SGU Episode 942

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SGU Episode 942
July 29th 2023
942 superconductor.jpg

"Scientists have announced the development of a room-temperature ambient-pressure superconductor." [1]
Click for further caption

"Superconductors transmit electricity without resistance and have magnetic properties that make them invaluable in technological applications. Usually they need to be cooled down to very low temperatures; superconductors capable of working outside the lab in regular conditions would be revolutionary."

SGU 941                      SGU 943

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

Critical thinking is an active and ongoing process. It requires that we all think like Bayesians, updating our knowledge as new information comes in.

Daniel J. Levitin, American-Canadian cognitive psychologist

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, hot world[edit]

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

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Thursday, July 27th, 2023, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Happy almost birthday, Steve.

S: Yeah, two days.

E: Yeah.

B: Yeah, man.

S: My daughter's birthday is tomorrow.

E: Right, Julia.

S: Yeah, the day before I was on the calendar.

J: That's pretty cool.

E: That's very cool.

S: It was, we didn't know if she could have been born on my birthday. It was getting pretty close. Yeah, but she came out a day before. So it's good. So now we always do like the doubleheader. She always has her special day, but it is nice that, it actually is convenient to have the doubleheader birthday.

E: Definitely.

S: She's coming up this weekend. Looking forward to it. So Cara's not here.

E: Yeah, what happened?

S: There's a storm brewing. She's having some nasty weather in Florida and her power's out. And there's simply no way. She still has her phone. So she's like texting me on her phone. And I just asked, is there any possible logistical way we could still do this with the power? I think, we could talk over the phone. You could just record off on your laptop on battery power. But the microphone doesn't work without power. So she has no microphone. So we're done.

J: So did you guys hear that the ocean temperature in Florida is bathtub hot?

S: Yep. Over 100 degrees.

E: Over 100 for Fahrenheit. Crazy.

J: That's got to be uncomfortable to go into.

S: Yeah.

E: Think about what the everything that lives in that ocean. Oh my gosh.

B: Yeah. But at what depth are we talking about? I could see a five foot depth being that hot. But once you get out into the deeper water, I guess it could still be the surface.

S: Colder water is heavier than hotter water down to four degrees Celsius. So it's always going to get called colder as you get deeper. And the water at the bottom of the oceans is going to be four degrees Celsius. But yeah, so they must be talking about this water, like the surface temperature.

E: Yeah. Buoy I suppose, measures it. So that would be surface, right?

J: Cara's weather is going to be basically like torrential downforce for the next week. Jesus.

E: Oh boy.

S: She may join us later if she somehow gets her power back, but we can't count on it.

J: This is, and the thing that scares me is this is just the beginning of the global warming effect. This is it. We're not like 50 years into it. It's going to get so much worse than it is now.

S: So there was a recent study out where the scientists were basically calculating what's the probability that we would be having the heat wave that we're experiencing now? Were it not for global warming, like the increase in the average global temperatures in the last 50 years? And it basically said it wouldn't be happening. It would be "virtually impossible" without human induced climate change. So, and of course, we've read sources that are saying, it's not climate change. It's El Niňo. Well, it's both, as I think we said last week or the week before, there are two different things happening and now we're getting both the peaks overlapping. So yeah, it's warmer than average because it's El Niňo, but it wouldn't be this warm without global warming.

E: That makes all the sense in the world actually.

S: Yeah. I hate it when people do that. It's like, it's not, hey, it's B, it's everything, right? It's every factor that goes into it combined. And it makes no sense to pull out one factor as it, as the cause. I remember a funny example of that. We remember this guys. I know you remember Evan, cause you, you hated this. We were coming off from dragon con and we missed our plane. It was, it was me, Evan and Bob. I think Jay was not there for some reason.

E: And it was only for one reason, right Steve?

S: It was only for one reason. Of course there was, there was literally like about 12 different things, each of which made us a few minutes late. And it was the toll. And of course there was the argument, we're late because you had to go to the bathroom at the last minute. It's like, no, because Bob tried to get his dagger onto the plane and, no, it was because they changed the gate on us at the last minute. We had to go to a different gate.

B: It was an awesome dagger.

S: Yeah. But it was, it was obviously the combination of factors that did it. It was true that any one of them were not present, we wouldn't have missed the plane because we'd literally closed the door one minute before we got to the gate.

B: And I remember, do you remember we actually walked by our new gate and didn't know it. And then we, we got to our old gate and they said, no, you got to go to your new gate. We backtracked.

S: Comedy of errors.

E: But hey, it's good to have a scapegoat. So, yeah. Sorry, Bob.

J: Missing an airplane like that, that is an intensely stressful situation.

S: Very stressful.

E: Oh my gosh.

S: Oh, they were on standby. It was terrible. I only missed a plane one other time in my life. I was coming home from Chicago. I was by myself and I left for the airport like three hours before my flight. Coming from the airport to the hotel was like a half an hour trip, right? So I said, all right, I'm going to leave three hours before my flight time. And the, we were in traffic the whole time. I literally, it was literally a four hour trip to the airport. And you know how like you're sitting in the car and time's going by and you're like, am I going to make it? Am I going to make it? I'm not going to make it. Like it just, it's a slow creeping lateness. That's just painful. But fortunately they literally just put me on the next flight like 30 minutes later. It was, it turned out to be nothing.

B: That's the benefit of using a big airport. They got lots of flights.

Quickie Followup with Steve: Another Alzheimer Drug (5:38)[edit]

S: All right. I'm going to start off with a quickie. This is just a follow up, follow up to my news item from a couple of weeks ago. Remember back two weeks ago when I was talking about can be that new monoclonal antibody Alzheimer's drug as the latest and greatest, literally a week after I spoke about that news item, yet another one got approved by the FDA. There are now three, three drugs that are disease modifying in Alzheimer's disease. I mean, they're not just symptomatic. They actually change the course of the disease. They're all monoclonal antibodies. So there's aduhelm or aducanumab, which was got the accelerated approval in 2021 still being studied. And they have, and I think another year to prove clinical efficacy and get their full approval. And then there was leqembi, which is a lecanemab. And that got full approval a couple of weeks ago based upon clinical data showing a reduction in certain clinical measures of Alzheimer's disease by 27%. And now a large clinical trial shows that a third drug, donanemab reduces Alzheimer's disease by 35%. This is interesting because these drugs are targeting amyloid, which is the protein that is abnormal in Alzheimer's, and they clump together and form the plaques. And then it's part of the progress of the disease. And we weren't really sure if they were just a marker of the disease or if it's really causing the disease. And this is the first time with these three drugs that we've closed the loop. And it's like, oh yeah, it's actually probably contributing to progression because if you treat the amyloid, if you bind to the amyloid, it actually reduces the progression of the disease. Now the leqembi binds to the amyloid precursors and the donanemab binds to the plaques themselves. They have different targets. The advantage of the donanemab, the new one, is that if you treat patients for like a year, it takes away the plaques, the existing plaques, and then there are persistent benefits even after you stop taking the medication.

B: Wow. I love when that happens.

S: But we don't know for how long. We'd have to follow up for longer. So anyway, couple of things to keep in mind. These drugs are all expensive. They all have side effects. Some of those side effects are severe, bleeding in the brain, and even death. Even there are some patients who die on the drug, more than the placebo. And the clinical benefits, I'm saying 27%, 35%, but that translates into a very modest benefit. You know what I mean? It's like, yeah, you'll maintain your function for a few more months than somebody who wasn't being treated. But just the mere fact that they do decrease clinical progression, again, I think that's a huger deal than the actual benefit that individual patients are going to get. Again, Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. Any benefit is a boon and is arguably worth it. But the benefit to just our understanding of Alzheimer's and going forward. So of course, again, the hope is that this will lead to more better things. Maybe there'll be yet a third drug, maybe targeting another protein like tau or a different type of amyloid. And maybe they need to add two or three of them together.

E: Yeah, a cocktail?

S: Get a cocktail going that starts to get to really clinically significant decreases. Hopefully they'll be able to figure out ways to reduce the side effects. Although I suspect it's kind of inherent to the mechanism of action. We're sort of binding to these proteins and targeting the immune system at them. And it's leading to inflammation. Of course it is, because we're targeting the immune system at them. And it's that inflammation which is causing swelling and predisposing to bleeding in some cases. So I don't know. It's like chemotherapy. It's like the side effects are part of the effect. You can't really get the effect without the side effects. It's kind of inherent to the mechanism of action. But it's basically a different world than it was before these three drugs came out. At least now we have this proof of concept that, okay, this does have the potential to really alter the disease. These three drugs, well, two of them have really been shown to be clinically effective. The aduhelm hasn't really shown the clinical piece yet. And I know people who were planning on going into a clinical trial, and now they're just going to get prescribed donanemab, because it's available as a prescription now.

E: But you said it's expensive. So how does that work?

S: Insurance will cover it.

E: It will.

