, in ecosystems.

S: Yeah. So that's a good, we talked about this before on the show, I think. First of all, there's lots of different species of mosquitoes. Some of them, by the way, are pollinators and a lot of, they, of course, they are also an important food source for a lot of animals, but that doesn't mean that we couldn't eliminate certain species of mosquitoes where other species would take over, but hopefully not be either not bite humans or not carry the infection. Also, it's a good idea to try just to eliminate the infection from the mosquito population.

E: And that's where genetic modification comes in?

S: Well, that's one thing that they're, they're thinking about, remember the whole gene drive thing that's more about eliminating the mosquitoes themselves. There is, by the way, a vaccine for malaria doesn't prevent infection. It just reduces the chance of dying from it. Basically it reduces the severity of the infection if you do get it. But the CDC is saying don't run out there and get vaccinated. These are not enough cases for you to justify like a vaccination program or doing anything.

Who's That Noisy? (1:07:48)[edit]

Answer to previous Noisy:
A knife cutting down a vertical length of bamboo

S: All right, Jay, it's who's that noisy time.

J: All right, guys, last week I played this noisy.

[raspy warblings]

That's a weird noise.

C: Yeah, do not like.

E: Almost sounds like a rubbery elastic quality to it.

S: Yeah, I don't like that noise.

C: Yeah, don't like it.

E: Someone taking one of those sheets of rubber and like stretching it across something or a balloon being stretched.

C: But it also sounds like an animal. Everything sounds like an animal to me.

S: I don't think it's an animal. I do think that that consistent increase in pitch, I think is there's some physical process going on there.

J: Well, a listener named William Steele wrote in and said: "Hi Jay, this week's noisy reminds me of irrigation and cutting plumbing PVC pipe, maybe in the mud, definitely a strange sound." That's an interesting guess. And I think when you finally hear the answer, you might be pleasantly surprised, but you're not correct, but you're a little bit of something there, maybe. Listener named Spencer White wrote in said: "Hi Jay, I was listening while driving from Alabama to Virginia with my son, Jonathan, who's age five in the car. He thinks this week's noisy is a roll of tape being pulled out."

S: Yeah.

E: There you go.

J: And he did correctly say, I think that you've, you've done this before. I did have a tape roll at one point. This is not a roll of packing tape or anything like that, but it does have that sound. I have heard tape make it a similar sound. So your son is not wrong. Tell them to keep guessing every week because it'll make them smarter. Another listener named Kevin Shawley. "It sounds like somebody holding a hair comb a little under water and stroking the teeth with their thumb or finger." A lot of people guess that I know exactly what sound you're talking about. It is not that sound, but it is a little, there's a little similarity there. So it's definitely not a bad guess. And another listener named Richard Morrison. "Greetings, Richard Morrison here from Calgary, Alberta. I think this week's noisy is a collapsible plastic straw that is being expanded and collapsed while a liquid is passed through it." So the straws that can extend you pull. So I think what he's saying is─

C: Like acordeons.

J: ─you're kind of making it longer, making it shorter, making it longer, making sure there's water in it. Every kid has played with these.

E: And some adults.

C: It does sound like that.

J: Yeah, it has. Yeah, it's definitely without a doubt. There's a similarity there. He's not correct, but that is not a bad guess. So for the winners this week, I have someone that came close. It was on the right track. So this is Trinity McIntosh and they said: "Is that the sound of splitting fresh sugar cane", which is not a bad guess because it is kind of close to what the reality is here and the listener for this week, Rona Offenberger said: "Hi, many time listener. Love the show. First time guesser. Well, my teenage teenager, Noah, guessed it's bamboo being cut vertically." Okay. So visualize this. Say it's like a one and a half to two inch growth of bamboo and the person has a very sharp knife and they've cut the top off the bamboo and now they're taking the knife and running it down the length of the bamboo shaft. That is this noise. Listen to it again. Think about that as it's happening. [plays noisy]

E: So it's like the release of the tension of fiber? Is that what we're hearing?

J: Yeah. So every time that the person cutting down the shaft of the bamboo gets to the we're like how bamboo grows in sections. So it's like there's a foot, then there's like like a ring and then, so every time you hear the noise change, he's cutting through that next section and getting into the next section of the bamboo. So I thought that was a really interesting sound because I actually have never heard it before. I've never heard bamboo cut that way or having it make that noise. Has it, it has a little bit of a wet sound to it too. I think the bamboo might've had like water in it. Very cool sound. Something you don't hear every day.

New Noisy (1:11:54)[edit]

J: I have a new noisy, of course, this week for you guys. This sound was sent in by a listener named Ash and here it is.


E: That is someone attending Bob's Halloween hunt.

J: So if you think you know what this week's noisy is, or you heard something cool, you got to email me at

Announcements (1:12:32)[edit]

J: So a few quick things guys. One, we're going to be at DragonCon. That's all you need to know. If you're going to go, we'll be doing a live SGU or, or something close to that on the skeptic track. Details will come.

E: Shortly. Should have those soon.

J: Yeah, for sure.

E: We're only two months away, roughly.

J: Really big thing we have coming up. We have NOTACON coming up on November 3rd and November 4th. This is going to be in white Plains, New York, which is close to the Westchester airport and the New York city airports. This conference is not a conference. This conference is all about having fun with the other people that are there. We will be definitely having a lot of entertainment happening during the day and at nighttime each night. We're going to be doing Friday night we'll have the boomer versus zoomer quiz game show that we came up with. This show will consist of people from the audience will be picked to be the contestants for the show. George Hrabb, of course, is the host. And that's going to be a ton of fun on Friday night. On Saturday night, we have something special. We have the insanely eighties sing-along themed sing-along show, which will be run by George Hrabb and Brian Wecht from Teenage Mutant Ninja Tur... I mean, Ninja Sex Party.

E: Ninja Brian.

J: Yeah. They will both be playing instruments. They'll be the words to the song, to the songs, these very popular eighties songs will be up on the screen. It's going to be a hell of a lot of fun. It's going to be kind of crazy too. George was saying things about like wear a sweater, half off on one shoulder. He's like, really get into the eighties vibe. I don't know if he means he's going to be wearing a sweater.

C: I hope so. I hope it's in his full jazzercise outfit.

J: We also have tons of other events that'll be happening during the day, but I also made sure to build into the schedule, plenty of time to have meals and hang out and have drinks with your friends at night before, after dinner. There's going to just be tons of time to socialize and talk and hang out. This is like being at the Del Mar at, at a TAM back in the day where we all just went and hung out and had plenty of time to socialize. So please do join us. You can go to We have all the info there is a button on there. If you want to get more details or register, please join us. It's going to be one hell of a time. And finally, I have been telling you guys that we have not been having ads on the show because no ads are to be found pretty much anywhere in the ads universe, because most ad companies that place ads have been taken a break for some reason, these types of trends happen from time to time. I'm telling you this because if you were ever considering becoming a patron of the SGU right now would be a fantastic time to show your support because we actually could really use the support because of the loss of income from the lack of ads. We're just going to be honest with you. So we really can use the support and we appreciate anything that you can do. And let's face it. It doesn't take, it's not a lot of money to show some support and you're going to be able to get onto the SGU discord, which is a ton of fun. It is essentially the main SGU community. Tons of awesome people on there having conversations all day about tons of different topics. We have all these different things that are going on there all the time. It's just a great community. We're really proud of it. And we love all of the people on there and show your support because you're a listener. We appreciate it. That's all I got to say.

S: All right. Thanks, Jay.

Questions/Emails/Corrections/Follow-ups (1:15:55)[edit]

Email #1: Existential Dread[edit]

S: One quick email. This comes from Matt from Long Island and Matt says: "Love the show. I'm an agnostic, somewhat of a nihilist. I also deal with generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. I'm petrified that upon death, I will be greeted by a deity or some force that will condemn me to eternal suffering for not believing. I know the chances of the scenario is next to zero, but my OCD keep me obsessing over it. How do you and the rogues deal with this concept and enjoy life? Stay grounded, so to speak. I'm not asking for medical advice. I'm asking how you cope. Thank you."