S: The other thing is that they're really only indicated for early Alzheimer's disease. If you're altering the slope, it really only gets significant if you start really early. You need that slope to separate out from the untreated group over a long period of time for it to become significant. And that's probably why, basically for 30 years we've been trying to treat amyloid, and it hasn't worked. And the researchers that are involved with these studies are saying, well, that's probably because we didn't go early enough or big enough, right? Now that we've done it with a big enough dose and early enough in the disease, that's why we're seeing some effectiveness. So I suspect insurance companies will be paying for it, but probably only for some criteria, like with early onset by some cutoff. The other thing, and then I think as I mentioned last time, is that the other way in which we could see this leading to really significant, clinically significant, not clinically modest treatments is if we combine it with early diagnosis. Imagine being treated two years before you would have been symptomatic based on some blood tests or CSF tests. That may be the world we're heading towards. Oh, you're at high risk. You have a family history or whatever. We do a blood test. Yeah, it looks like you got the type. We're going to start this treatment before you're even symptomatic, or maybe with like really pre, what we would call minimal cognitive impairment. You're not even really demented yet, but you have just an inkling that maybe it might be happening.

E: The drug that received the FDA approval a few weeks ago, once you're on it, you take it the rest of your life.

S: Yeah.

E: So is that also true with this?

S: No, the new one, it's like you take it for a year and you're good. They're thinking that maybe you just need some tuneups. Like every year you might need a couple more rounds or something.

E: Oh my gosh, that's such a difference between needing a drug for the rest of your life and an IV, right? It's an IV.

S: It's an IV infusion. Yeah.

B: How many other monoclonal antibody treatments are in the pipeline?

S: Ton. A ton.

B: The second one, I mean, you told me about it. I was like, wait, we just talked about it on this show.

S: Do you mean for Alzheimer's or just for anything?

B: Both.

S: Yeah. So there's a lot. There's a lot in the pipeline. There's a lot already out there. I mean, there has been a monoclonal antibody revolution in the last five to 10 years. I mean, antibodies have been around since the 80s, 90s. But we just got to this threshold where the technology was just viable. It's like we got the humanized version so that they're good for large dose infusions. And we got monoclonal antibodies for everything now. A couple years ago, a whole slew of monoclonal antibodies for the prevention of migraine headaches came out. Those are the ones that I'm the most familiar with that I use because I'm a migraine specialist.

J: Do you think that this might help anxiety and depression one day?

S: I mean, I don't think if you can make a drug to bind to a receptor, you can make a monoclonal antibody to bind to a receptor. You know what I mean? It's just a different way of acting on some therapeutic target. And it's kind of a superior technology in certain ways because it's not really a chemical. So you don't really get the chemical side effects. Like you don't have to worry about liver and kidney and other kinds of side effects. It's a protein. It's literally an antibody. But that causes other side effects. I think all things considered, you can make a reasonable argument that it's a superior technology to chemical drugs, but they're expensive. They're all really expensive because they're biologics.

E: How does the price come down eventually on these?

S: I guess that the hope is that with the technology, the technology will advance to the point where it gets cheaper and cheaper to mass produce them and economy of scale. But I don't think it's going to be cheap anytime soon. But you never know. There may be the crisper of monoclonal antibodies will come out. Somebody figures out, oh God, we could make these orders of magnitude cheaper. That could happen. For now, it's just like, okay, we have these really expensive, really awesome drugs and we just have to use them wisely, use them judiciously for people who really need them.

:E My gosh, there are going to be people who will want to take it sort of as a preemptive strike against even if they're not otherwise a candidate to take these things, they're going to want it.

S: You won't get them unless you meet some criteria. For the Alzheimer's drugs, you need to have the positive blood tests. You need to make sure you have the target. You have the plaque or the abnormal amyloid or whatever. But now, more than anything, and one of the ways that the practice of medicine has evolved over my career is that cost effectiveness is becoming more and more important. It was always important, but now it's like really the order in which we go through drugs is cheapest to most expensive. If you have a bunch of clinically basically equivalent drugs in terms of the probability that they may work for a patient, we start with the cheapest ones and then go from there. That's the predominant feature now in many contexts that guides our decision making. For those people who don't like that, I also see the other thing. I've seen, like for getting back to migraines, that's what I have the most experience. I get referred patients who get started on these newer, more expensive drugs prematurely. It's like, really? He went right to the $7,000 a year drug and you didn't even try any of these other ones? But they're by non-experts and that's why they're getting referred to me. But that's one of the mistakes that they make. They just go right to the new shiny, really expensive drug. It's like, you should not do that. You're ruining it for the rest of us. Because when they do that, then insurance companies clamp down. Then they make it harder for the patients who really needed to get the expensive drugs because then they throw up all these barriers to prescribing them because they're being overprescribed as first and second line drugs when they really need to be third and fourth line drugs. So it's added a layer of complexity to the whole decision-making process. Because if we don't make, as practitioners, if we don't prescribe in an economically responsible way, especially with now access to so many really expensive options, the bean counters are going to take it out of our hands, which they're already doing, but they'll make that worse. If you practice in a country with single payer, it'll be the government. If you practice in the United States, it'll be the insurance company. It'll be somebody, but it'll be somebody other than the practitioner basically making that decision based upon economics, not on clinical concerns. You know what I mean?

B: Steve, go ahead 50 or 100 years. Where do you see monoclonal antibodies at the peak?

E: Over the counter.

B: Besides the obvious like, oh, there'll be fewer side effects and it'll be cheap. Is there anywhere else you can go to improve with better tech, like sci-fi tech? What could we potentially see, you think?

S: Well, if we want to go to sci-fi tech, I think the progression will be we're going to get more and more applications. The technology is going to incrementally improve. The prices will come down somewhat. We went over lots of technologies that could transform this. Imagine if you're essentially like 3D printing these things or whatever. You have some kind of a machine where it's like, okay, here's a drop of my blood. It not only makes your diagnosis, it personally crafts a monoclonal antibody for you and gives it to you. You know what I mean? Just essentially like the equivalent. It wouldn't be like really a 3D printer, but I'm just saying like the equivalent of that where you're just-

B: Bioprinting.

S: Bioprinting personalized drugs based upon your genetics, your disease, your protein, whatever it is, not just based upon the study of other people. And that could be on demand. On demand, personalized pharmacotherapy with monoclonal antibodies. That's totally plausible. All right. Let's move on to some news lines. That wasn't really much of a quickie, but-

E: It's a not so quickie.

News Items[edit]

Can AI Learn Like Humans? (19:06)[edit]

(Transcriptionist's note: Another AI news item, "AI and Politics" is noted on the shownotes page, likely the news item Cara would have covered if she had regained power.
The associated article: The Conversation: 6 ways AI can make political campaigns more deceptive than ever)

S: Jay, can AI learn like humans?

J: Well, apparently not yet, but something, some recent information has come out to shed some light on this. When an AI system is trained, they use a method that's called continual learning. This is a machine learning approach where a computer is trained to continuously learn a sequence of tasks over time. Now, the idea is to build on previously acquired knowledge, right? It's very similar to how humans do it. So you have old tasks that it performed and as it learns the new tasks, it's supposed to get better at them because of this previous information of doing the older tasks. But one significant challenge is continual learning. In a continual learning is something called catastrophic forgetting. Now, this happens to me when my wife asked me to go to the store to get a list of items. I mean, come on. It's almost a mind blank. By the time I get to the store, I can't remember any of it. But in AI systems, catastrophic forgetting refers to the problem where an AI agent, let's just say it's like one instance of an AI piece of software that's running. They tend to forget the information gained from previous tasks as they learn new ones. And it is kind of similar to a way a person learning something new, but then they forget what they just learned before. When I say similar, it's very different in the human mind versus what's going on in the computer. But the order of events and things like that, there is some similarities there. So this is a big problem because memory is crucial for AI systems, especially in applications like autonomous driving and robotics, because they need to have that catalogue of information of previously learned tasks. They need to have a ton of information at the ready at all times. Now, as these systems learn new things, it's essential for them to not forget the lessons they've already learned because all that training data makes them safe and effective. And without that training data, they're in the right shape in order for it to access it correctly. We're never going to have an autonomous vehicle without that working perfectly. So overcoming catastrophic forgetting is vital to creating more robust and reliable AI systems in the future that can adapt and learn and learn from these various past experiences. So this is a big marker here because, I'm sure that the engineers are going to be able to figure out how to fix this and augment it and make this system work much better and solve it. But right now, it is a legitimate problem. The research that's been conducted by the electrical engineers at the Ohio State University aimed to bridge the gap between how machines and humans learn. So by understanding how neural networks perform better when faced with diverse tasks instead of similar ones, the researchers found parallels with how humans recall information more effectively in different situations. So this insight can lead to improved learning algorithms that can mimic human learning capabilities. Now, again, when I say mimic human learning capabilities, we're not talking apples to apples here because it's two completely different ways of working and everything. It's just like the big brush stroke ideas of what's going on in the human brain. And, you transferred these ideas over to an AI algorithm that's learning. I'm not drawing a one-to-one comparison here. So to enhance the memory retention of AI algorithms during continual learning, the researchers suggest that dissimilar tasks should be taught early in the learning process. So very early on when they're training an AI system, they're recommending that instead of having like it learning 10,000 tasks that are almost identical, spread it out into lots of different tasks that don't have a lot to do with each other. And they said by doing this, the network's capacity for new information increases, and it becomes better equipped to learn more similar tasks later on after that foundation has been put in. So this optimization could potentially lead to AI systems that can retain knowledge and adapt more efficiently to new challenges, which is exactly what we want them to do. So being able to have dynamic lifelong learning in AI systems, it's going to be a big hurdle for the software engineers to figure it out. But of course, it's an incredibly highly valuable thing that we want to achieve. So I'm sure that tons and tons of money and resources will be put into solving this problem. And having these advanced learning capabilities are going to allow machine learning algorithms to scale up faster, handle more evolving environments and unexpected situations more effectively. This very much sounds like autonomous cars, by the way. The goal here is to create intelligent machines that can learn, adapt and retain knowledge in a manner similar to humans, right? But not exact, but similar, enabling a new era of AI with enhanced capabilities. So overall here, when I think about all this information, I think, there's probably lots of things like this that they're going to need to improve in artificial intelligence to get it up to those next levels where it's really going to start to integrate into human society more and more. Like right now, we have very powerful AI out there. It's, there's a lot more artificial intelligence programs running in and around you that you don't even know about. Right, Bob? You said, your iPhone has multiple AI programs running on it that are doing things. And social media has artificial intelligence. But it is proliferating like crazy. But when we get past some of these hurdles that we're dealing with right now, it's going to make the explosion of AI even that more profound. And this is a big one, this memory issue that they've come up with. And some questions that I couldn't find answers to is how pervasive is it? Is this happening in every AI system, like every one of them? Or is it only happening in certain ones that are doing certain types of calculations or things? It gets very complicated very quickly. But bottom line is, there's a lot of unanswered questions here because we're not all insiders on the AI industry and exactly what's going on and all these, thousands of different pieces of software that are out there right now. But I would imagine that this is a common problem by the way that they're reporting it. And, I do hope that they solve it soon, even though I admit I am slightly intimidated by artificial intelligence at this point because of all the things I've been learning about it.

E: Well, there are plenty of people who are saying, people who know a lot more about this stuff, Jay, and they're concerned. So I think that's fair enough reason to have some concerns about it. And, it would be more disturbing if we had fewer or no concern about it.

S: Yeah, I think my biggest concern about AI is the social impact of it. Cara was supposed to talk about, I'll just give like a preview, as you may talk about next week, using AI to influence political campaigns.

E: Oh, absolutely.

B: A matter of time.

S: It's the social media problem, but now times a hundred because it's now the AI is so easy to automate it. They found there was another study, I'm not going to talk about this in detail, but there was another study that found that spam emails constructed by AI are more successful at fooling people and getting them to engage than ones that are made by humans because the AI is able to personalize it more for each person. Imagine getting, personalized targeted spam. I mean, it's already happens, but AI could just, again, it's like what email did to the chain letter, AI is going to do to social media and spam and all that kind of stuff. Is this going to be orders of magnitude worse?

E: Oh, gosh, I'm going to need AI to help me filter out the bad AI.

S: Totally. That's a hundred percent true.

B: Yeah, absolutely.

S: Just like you need a virus protection to protect you against the viruses, we're going to need AI protection to protect us against the AIs.

B: Yeah. You're not going to want to go out into the wild without your AI protector for sure. And I just want to state officially, I welcome our AI overlords.

J: Listen, let me tell you something. It's a little bit connected to this. It's kind of like a little bit of mental health observation and thing that I've been doing recently. I decided a couple of months ago that I'm going to significantly limit my screen time.

E: Here, here.

J: Working for the SGU, it's 100% screen time. You know what I mean?

E: Oh, my work is as well, Jay. It's something I'm always cognizant of.

J: But I decided, the thing that I have the most control over isn't really like how I do my day job. It's more about like the time I spend on my phone. I decided like at seven o'clock, I'm going to really make it like a big deal to get on the phone. I don't want to be on my phone after 7pm. And I absolutely refuse to pick it up in bed to read the news. You also notice the first thing I do is pick up my phone in the morning, and I'm like, I want to get out of bed and do my whole morning shuffle without the phone being a part of it. And I've been doing this for a couple of months, and I got to tell you that I really do feel like it's had a very, very healthy impact on my psyche.

S: Yeah, I think you need to balance, absolutely balance your digital and analog existence. Absolutely. And for children, like pediatricians, their recommendation, they actually stopped recommending limiting screen time and shifting their strategy to maximizing playtime, like get outside and play. If you say, don't, rather than saying you could only have this many hours of screen, that's less effective than saying you need to have this many hours of analog play, right? Or whatever that is, being outside or doing something physical and not just being engaged digitally, with the screen. So I do think that works. You get outside, do some physical stuff, pick up a hobby that's analog, and I do think there is a little bit of a little bit of digital pushback.

J: You told me not too long ago, like get outside and let the sunlight hit your face for 10 minutes. Get that sunlight in your face in the morning to tell your body, to wake up because your body is very reactive to light, your eyes seeing sunlight actually tells your brain to wake up.

S: Well, we live in a world of artificial light where we have the exact same light from getting up in the morning to go to bed at night and we lose our circadian rhythm. And so it's good to get sunlight during the day and dark at night, to try to read, especially if you're having sleep problems, there's evidence to suggest that it causes visual problems. There's a lot more nearsightedness, which could be related to the lack of sunshine during the day. So yeah, it's good for you to get outside, if that's an option.

Room Temperature Superconductor (30:49)[edit]

S: All right, Bob, Bob, could this possibly be true? A room temperature, ambient pressure superconductor? Come on.

B: Well, let's see. Viral superconductor news this week, creating a lot of buzz. I haven't seen this level of buzz. It doesn't happen that often. The name of the paper itself in the archive preprint server says it all, just the name of the paper, which is unusual. And the name is the First Room-Temperature Ambient-Pressure Superconductor. That's it. That's the title right there. Like, there it is. And it's so my response was like, well, wait, is this really one of the legit holy grails of science really happening now? Cause it really is, one of the holy grails that I've been reading about for decades. So let's try to assess how excited we should all be about this. Okay. Now superconductors, we know what that is, right? I'm still going to tell you what it is. It essentially allows electricity to flow perfectly, essentially, without resistance and they expel magnetic fields. That's the, the 40,000 foot view of a superconductor. Those are the two most iconic characteristics. They're amazingly useful.

E: What about it? It has to be super cold though.

B: Well, yeah, but that's, that's just it. We only see them in niche applications like particle colliders or advanced medical imaging devices because it's expensive, it's bulky. And I'm sure it's annoying as hell to the people who actually deal with this all the time to chill the components down to liquid hydrogen or liquid nitrogen levels. It's very hard, even though it was a huge advance to go from hydrogen to nitrogen because nitrogen is much cheaper. It's still, that's cold as hell and it just requires a lot of stuff, money and bulk. Now, of course there's been advances that have already been made that there are already near room temperature superconductors out there, but they all invariably required ridiculous amounts of pressure to work. So it was like, oh, you're just trading off, super cold with super pressure. So it's like, there's no real advantage there. So having a superconductor that is both room temperature and normal pressure at the same time, I mean, it would just revolutionize electronics and research in ways that we just can't even imagine yet. But even based on what we can imagine, it's clear that there would be dramatic repercussions to modern society. I mean, how could it be any other way when you're essentially making such a fundamental improvement to such a broad fundamental technology like electronics with, things that use electrons, it would have to be dramatic to go to transition to such superconductors. Mohammad Yazdani-Asrami of the University of Glasgow's James Watt School of Engineering said, "A real working room temperature superconductor, which works at ambient pressure, would be one of the holy grails of modern physics, unlocking major new developments in energy, transportation, health care, and communication." So yeah, he agrees with me. He's a smart guy. And actually, I think I agree with him. So this latest advance boils down to something that's called LK-99. That's it, LK-99. It's a modified lead apatite, which is essentially a compound made of lead, copper, phosphorus, and oxygen. So they have to they have to be mixed in powdered form in very precise ratios, and then heated at high temperatures. And they can be made in just about 34 hours in a lab with basic equipment. That's it. And once this ingot is created, it's said to become a superconductor at 400 K, which is 260°F, 127°C. So based on their paper, I went through their paper, it seems to me that they looked pretty deeply at this substance, LK-99, to confirm its superconductivity. It's not like they just said, oh, electrical resistance has dropped, and it's floating on a magnet, the Meissner effect and stuff. And they're done. They actually use a lot of different tools. For example, they used x-ray diffraction. They looked at critical temperature. They looked at zero resistivity, critical current, critical magnetic field, and the Meissner effect. And then they analyse that data using x-ray diffraction, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. And my favourite, a superconducting quantum interference device, also known as a squid. So they're really cool. So they use all of this technology to try to find out not only, how it's happening, why it's happening. So the researchers say in their paper, all evidence and explanation lead that LK-99 is the first room temperature and ambient pressure superconductor. The LK-99 has many possibilities for various applications, such as magnet, motor, cable, a levitation train, power cable, qubit for a quantum computer, terahertz antennas. And here's the kicker. This is like the last line of their paper. We believe that our new development will be a brand new historical event that opens up a new era for humankind. So yeah, bold claims for sure. But based on the two papers that have been released and looked over by other scientists, a lot of these scientists are not as convinced that these researchers are. For example, the best quotes I got were from Pablo Esquinazi. He's the head of the Division of Quantum Magnetism and Supercognitivity at the University of Leipzig. So this guy, he's in the biz, as they say. He said, "It's really frustrating. With such a title, I thought that it should be something serious, but it does not seem so. The transport data on the manuscript cannot be taken seriously in the way they present it." And then at this point, Esquinazi references a video that's supposed to show that iconic hallmark of supercognitivity, the material floating above a magnet, the Meissner effect, because the superconductors expel magnetic fields. So if you put it on a magnet, it's going to push it away, so then that's why they flow. And that's why that's one of the iconic superconducting images. It's just such a potent image. And it became very popular probably in the 80s when they made the first breakthroughs with the higher temperature superconductors in the liquid nitrogen range. So he looked at that video. Now, this was supposedly the video. His source seems good, but the video, we believe, was of this material, the LK-99. So I saw the images, and this thing was only partly levitating. This was not fully levitating above the magnet. Only part of it was.