E: What an interesting question.

S: Cara, you're the expert in existential dread. What do you do?

C: Well, I think that the most important thing is that we make a firm distinction on air and say, we can talk about existential dread, but we can also talk about obsessive compulsive disorder, which is a psychological disorder. So the way that we cope may not be very helpful to our dear listener, unfortunately, because we aren't dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder. And by definition, having intrusive obsessions that require active compulsions in order to calm that obsession is a psychological disorder that is treated with medication and very often a form of CBT called exposure therapy. And there are exposures that you can do about existential dread. And so that's the really interesting part. There is a theory called terror management theory. It's something I'm quite interested in. I've been writing a lot about it in my dissertation. It has to do with mortality salience. And the idea here is that the more you think about death in a really kind of reasoned, curious and compassionate way, the more psychologically comfortable you may start to become with the concept. Now everybody's afraid of death. It is healthy and normal to be afraid of death. But when we kind of venture into these pathological fears where it becomes all consuming and it starts to intervene with our activities of daily living, there are things that we can do therapeutically to expose ourselves to those concepts a little bit more. I often will tell clients, I don't know, I like to think of it as like the pile of clothes in the corner of the attic, that when it's sort of dark and spooky in the attic, you're like looking around, you're like, holy shit, what is that? But the minute you turn on the lights, you're like, oh, it's a pile of clothes. The more we can shine light on the phenomenon, the less we're struggling with the invented fears around it. And the more that we can start grappling with the actual concerns around it. And that's really the approach that that I take in my this is my area of therapeutic interest is helping people who are actively dying get ready for that, but also helping people who deal with terror around death, who aren't actively dying, right, where this is just a form of anxiety for them, help them come to terms with that.

S: So do you think that generally speaking that someone so he's like because Matt is not saying that he's afraid of the oblivion of death, he's afraid of not that he's afraid that─

C: He's afraid of judgement.

S: He's afraid of that eternal suffering at the hands of some eventual deity. Do you think that's just a substitute for his fear of death? I mean, obviously, we can't we don't know Matt. We're not trying to diagnose.

C: And that's the difference to me. It sounds like that is a very classic OCD presentation, sadly, and that's why I don't think that we can talk about it like it's a classical fear of death, like we might cope with because that is a very, that's a very common type of obsession. And so I do think that those things have to be separated, but it's important to know, and I'm glad you asked that because a lot of times when we think about fear of death, we think of it as, as monolithic, right? Fear of death is one thing, but there are actually, I talked earlier about psychometric tools earlier in my training I actually did a deep dive into a survey. That's a psychometrically sound validated survey about what it is about death that's scary. And the outcomes is that it's different for different people. Some people are afraid of oblivion. Like you mentioned. Some people are afraid of dying, the pain, the disability, the things. Some people are afraid of leaving people behind. They're afraid of leaving things unfinished. They're afraid of not having a legacy. There are so many different ways that we can be afraid of death. And that's why therapeutic intervention for those with whom it actually is interfering with their daily lives needs to be tailored to the person. Cause not, we're not all the same.

S: But all of that aside, it is sort of an interesting, just completely separate question about this. What do you think about the notion of a deity who will punish you for not believing in them? So I have thought about that because I don't, I don't believe in God. I don't believe in anything supernatural. So I'm not worried about it, but just as a logical question, because people bring it up, they ask aren't you worried about going to hell or whatever? So my response is always something along the lines of first of all, I have a hard time believing in an all powerful deity that gives a shit what I believe, or that who was going to punish me with eternal suffering because I'm using logic and reason to come to reasonable conclusions.

C: Right. The deity is pretty childish and like motivated by hubris.