E: Yeah, like one edge of it was up and the other part was touching the material below it.

B: Right. So I'm like, what the hell's that? So Esquinazi, regarding that specifically, Esquinazi continues and he said, "And about the levitation, well, I do not think that the video shows what we see when we have a superconducting material levitating on a permanent magnet. You can get a similar behaviour with a sample having a part magnetically ordered near or on the permanent magnet. So in any case, it's really not worth discussing at this stage." So he thinks it's he doesn't like the papers are not convincing to him. He thinks it can be explained by other things potentially. And he thinks it's not even worth discussing, essentially, until and in other quotes, he said, this has got to be vetted. And that's obvious. It's got to be peer reviewed and all that stuff first. And he doesn't even think we should be even talking about it until then, especially considering the papers. But there's also some weirdness going on with the papers themselves. Now there's two papers. It's not one paper. There's two papers. One of them was the one that I mentioned, the one that specifically said first room temperature, ambient pressure, superconductor. That's, that's the main paper. That's the one that went viral. That's the one that has three authors listed. There's three authors, but there was a second paper had six authors, three of the originals and three others. So why, how come that has six, there's theories, weird theories of why that might be the case. But one of these extra authors is Hyun-Tak Kim. He's a research professor of physics. He said that the three author paper was published without his knowledge and that the paper has many defects, as he says, he claims that a more up to date paper will be published in a peer reviewed journal soon. And that he supports any group that's trying to replicate their findings. And he specifically addressed the levitating, the partially levitating superconductor. He said that it was not a, it was not a pure sample in that demonstration. Okay. do we give them the benefit of the doubt there? I don't know, but yeah, I'm a little excited about this for sure. Definitely I'm less excited than I was before researching it deeply. So I'm much less excited now than I was initially, now that I know some of the details. So as usual, peer review is going to be very telling. We're going to wait for the peer review. But who knows when that's going to be officially submitted. It could be weeks. It could be months, maybe. But on the other hand, I love that LK-99 can be made quickly. There's no real nuance here on how to do this. The instructions are in the paper. You just need a simple lab, with moderate skills. A lot of people are going to be making this.

E: So we'll know soon if it's replicable, right?

B: Absolutely. You could do it in a day and a half. They're saying 34 hours. Labs are absolutely already making it.

E: Bob, you may have to do a follow-up news item next week on this.

B: Absolutely. The guaranteed, guaranteed follow-up on this one. We may even have some feedback within days of this announcement. Today's Thursday, July 27. We could have feedback tomorrow, Friday or Saturday. Who knows? But I think we'll have feedback within days for sure. So, if multiple labs over the next couple of weeks confirm the findings, that's going to be extremely encouraging, very, very encouraging. And now my excitement will be ramped up significantly. If they're saying, yeah, this, we made this stuff and it's superconducting, we get the full-on Meissner effect going on here. It's floating, it's floating above a magnet and all these other tests we're doing. This looks really good or, and probably more likely if I had to put some money down, I think they won't be able to reproduce the effects. Unfortunately, I think that's probably more likely or there's going to be problems or it's not a good, it's not a good superconductor, whatever. I think there's going to be issues potentially that could happen as well. Neither of these would really dramatically surprise me. So it like, so as usual, we're going to have to wait, but I don't think we're going to have to wait too long to have a good feel for whether this is really dramatic or not. And one final thing I've read on one website about this was that, that they think that this material as described in the paper, cannot hold a lot of current so that it probably won't be even best case scenario, probably won't be ideal for like something like, big ticket colliders or really energetic machines and things like that. It might not be suited for that because it can't hold as much current, but I think, I think what the researchers are hoping here, and it's reasonable that once you found this class of materials and other scientists start jumping on and examining the different combinations and permutations of these materials and find out what it can really do, they may actually find even better superconductors, assuming that it is a superconductor. They may find ones that can hold a lot of current and that would be more ideal for their, for the real big, the big glamorous projects that would use superconductors. So who knows? So yeah, fingers are cross, we'll see. It's kind of exciting to think about, what this could mean for society, because it would be a dramatic change in many ways technologically. So yeah, we'll see what happens. It's all I can say right now. And fingers and toes crossed on this one.

S: So yeah, I mean, I just have, I have to agree that. This is like the neutrinos going faster than light. It's like, okay, that would be fascinating, but just it's so amazing we have to be skeptical of it until it's absolutely confirmed. But well, Bob, I'm a little surprised that one application you didn't mention was fusion reactors.

B: Oh, yeah. I mean, that's, yeah, I know.

E: Went without saying.

J: Whatever, just fusion.

B: I didn't want to even go with near fusion.

S: Like tokamak fusion reactors. we're trying to create really, really, powerful magnetic fields to contain the plasma to get to the temperature and pressure that we need to create sustainable fusion. And the trick is creating fusion with less energy than the energy you get out of the fusion itself. And a lot of that comes down to the efficiency of the magnets. So having powerful superconducting magnets that you don't have to super cool with hydrogen or nitrogen is huge. That makes fusion way more plausible.

B: They'll be designing new reactors. If this is true, they'll absolutely be designing a whole new fusion test beds using this tech.

S: Bob, what's your bet? If you had to bet right now, is this real or fake?

B: I'd say it's fake.

S: Yeah.

B: I'd say, yeah, I'd say it's not. Something's out of whack here. I mean, they couldn't convince a lot of scientists who read the paper who know this shit are like, ah, they're still skeptical. And they have a reason to be skeptical, not only because it's just good science, but also there's been lots of crazy stuff going on with superconductor research, even lately, people being, having papers retracted, having being accused of data manipulation and data creation, and basically fraud. So yeah, so the skeptical hackles are up even more than typically with superconducting research. And that's part of the reason why they're so skeptical.

A Galaxy Without Dark Matter (45:48)[edit]

S: All right, Bob, I'm actually a little surprised you didn't try to pick up this news item. This came out right after, after the show last week, a galaxy without dark matter. So which is not a new news, meaning we have seen these before, but this is still interesting. So you guys remember what dark matter is, right? What is it Jay? What's dark matter?

J: It's matter that we know is there because of physics, because it's having an effect on the universe and the way that galaxies move and everything. We know that there's matter there, but we can't, but our ability to like really detect it and understand it is dubious.

S: So do do you know the name of the guy who coined the term dark matter?

J: Yeah, it was Frankie Gismore. Close. {[w|Fritz Zwicky}}. There it is.

E: Oh, that's his cousin.

S: Yeah. Fritz Zwicky in 1933 as one of the possible explanations for the rotation of the coma galaxy cluster. It's a galaxy cluster, but it really was locked down by Vera Rubin in the 1970s when she was studying the rotation curves of galaxies. It's like, why are these rotation curves flat? They're spinning too fast, and the stars should be flying away. That means there's more gravity holding those stars together than we can account for by the stuff that we could see by the luminous stuff. There must be dark stuff there. And then she sort of resurrected the, Fritz Zwicky's idea of dark matter to explain that. And it, was a perfectly workable solution. But there's an alternative to the notion of dark matter.


S: MOND, yeah, the modified Newtonian dynamics. The alternative hypothesis is like, well, maybe it's not that there's stuff we can't see. Maybe Newtonian gravity works differently at really large scales, which is not a crazy idea, right?

B: Not totally crazy, yeah.

S: It's in the same way classical physics is just a local manifestation of relativity, right?

B: Low mass, low velocity.

S: Yeah, the equations that account for high mass, high velocity physics essentially approach the classical physical equations at low mass, low velocity, like the frame of reference we are on Earth. The difference becomes indistinguishable. It took, the orbit of Mercury around the sun, where our ability to observe precisely was able to detect relativistic effects. In any case, so it's possible, like at the level of galaxies and superclusters, maybe there's, again, there's this tweak in the equations that don't matter when we're sending probes to Pluto, but they do matter in explaining the rotation of galaxies, and that could explain, the "extra gravity". So how do we know the difference between the two? So one way is to see if there are any observations of things happening out there in the universe that can be explained if this extra gravity is being produced by stuff rather than being just an equation, a tweak to the equation. If it's a tweak to the equation, then it has to be everywhere, right?

E: Universal.

S: It's universal. But if it's stuff, if it's dark matter, it could be, the dark matter could be absent in certain locations. It could be some place and not another place. So I'm sure you remember one of the first, dramatic examples of this, that's the Bullet Cluster, right? So you have─

B: Yeah, classic.

S: So the Bullet Cluster is actually two colliding clusters of galaxies, right? Now when these galaxy clusters collide, the stars just pass through each other, because they're so empty, that the probability of two stars hitting each other directly is really remote. So even if it happens a couple of times, basically the stars just move past each other. But the gas clouds in the galaxies and in the galaxy clusters have pressure. So when they hit each other, they slow way down, right? So you have, with this collision, you have the gas clouds in the middle, because they slowed down when they hit each other. And the stars, separated away from the gas because they just went right through.

E: Like a filtration process almost.

S: Here's the question. If the galaxy clusters are made of gas, stars and dark matter, what would the dark matter do? Now, if the dark matter, if what we think that it's something that really just has gravity but otherwise doesn't really interact with stuff and is dark, right? So the dark matter should have also just passed right through the collision. But what do you think has more mass, the gas or the stars?

B: Probably the gas.

S: It's the gas. That's way more mass than the stars, right? So most of the mass of this colliding galaxy clusters should be in the middle with the gas clouds. Most of the gravity should be in the middle with the gas clouds. So we looked at it with microlensing and or with lensing, and we sort of imaged the gravity of the bullet cluster. And there was more gravity with the stars than there should have been, just as if the dark matter was moving with the stars and not the clouds, not the gas, which is what we would expect. So basically, we separated the gravity from the visible matter in the bullet cluster. That certainly makes it look like there's dark matter and not just its modified Newtonian gravity, right? Now, oftentimes, I see this presented as this is like the definitive proof of dark matter. It's QED. Although the MOND people say, well, not so fast that there's no reason why the equation changes in modified Newtonian dynamics. They could be arranged in such a way that these extra gravity waves aren't with the visible matter. So they could basically replicate the bullet cluster if they tweak the equations the right way. It's like, okay, I guess that's technically correct, but man, does that sound like a lot of special pleading to me. They're modified in just the way to make it look like it's dark matter. I don't buy it. I don't buy it at all. Okay, so here we are now. We have another piece of evidence, and this has to do with relic galaxies. Bob, have you ever heard of a relic galaxy? This is relic galaxy NGC 1277. What's a relic galaxy?

B: Oh, it hasn't interacted in a really long time.

S: Exactly. It's basically a galaxy that has not interacted with other galaxies or other mass over the majority of its lifetime, so it looks like it did in the ancient universe. It retains its ancient structure. In this case, so the NGC 1277 is a relic galaxy, and it's also a massive, really massive, relic galaxy. It's three times the mass of the Milky Way. So they recently, astronomers published a spectrographic analysis out to 20,000 light year radius of this galaxy, of this relic galaxy, and what did they find? They basically found that it contains less than 5% of the dark matter that is predicted, that a typical galaxy would possess. Now, they say less than 5% because that's the error bars, but they said the data is compatible with there being zero dark matter. So basically, it has zero dark matter, but they said that with the error bars, we could say it's less than 5%, right? Okay. Now, that galaxy should contain between 15% and 60% dark matter by gravity, right? So where did all the dark matter go? So the authors hypothesized that either it formed without dark matter for some reason, or early on, the proto-galaxy components lost their dark matter, so that when it came together as a galaxy, it didn't have any dark matter. So this reminds me of the Bullet Cluster because now we have, because of some quirky thing about how the galaxy formed, again, it could be an extremely rare event because the universe is a really big place and we're going to see really rare stuff if we look in enough places, right? So it certainly looks like, again, another nail in the coffin of MOND because if MOND is, if it's modified Newtonian dynamics, it has to be universal, but if the extra gravity is stuff, the stuff could be not there because of some interaction, that happened early on in the life of the galaxy. So again, the MOND people are not giving up like, but still you could make the equations work. It's like, okay, but stop, you know? I mean, it's just not, whatever. I don't find, as an amateur who's just trying to wrap my head around this, I go with the majority of astronomers who are like, dark matter is the simpler explanation. You really have to special plead the equations to keep MOND alive, but if we're talking about predictions, I think that this observation like the Bullet Cluster aligns with the predictions of dark matter better than the predictions of MOND. So we can't say we've absolutely proven that MOND is false, but I think Occam's razor is massively in favour of dark matter as the explanation for the bullet cluster and now this relic galaxy without dark matter. But it's, this is one of those fascinating science stories. It's fascinating to watch how it plays out, how the two sides argue and how they use evidence and prediction and the scientific method. And also, again, because we're skeptics, we get accused a lot of like, oh, you're always supporting the status quo and you're against actually skepticism and minority opinions. It's not true. Perfectly happy that there are MOND proponents out there forcing the majority of astronomers to defend the existence of dark matter. You know what I mean? It just like it's likely to strengthen the consensus. And, occasionally, these fringe minority opinions may turn out to be true. And so it's good to have some people keeping the flame alive in case it turns out to be true. And I do think it helps the science and it helps actually strengthen the majority opinion to have to defend itself and to do the due diligence that they should be doing and not to get lazy and say, okay, we know this is the explanation. Let's not think about it anymore. It's all healthy. It's all good for science. It doesn't mean that the fringe minority opinions are likely to be true, right? It's not a reason to believe in them. It's just like, fine, keep pushing MOND and and we'll let the chips fall where they may. But I would say right now it's looking really good for dark matter. I don't think that this is going to be really fully resolved until we figure out what the hell dark matter is. Until we do, we do need to keep a little question mark next to it. There's something there we can't see. We'll just call it dark matter. But it would be nice to, at some point, finally be able to say what dark matter is. Right now, we don't know. We have ideas, machos and wimps, but we don't know.

[commercial brake]

Men Convicted For Mineral Solution (59:19)[edit]

S: All right, Evan, I always like it when people get convicted for fraud and pseudoscience.

E: Right? Yeah, I mean, even if it comes a little late, but hey, justice is justice. And yeah, we received an email a few days ago with a one-word subject line. It read, "FINALLY", with about 10 exclamation points behind it. So thank you, SGU listener named Christos for your appropriately titled email. And yes, finally, some people are being held accountable for selling bleach in the guise of a faith-infused miracle health remedy. A federal jury convicted a father and his three sons of selling a toxic bleach solution as a miracle medical cure out of a fake church's website. And there were thousands of consumers all across the country and even more across the world. So this is the family behind the Genesis Two Church of Health and Healing out of Florida. And I know I've talked about them at least twice before on the show. Jay, I think you've talked, you've done a report at least once on them. And I think Cara might've even touched on them before. Miracle mineral solution. Do you guys remember that? MMS? So this was, yeah, this was reported at the Miami Herald. Jay Weaver was the author of this news item. Jay Weaver is the author of the news report and he reminds us that the Genesis Two Church of Health and Healing had sold tens of thousands of MMS orders in violation of federal law since 2010. It was in that year that Mark Grenon claims to have founded the organization with a man named Jim Humble, whom I've spoken about before, in a plan to avoid governmental regulation and arrest as they promoted MMS as a miracle cure. Humble, a man who has dabbled in Scientology and professed to be a 1 billion year old god, began promoting the substance as early as 2006 in self-published works after he claimed to have discovered its medical properties while on a gold mining expedition in South America. After Humble supposedly stepped away from the organization in 2017, Grenon continued to manufacture, promote, and sell MMS with his three sons. I'll give a slight correction or addition for Jay Weaver here. Yes, a 1 billion year old god he professed to be, but also who is from the Andromeda Galaxy, specifically. MMS, what is it? What is this stuff? It's 28% sodium chloride in distilled water. That's the equivalent to industrial strength bleach. Proponents of MMS recommend diluting it in either water or food acids, such as lemon juice, which results in the formation of chlorine dioxide. Chlorine dioxide is often used to do things like sterilize medical equipment, laboratory equipment, surfaces, rooms, and tools. Not to mention it's used in the electronics industry to clean circuit boards. It's also used to bleach paper and textiles in those manufacturing processes. Jim Humble, who I mentioned before, was the co-founder of this cult he's a fellow who calls diseases like diabetes fake and made up among many other things. But he claims MMS could be used to successfully treat AIDS, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, malaria, herpes, tuberculosis, most cancer, and many other ailments. He says that five million people around the world have used MMS. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved as a result. I could go on a lot more about all the sickness that actually people have gone under in taking in this substance, including vomiting, nausea, diarrhea.