S: If someone like that, if some entity like that is in charge of the universe, we're F'ed and just don't worry about it, right? You're not going to, whatever. But I don't think that that's the way the universe works. That there's some narcissistic child running the entire universe. I know it might seem that way on some days, but I don't think that that's what's happening, that those two things don't go together.

C: Right. And that's why I love this email so much, because it goes to show that very often when it comes to mental illness, and I'm talking about diagnosable textbook presentations of mental illness and he even said it so beautifully. I appreciate your language in the email, cause you're like, I know rationally, that's not true. And yet I'm still grappling with it. And that is a hallmark, right? You can't reason yourself out of it. You can't just not worry about it. You actually have to do─

S: That's the disorder.

C: Yeah, that's the disorder. So there are intensive exposure oriented treatments and also medications, by the way, that can really ease some of those OCD compulsions. Cause what you're talking about there, I'm sorry, obsessions. Cause what you're talking about there is probably the underlying obsession. And then most people who have OCD will then have some form of compulsion that when they do the thing, it helps ease that obsession. So yeah, it's not a rational fear. I don't think, but that's the whole point, right? Is that it's not a rational fear.

S: All right. Thanks guys. Let's go on with science or fiction.


Science or Fiction (1:22:55)[edit]

Theme: Computers

Item #1: The FBI reported that financial losses due to cybercrime in 2022 exceeded $1 trillion.[6]
Item #2: A 2020 analysis found that 77% of American jobs involved medium to high levels of digital skill.[7]
Item #3: A recent study estimates that even skilled computer users lose 11-20% of their work time dealing with computer issues.[8]

Answer Item
Fiction $1T cybercrime losses
Science Jobs involving digital skill
Dealing w/ computer issues
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
Jobs involving digital skill
Jobs involving digital skill
$1T cybercrime losses

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

S: Each week, I come up with three science news items or facts, two real, one fake. And I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one they think is the fake. You have a theme this week. The theme is computers. Item number one, the FBI reported that financial losses due to cybercrime in 2022 exceeded $1 trillion. Number two, a 2020 analysis found that 77% of American jobs involved medium to high levels of digital skill. They didn't mention anything about nunchuck skills. Number three, a recent study estimates that even skilled computer users lose 11-20% of their work time dealing with computer issues. Evan, go first.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: Uh, the $1 trillion amount. Hmm. That's I imagine you can get to a trillion dollars, depending on what you're going to include in this. What was it? Cybercrime specifically. Cybercrime, right. So you have to think about how wide is the net called cybercrime and exactly what can fit in there. I think if you cast a wide enough net using that term, yeah, you probably, and this was the United States, Steve?

S: Mm-hmm, the FBI, whatever their purview is.

E: Yeah. So that would be most likely United States. It sounds like too big a number, but I have a feeling, it's going to wind up being right. The second one, 77% of jobs require medium to high, as of 2020, at least the study, 77% of jobs required medium to high level of computer skills in the job. That seems high. 77%. I mean, there's still a ton of manual labour jobs and things going on. That may have some level of computers necessary to perform that job to a certain level. I don't know about, though, classifying it as medium to high. I imagine that's done by a number of hours a person works, 20 hours for medium, 30 hours for high in a week, something that must be how it breaks down. So I don't know about that one. That one's might be the fiction. The last one about 11, interesting, 11 to 20% computer issues of computer people who work exclusively in the world of computers have issues. I have a feeling that one's going to wind up being correct as well, because again, computer issues can be a very wide net and so many I mean, really, if you exist entirely at your job in computer, yeah, all of your issues are probably going to be computer related. So I'll say the 77% of jobs one is going to be the fiction.

S: Okay. Jay?

Jay's Response[edit]

J: You know what? I agree with Evan. I, after going through these, I mean, I think that definitely, even though a trillion dollars is an amazing amount of money, there's so much cyber crime happening and there's so many people out there it's like, I think that you can get to a trillion dollars, not easily, but it is reachable. And I think that's, that's science. So I'll, I'll just go with Evan.

S: Okay. And Cara.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: I don't know you guys.