S: It's bleach.

E: It's bleach.

S: It's industrial bleach.

E: Yes. Yes. But you see, you getting sick, the purveyors of the MMS poison, they attribute the vomiting, the nausea, the diarrhea, and all the other ailment, all the other, effects from it. That means the product's working, you see. It's making, it's actually making you better.

S: Getting your toxins out there. By the way, that kind of argument is centuries old.

E: I know.

S: The notion that, like, whatever sign of, like, disease progression is actually a sign that whatever quack treatment they're giving you is, "working", that has been going on for as long as there has been quackery.

E: Oh, gosh, yeah. Bloodletting is, like, whatever it is, man.

S: Oh, you see, basically, they used to think that the pus coming out of a wound was a good thing. Not a sign that it was horribly infected in you guys.

E: We had no idea what infection was. Right, yeah. Okay, so the guilty parties, Mark Grennan, son, and his three sons, my three sons, Jonathan, Joseph, and Jordan. Wasn't there a show called My Three Sons? I think there was, but it has nothing to do with this. Yep. Found guilty. It only took the jury, it was a jury trial, 30 minutes to deliberate. To come up with the guilty charges. Guilty of conspiracy to defraud the US government and the FDA, which obviously regulates the food and drug industry here in the United States, by distributing an unapproved and misbranded drug. That conviction carries up to five years in prison, so that's what they're all facing. Plus two of the Grennans, Jonathan and Gordon, also found guilty on counts of violating federal court orders requiring them to stop selling MMS back in 2020. Those counts carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. We'll see how that fares out for them. And it was specifically said that the Grennans could not use the First Amendment in their defense, in their trials, the religious freedom clause that's in there, because their so-called church is not a recognized religious entity. You can't just make up a church and say it's church and therefore, everything we do is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution. So sorry, cults everywhere, your criminal actions are not protected by the US Constitution, thank goodness.

S: But that's also, everything here is an old scam, right? That's the Scientology scam, right? Literally, with L. Ron Hubbard did, he wanted to create an alternative to psychiatry, snake oil thing. He got into trouble, he was like, well, if I make it a religion, then I'm good, right? So then Dianetics just make it into a religion and you get past beyond the problem of the free speech thing and everything. Also using this as protected speech, when no, it's commercial speech, which means that you can't commit fraud. Fraud is not protected speech.

E: Thank goodness.

S: Yeah, and we keep having to fight this same thing over and over and over again.

E: Absolutely. And look, hey, it took, well, 2006 is when this started. Here we are, 17 years from the beginning of the crime basically to now and finally we're seeing these people brought to justice. So it does take a while, but at least we do in some cases finally see it, even though it's a long, hard slog to ultimately get there. They are appealing, obviously, this ruling, but I doubt this really has any standing at all to be turned over on appeal. So I think these people better get ready for the sentencing coming up in the coming months.

S: I've also dealt with these cases myself. I've been asked to give expert testimony on behalf of prosecution or state health departments. And while it's great when they go after stuff like this, I do find that there's a lot of naivete. A lot of times they just don't get how psychopathic these people are. You know what I mean? They want to give them a slap on the wrist. How could we keep this person from abusing this? You can't. This is what they do. There's no box you can put them in. You've got to put them in freaking jail or completely take away their license to practice medicine or whatever it is that they're doing. There's no good faith, reasonable parameters you can put on them. Otherwise they wouldn't be doing this in the first place.

E: Yeah. And we see this also many times when psychics have to answer in court. They're often found guilty for things like violating some financial or something about defrauding, but nothing specifically really about the fact that they don't really have these psychic powers, that they're absolutely lying to their people. No, it's because they violated this statute. I get it. You have to get these people on technicalities. It's the old Al Capone thing. Al Capone didn't go to jail for ordering the murder of a bunch of people. He went to jail because he didn't pay his taxes. So you kind of have to work within whatever system there is, but it's somewhat less satisfying in a sense to unfortunately not see these criminals brought to heel for exactly their nefarious actions. But any way you can get them.

S: An yway you can get them. I'm totally okay with it. All right. Thanks, Evan.

Who's That Noisy? (1:08:45)[edit]

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

J: All right, guys. Last week I played this very quiet noisy.

[whirring in background, scratching sound fading in foreground]

Sorry, it was so quiet, but it's an interesting sound. I thought it was worth going through with you guys. So I got a lot of guesses, lots of different types of guesses, which is always interesting for me to see people send in a huge different variety of different things. Here are some of the fun ones. So a listener named Richard Smith wrote in and said: "To Who's That Noisy, Although it's not hitting in the back of my head like the sound of one I encountered years ago, I'm going to say that this week's noisy is the chattering of a bat." I thought thatwas such a cool guess. That is not correct. It is not a bat. But that was a fun guess. Another listener named William Steele wrote in. He said: "To Who's That Noisy Hi, Jay, I'll cut straight to it. I think this is Perseverance dropping a core sample on Mars. And then he links to it." So basically, Perseverance is taking samples of the Martian regolith, like digging holes into the surface, and then getting samples, putting them into sealed tubes, and then dropping those tubes onto the Martian surface. And we're supposed to send, we talked about this collector system. Very cool. That is not Perseverance dropping core samples on Mars, but that is a very fun guess. Another listener named Dougal Morris wrote in and said: "Hi guys, I have a hunch that this week's noisy is a recording of the Titan sub imploding. If not the real recording, then a simulation, perhaps." It is not that noise. And I'm kind of glad we don't have a recording of that actual noise. You probably wouldn't. You can't hear screaming.

S: I think they're just talking about when they were just recording the sonogram or whatever, just that, whatever that anomaly was.

J: Yeah. But that wasn't it. God, that freaks me out when I think about it. Another listener named Michael Blaney wrote in and said: "Hi Jay, Hmm, really odd. I'm going to guess it's really volume increased recording of a spider traversing its web." Oh my god. I love that guess. What a cool sound that would potentially be. Now I need to know what that sounds like.

E: We just got to turn you into a fly. We'll use the pods and.

J: So guys, nobody guessed it.

S: Really?

J: I'm not surprised. Not surprised because it was a very subtle noise. There wasn't a lot of detail, but this is actually the sound of water freezing and crystallizing. So it's essentially the sound of ice, of water freezing into ice in that moment when the ice forms very quickly over a very thin layer of water. So let's listen to it again. Yeah, I thought that was really cool. I think that's really cool. I like that sound. It sounds pretty much exactly what I would think it would sound like too, which is, it's just rare. It's very rare that I'm like, yep, that's exactly what I would think that that would sound like. It has that ice sound. I don't know how to describe it. Just has an ice sound to it, which once you listen to it and you know what it is, you can, you can visualize it. It's very cool. There's a video attached with this that I thought was really cool to watch.

New Noisy (1:11:58)[edit]

J: All right, guys, let's move on to a new noisy this week. We have a noisy that was sent in by a listener named Brian Perry, and here's the noise.

[squeaking, as of birds or wheels]

I love this noisy because it could be so many different things, right?

E: Yeah, animal, mechanical.

J: Yeah, perfectly vague. It's in the sweet spot. Very fun. So if you think you know what this week's noisy is, or guys, you heard something cool, just take the minute, send it to me. It makes a big difference because the quality of the show is dependent on you sending me good noises. You can email me, and you should try to only email me at

Announcements (1:12:53)[edit]

J: Steve, we have things coming up.

S: Yeah, I know.

J: We have, we will be at Dragon Con as you guys know. And if you know, you already know when the dates are and all the details about that.

E: Labour Day weekend.

J: Yes, but it's going to be a lot of fun. We're really looking forward to it. Haven't been there in a long time. So we'll see you there. We'll be on a skeptic track and we have other, we have a few, few different panels that we're all doing. We will give you all those details probably over the next couple of weeks as we get the final, final info on when these things are going to be happening. The big thing we have coming up though, and the thing that I am very proud of is our new conference that's called NOTACON. It's called NOTACON because this isn't the kind of conference where you go and you listen to people talk all day. And let's face it, we've all been to science and particularly skeptical conferences. And you see a lot of the same faces, a lot of similar content. What we realized was a lot of our patrons and listeners were telling us how much they missed the in-person conferences. And it became very clear to us that they miss it because they miss interacting and socializing and actually just having fun. So what we came up with is a conference that revolves around having fun and socializing. There's going to be a lot of activities that we have planned throughout the day on both days. So this would be November 3rd and 4th. Actually, we will all be there on November 2nd at night, or at least most of us will be there prepping and hanging out and doing things. So if you are there that night, keep an eye out. You'll definitely see us there. We can all hang out on Thursday night as well. But on Friday and Saturday, we have two full days of programming. We'll have nighttime entertainment for both Friday and Saturday night. Right now, we are going to be doing Boomer vs. Zoomer, which is our game show. We'll be pulling contestants out of the audience for that. And on Saturday night, we'll be doing Brian Wecht and George Hrabb's Insane 80s Sing Along, which is going to be a ton of fun. And George likes to remind me to tell you guys to wear 80s clothing.

E: Yeah, no problem. Still have plenty.

J: So those are the two nighttime activities. And then afterwards, there's plenty of time to stay in the hotel and go to the socializing places that I have selected. I have handpicked. This is a really fun conference. It's a great place to unwind. It's a great place and time to hang out with people from the SGU. Andrea Jones-Roy, George Hrabb, and Brian Wecht will be joining the full cast for SGU. So please do join us. Go to website and you can see there's a button on there on the homepage that'll take you to all the information you need. Please do join us. It's going to be a lot of fun and we're really looking forward to it. Now.

S: Yes.

J: I have been asking SGU listeners over the past couple of months to please consider if you do enjoy this show, if we educate you, if we entertain you, if you appreciate the work that we're doing, now is a wonderful time to become a patron of the show. You might notice that there has been a very low number of ads on the show. And as I've explained in the past, there just isn't a lot of ad companies that are buying ads right now. There's a big lull and it would work very well for us if you are inclined to do so. Now would be a wonderful time to become a patron because we could really, really use your support to keep doing what we do. And again, I'll remind you, we've been doing this for, Steve, how many freaking years have we been doing this?

S: 18 years.

J: Almost two decades of 100% free content. Becoming a patron and showing your support is a very small thing you could do to show your appreciation for the work that we do. So please do consider doing that. We really can use your help right now more than ever. Go to for all the details. And we really, really appreciate those of you who have recently joined. Thank you.

S: Thank you, Jay.


Question #1: Talent vs Skill (1:16:58)[edit]

My friend and I have been having an ongoing discussion for a long time about the role of talent in people's abilities. And I thought it would be interesting to hear all of your perspectives. The discussion is a lot to summarize and I think talent itself is difficult to define. For example, my friend has mentioned several times that things like natural abilities or genetics that would give a person their talent. But to me, things like size, speed and others are all trainable to some degree and also depend a lot on development. Like if you grow up food insecure, you probably aren't going to be as tall as you have the potential to be. My friend brings up the example of Michael Phelps and his out of the ordinary body in terms of wingspan and lung capacity. I argued back that his lungs probably wouldn't have developed in such a way if he wasn't the athlete that he is. And while there are always going to be people far on the outside of the normal distribution of certain characteristics, that alone isn't going to be the reason they are successful at something.


S: All right, we got one email. This email comes from Mitch and Mitch writes, "My friend and I have been having an ongoing discussion for a long time about the role of talent in people's abilities. And I thought it would be interesting to hear all of your perspectives. The discussion is a lot to summarize and I think talent itself is difficult to define. For example, my friend has mentioned several times that things like natural abilities or genetics that would give a person their talent. But to me, things like size, speed and others are all trainable to some degree and also depend a lot on development. Like if you grow up food insecure, you probably aren't going to be as tall as you have the potential to be. My friend brings up the example of Michael Phelps and his out of the ordinary body in terms of wingspan and lung capacity. I argued back that his lungs probably wouldn't have developed in such a way if he wasn't the athlete that he is. And while there are always going to be people far on the outside of the normal distribution of certain characteristics, that alone isn't going to be the reason they are successful at something." All right, you give us some more examples, but basically that's the discussion. What is the difference between talent and overall ability, skills, success? What do you guys, do you have any immediate thoughts on that?

J: It's complicated. Yeah, and I agree with Evan. It's a combination. I mean, look, we're all born with, bonuses and deficits, I think. Like for example, my 10-year-old son is musically inclined. He absolutely is musically inclined. He can sing on key. He can identify notes very easily. This is not something that most people can do. He also picks up, when he's playing a musical instrument, he's very comfortable immediately. But if he doesn't work on it, if he doesn't make it a priority, if he doesn't dedicate the time and put in the incredible amount of work it takes to really, really become proficient in something, it doesn't matter how talented he is out of the box. He's just not going to get to where he, of course, where he potentially could be. I think the 90 percenter is definitely the effort that you put in. But I will say something like this. So take Prince, for example. Prince, out of the box, an unbelievably talented musician. That guy can play multiple instruments. Like on his first album, he played every single instrument, did every single thing. This was clearly somebody that was born with a remarkable talent. Elton John is another example of a musician born with incredible talent. But they did work their asses off.

E: Yeah, right. And since they were, what, four years old, right, very early on in life and in a lot of these cases, certainly when we talk about Olympic athletes and these sorts of people who train to become, some of the best in their sport, they get to it right away and devote almost every free hour possible that they can to their craft.

J: I think it does take to be a Michael Phelps. I do think you have to be born with something significant.

E: Well, sure. He's got, he also has the physicality, the physical features that has certain advantages that when he goes into the water, say against someone like me, who's much stockier, shorter limbs, shorter body and everything else, there's no way somebody with a build like mine could compete with someone with a physical build like his.

J: I would say like, to perform a mental test that you couldn't really do in real life. But you take 10,000 people and all of them try to do what Michael Phelps did, right? All the different types of bodies that they have and genetic predisposition and whatever, right? Michael Phelps is going to be the only guy that gets to that level. You know what I mean? Everybody can't do it.

B: That's the upper echelon of human performance. And you said it, Jay, the vast majority of scenarios, it's going to come down to just your effort and dedication, regardless of the genes. Only when you really get to that upper echelon of performance, approaching that wall of what is possible with human biomechanics that you see in sports and Olympics and world records is the best example. You can't beat a combination of dedication, hard work and genes that make you more prone, more able to perform a specific ability. You can't beat that combination, but that only comes into play in the most rare of circumstances. For most scenarios, it's just about the effort and don't worry about the damn genes.

S: I disagree. I wouldn't frame it that way. I wouldn't frame it that way exactly. I think the way to think about it is that your talent is really two things. One is, I think you could say the talent is just biologically what is your maximum potential, but also it's the ease with which or the rapidity with which you can develop a specific skill or ability. And there's evidence to back this up. For example, there's the, you've heard like whatever it is, like the 10,000 hour thing. If you spend 10,000 hours doing anything, you can become an expert at it. But some people could get there in 5,000 hours. That's talent. It's putting in the 5 to 10,000 hours, that's your skill. But how many hours you need to put it to get to a certain level, that's talent. And when you're pushing up against the limits of human ability, like how far you could get to is also talent. So it's speed and the absolute limit. But yes, you need to put the work in to get there. But those two things factor together. And sometimes, Bob, the talent thing can be extreme. Like you can go, some people can get to high levels of skill much more quickly than other people. The other thing is, we have to focus on the other end too. It's not just at the high end of ability. It's a bell curve, right? It's at both ends. There are some people who are at the low end of that bell curve. They have very little talent and it would take them 20,000 hours and they would never get up to an expert level because they just don't have the ability. They don't have the talent. So I don't think you could say it's one dominates over the other. I think it's really a combination of both.

B: Yeah, I mean, but still, I think that for most situations...

S: Yeah, for most people, for most people, if you're in the middle of that bell curve, it's going to be all about your work.

B: And the thing that annoys me about this is that often people will say, oh, he's so talented. And they just go right to the talent angle and they don't even mention or even think about, that person has put in a tremendous time and effort and time and dedication and that's to be commended.

J: You're right, Bob. You know what the perfect example of that is? Any time a band "makes it", or a new band, they're not a new band. They're not a new band.

B: An overnight success day Jay, an overnight success.

J: An overnight success that took 10 years, right? And that's with everything. Like you can't... I truly believe that most people can find something that they have a predisposition to be good at, right?

E: I think there's something to that, Jay, right? Michael Phelps will never be a world-class jockey, for example. So you also have to have a certain recognition sort of of where your abilities potentially lie. And you can't shoot for things that are going to be near impossible for you to reach physically or otherwise. So I think the people who are, who rise to the top also recognize that and decide to focus their efforts towards something that they know is attainable.

J: This is why, as a parent, it's a wonderful thing to help your children explore what their potential talents are, right? Try all the different sports and music and take them horseback ride, whatever.