E: Oh, no.

C: I know. It's like, I hate going first. I think the thing is, the thing that I'm not liking about what you said, Evan. So I agree with you on the one that like people who work on computers still have to deal with like computers doing stupid computer things, because of course it's out of our control sometimes. And so even like the biggest computer wizards in the world, their computers are going to do dumb stuff that they have to deal with and lose time to. So the one that that's bugging me more is the one medium to high levels of digital skills, 77% of American jobs. Right? So you're right. When you say that, like, there's still a lot of people who do manual labor jobs, but I don't think that number is as high as it used to be. And I think that even manual labour still requires some amount of digital skill because even people who are, let's say, working on the auto line or people who are working outside in like street repairs and things like that, they're carrying around these little like iPads and these little phones and they're logging these things into their computer. I think everybody is technologically connected now.

E: Sure. I just don't know if that qualifies as medium to high.

C: And that's the thing. I think you were, you kind of arbitrarily said, oh, it's probably based on the amount of time they spend, but I bet you it's more based on skill, medium to high skill, like how much are they able to figure out the mechanism by which they have to use these machines? That's my guess at least, because I can't fathom the truly, like, I don't know what the national defence budget is, but you said FBI, that's America only. I can't fathom it's a trillion dollars, maybe globally. I don't know. Or maybe it's, maybe I suck at numbers, but I think I'm going to have to break from the guys and say that that that's the fiction because I think 77% sounds right.

S: Well, you all agree on the third one. So we'll start there.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: A recent study estimates that even skilled computer users lose 11-20% of their work time dealing with computer issues. You all think that one is science and that one is science. Yeah. And so, yeah, you are correct in that computer issues is a very broad category. This is, could be a hardware problem. The computer goes down. It could be that the, you lost work because you didn't save it or whatever. It could also just be that the software using sucks and it's causing frustration. You can't figure out how to accomplish the thing you're trying to accomplish. So it could be a user interface issue. So it's basically 11 to 20% is just lost time that not productive work because they were trying to troubleshoot some computer issue rather than doing productive work. And this was even people who are like in IT, like not like they're, these are IT people, some of them or they're just considered highly skilled workers that it's not like they don't know what they're doing. That was the point. It wasn't that they lost 20% of their time because they don't know how to use Windows or something. It was because there was either the software was problematic or there was some kind of computer problem that caused them to lose work or not be able to use it. So, but the good news is, there's always a bright side that there's a lot of opportunity for increased efficiency just by eliminating those computer issues. That reminds me of when the new Epic EMR system that we're using at Yale, by their own analysis, when the Epic system is introduced into a practice, it reduces the efficiency of seeing patients by 20%. Reduction in throughput. That's their own analysis.

C: And then does it rebound though? Once you're...

S: Yeah. So it gets better when you figure out how to use it, but I don't know how much better, how long it takes. And it's all because the user interface is terrible.

C: Oh, I hate Epic.

S: All right. Let's go to number one.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: The FBI reported that financial losses due to cybercrime in 2022 exceeded $1 trillion. Cara, you don't buy it. Evan and Jay, you think this one is science and this one is the fiction. Good job Cara.

E: Probably a hundred billion.

J: Good job.

C: Oh, right. There's an order of magnitude is still a hundred billion.

S: The real number is 10 billion. I went to two orders of magnitude. 10 billion. Which is still a lot of money for the cyber crime. Now there are estimates that it's going to get over a trillion dollars by 2025 worldwide, not the US alone.

C: Worldwide.

S: So yeah, it is an increasing problem and it costs a lot of money. But, yeah, I just bumped it up a couple of orders of magnitude. Just to see if you guys would buy it. Those big numbers are hard to grapple with sometimes. It all sounds reasonable.

E: I mean, yeah. And you know, how wide is the net?

S: Yeah, right. Like what's, is it direct losses? Does it include loss productivity?

C: How are they slicing it?

S: Yeah, how are they slicing it. But I figured I was safe by going two orders of magnitude.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: So this means that a 2020 analysis found that 77% of American jobs involved medium to high levels of digital skill is science. Obviously the other category was low skill. There was no no skill category, but I think low skill includes [inaudible].

C: So how did they define it?

S: So yeah, so a lot of the low skill jobs were things like in construction or whatever jobs that do not involve a lot of skill in using a computer or digital device, even if they're using it's low, like I don't think using a, just like the ability to take a phone call is considered medium to high skill, that would be a low skill thing. So it doesn't mean they're not using it at all. It's just that they're not like specifically trained or they don't require specific skills and using software or whatever, and these numbers have been climbing precipitously.

C: It's a fun word.

S: So you can follow the numbers over the last 20 years. So the, the low digital skill category went from in just 2017 to 2022 went from 51% to 23%. So it's dropping very, very quickly and it's only going to get more obviously, as you say, Cara, like everyone's using computers, no matter what you're doing at some level you're probably have to like, if you're in construction, you see these guys walking around with those hardened iPads, like in the rubber case.

C: Or like a, what we used to think of as kind of the classic warehouse jobs, on the line, you, there's an iPad in front of you now.

S: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Okay.

E: All right.

S: Good job, Cara.

E: Yey Cara.

C: Thanks.

E: Sorry, Jay, I led you astray.

J: It's okay.

E: At least we're together though. I mean, I'm holding your hand in ones and zeros.

S: All right, Evan, give us a quote.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:33:23)[edit]

I hold my theories on the tips of my fingers, so that the merest breath of fact will blow them away.

 – Michael Faraday (1791-1867), English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry

E: All right. This week's quote was offered up by Damien, who's a listener from the Swiss Alps.

S: Okay.

E: Thank you for that. We don't hear from the Swiss Alps very much. We'd like to hear more from the Swiss Alps as far as, as far as I'm concerned. This quote, I'm going to say what he said first is sort of, quote, attributed to Michael Faraday, which you will probably like. So this is attributed to Michael Faraday. "I hold my theories on the tips of my fingers so that the merest breath of fact will blow them away." It's a nice saying, even if even if it can't, I guess, be totally substantiated that Michael Faraday actually wrote that or said it, but it's still a cool sentiment.

S: It's good. It's a poetic way of saying something that we've expressed quite a bit that you do need to hold your beliefs very lightly and you need to, yeah, there's definitely a risk to holding onto them tightly. It's all about method, not conclusion, right? Method is what you should be holding onto scientific, logical, reasonable method, and whatever conclusion that leads you to is what you temporarily hold until better evidence or better arguments come along, doesn't mean you don't act upon them sometimes things you could be holding them lightly, but they could be so well confirmed that it's like, yeah, but we'll make decisions based upon this, right? It's like, I always like to use the medical analogy because people could, I think they can wrap their head around it. Like if a doctor told you, yeah, we're 80% sure you have cancer. Are you going to say, well, I'm going to hold out until you're 100% sure not do anything about it. No, you can say, okay what do you recommend based upon that level of evidence? You might need further testing or treatment or whatever.

C: Yeah. And I think holding lightly is a phrase that I use quite, quite a bit therapeutically as well, because I think it applies to more than just your beliefs. There are a lot of things in this existence that we would benefit from holding a little bit lighter and not squeezing to death from kind of allowing ourselves to, and obviously the metaphor is like a fistful of sand, right? If you squeeze it too hard, all the sand is going to fall out from, from your fingers, but if you hold it quite lightly, then you're actually going to be able to hold more of it.

E: It's coarse and it gets everywhere.

S: I was going to say, it's like a Princess Leia said to [inaudible].

E: Oh yes, that's right.

S: The more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers.

C: There you go.

E: Oh, wow. Full circle.

C: It always comes back to Star Wars.

E: From Faraday to Star Wars.

S: All right. Well, thank you guys for joining me this week.

C: Thanks Steve.

E: Thanks Steve.

J: You got it Steve, have a good night.


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[9]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description



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