S: But we have to keep in mind there's 8 billion people on this planet. The chance of you being the best at anything, better than 8 billion other people, is really remote. Most of us have to be content with relative mediocrity. And it's fine. Because the thing is, with the hard work, with your 10,000 hours, you can get into the top 5%, the top 1%, because very few people are going to put in that much work. But if you want to win an Olympic gold medal, then you're talking, you need that combination of talent and work, because you're trying to out-compete 8 billion people, basically. It's so extreme. You have to be functioning at such a high level. And we get this a lot as well in the intellectual arena. And I think it's easier there to just say, oh, that person's just really smart.

B: Makes you feel better.

S: Playing the talent card, it is such a disservice to the hard work that people put in. It also is a get-out-of-jail-free card. It's like permission to be mediocre, because you're like, well, I don't have the talent, so I can't be blamed for not being good at this. But even something that seems like just raw talent takes a lot of work. People ask me, how do you do all the work that you do? And everything is like, it's because I've been doing this for 30 years.

E: Dedicating yourself, your life to this.

S: I do it all the time. I work at it really hard.

J: I picked up bread making. To a casual observer, all of a sudden, I was making a good loaf of bread. But my process was meticulous. I went through a lot of recipes. I read books. I watched tons of YouTube videos. I talked to people. It was my number one hobby. It still is my number one hobby. But I watched myself go through this process of learning how to do it. It took a lot of time, and I really sucked. You know what I mean?

S: And now you're good. But if you wanted to be world class, it would take years.

J: Yeah, it would take years.

S: And that's true with anything.

E: Jay's bakery. That sounds good.

S: The question is, are you ever going to get good at science or fiction? That's the real question.

J: I'm getting worse as the years go by statistically.

S: The problem is, I'm getting better too. Let's go on with this week's science or fiction.


Science or Fiction (1:28:08)[edit]

Item #1: Scientists have been able to reanimate nematodes taken from Siberian permafrost that were frozen for 46 thousand years.[6]
Item #2: New research finds that, despite diverging evolutionarily 179 million years ago, the honeycomb design of honey bee and paper wasp nests derives from a common ancestor.[7]
Item #3: Researchers were able to transplant mitochrondria into damaged kidney cells improving energy production and reducing toxicity and physiological stress.[8]

Answer Item
Fiction Honeycomb: common ancestor
Science Reanimated nematodes
Mitochondria transplantation
Host Result
Steve clever
Rogue Guess
Mitochondria transplantation
Reanimated nematodes
Honeycomb: common ancestor

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

S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts, two real and one fake, and then I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fake. Three regular science news items this week. None of them are about room temperature superconductors. That would have been a great science or fiction.

E: I don't know.

S: You didn't have it. If I saw that first. All right, here we go. Item number one, scientists have been able to reanimate nematodes taken from Siberian permafrost that were frozen for 46,000 years. Item number two, new research finds that despite diverging evolutionarily 179 million years ago, the honeycomb design of honeybee and paper wasp nests derives from a common ancestor. Item number three, researchers were able to transplant mitochondria into damaged kidney cells, improving energy production and reducing toxicity and physiological stress. Evan, go first.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: All right. First one about scientists, they've been able to reanimate nematodes taken from Siberian permafrost, and they were frozen for 46,000 years. Nematodes. Steve, could you please remind the audience and me of what a nematode is?

S: They look like worms. Does that help you?

E: Ah, wormish. Okay.

B: Very helpful in genetic studies and fascinating in ubiquitous.

E: Now, okay, so the definition of reanimate is clinically dead and then...

S: Well, they were frozen.

E: Ah, okay.

S: And now they're alive.

E: Well, is frozen death? I mean, I'm trying to, maybe the clue here is the word reanimate, other than the movie reanimate, or what's my definition of reanimate?

B: I think they start moving again, I guess.

E: I guess I'm not going to get any further help on that one. That's interesting. Second one, about diverging evolutionary, despite diverging evolutionarily 179 million years ago, honeycomb design of a honeybee and paper wasp nests derives from a common ancestor. Okay, so they diverged 179 million years ago, but the honeycomb design itself...

S: So it goes back all the way to 179 million years.

E: Okay.

S: To their common ancestor.

E: I have a feeling that one's going to be right. That sounds neat. That's a long time. I mean, 179 million, I mean, boy, you are talking a significant amount of time there, but yeah, I have a feeling that one's right. Now, this last one is probably the one that I maybe understand, maybe the least. Research is able to transplant mitochondria, okay, into damaged kidney cells, improving energy production and reducing toxicity and physiological stress. They were able to transplant mitochondria into damaged kidney cells. We don't know.

S: So you know what mitochondria is?

E: Yeah. Mitochondria is the center of the cells.

S: No, it's the nucleus.

B: Energy production.

S: Mitochondria are organelles that are the energy, they produce energy for cells.

E: Okay. But into damaged kidney cells, which we don't know which animal we're talking about, first of all. So I think, that's hard, right? I mean, that's transplanting mitochondria. Has that happened before? Is that technology? I don't know about that. It seems improving energy. I can see how it would improve energy production. Sure, if you could transplant it in there and it sounds very specific. I don't know if that technology really is available. All right. I guess I'll go with that one. The damaged kidney cells one is the fiction.

S: Okay, Bob.

Bob's Response[edit]

B: These are good. I hope the mitochondria one is real. And the nematode one, 46,000 years. I mean, we've like had desiccated, I've read estimates that a desiccated, what was it? Bug bear?

E: Bug bear?

S: Water bears.

E: Oh, water bears.

B: Yeah. I know they've, I've heard estimates of a hundred years for them of being like desiccated and just add water and bloop, I'm good. But 46,000, damn, I might've just talked myself into this one. Yeah, 46,000. I was going to actually go for the most reasonable one, which is the B one and just say, do a little metacastanza kind of guessing and say that that's got to be the one that's fiction. But 46,000 years, I'll say that one's fiction. It seems way too long.

S: Okay. And Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: All right. The first one about the nematodes, I believe it. There's probably some circumstance how they were frozen or whatever, where they were.

B: 46 millennia.

J: Yeah, that's a long time. I know. Stranger things have happened. The second one, 179 million years ago, the honeycomb design of honeybees and paper wasp nests derives from a common ancestor. So the honeycomb design and the wasp nest, I mean, they don't look like anything like each other. I mean, but I guess maybe, maybe that where they put the larva is a little similar. There is some similarity there. I'm not sure. That's an interesting one. I wouldn't be surprised that they have a common ancestor either. And the last one here, transplant mitochondria into damaged kidney cells and improving energy production and reducing toxicity. That one for some reason strikes me as science. I don't know. I'm going to say that the honeycomb one is a fiction.

E: Interesting.

S: Oh boy. We're all spread out.

E: Cara, where are you? Break the tie.

S: Okay.

E: In order?

S: So I guess I guess I'll take these in order.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: Scientists have been able to reanimate nematodes taken from Siberian permafrost that were frozen for 46,000 years. Bob, you think this one is the fiction. Evan and Jay think this one is science. And this one is science.

B: 46,000 years?

S: 46,000 years.

E: Did they just put an electric charge in order to get it to jump around?

S: No, they just warm it up. It was frozen. They just defrost it and they rehydrate it. They rehydrate it.

E: So Bob was on the right track there with that suggestion.

S: So yeah, called cryptobiosis. Cryptobiosis is when these organisms like water bears or nematodes go into suspended metabolism. They have evolved a combination of genetic and biochemical pathways that enable them to survive for prolonged periods of time. But this is the longest, the longest that they've been able to reanimate something by like an order of magnitude. They went from thousands of years to 46,000 years. So that is surprising. But I guess once you're desiccated and frozen, you're like the thing, right? You're telling me that this mofo crawled out of the ice after a million years? Yes, that's what we're saying. This nematode crawled out of the ice after 46,000 years and was still ready to go. So also, I mean, it's like it's so old. How old is it? It actually belongs to a new species that they hadn't identified before, one that was alive 46,000 years ago. Yeah, very, very cool. All right, let's go on to number two.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: New research finds that despite diverging evolutionarily 179 million years ago, the honeycomb design of honeybee and paper wasp nests derives from a common ancestor, Jay, you think this one is the fiction, Bob and Evan, you think this one is science. So you guys know what we're getting at here, right? It's the difference between homology and what's the other one?

B: Anti-homology.

S: An analogy. Homology and analogy. Yes, homologous traits and analogous traits. Homologous traits are traits that are the same because they derive from a common ancestor. Analogous traits are traits that look the same because they have the same function. Yes. So the question is, does the honeycomb design between honeybees and paper wasps, are they homologous or analogous? Did they evolve once and then they share them from that common ancestor? Or did they independently evolve the honeycomb design? Well, this one is the fiction. Good work, Jay, because they are analogous traits. They independently evolved the honeycomb design. And Jay, you're right when you say they look nothing like each other because that's part of how we know homology versus analogy is if they're homologous, they should be similar in certain details, especially ones that are contingent and don't really necessarily reflect function. Like it'd be too much of a coincidence if they were the same in that particular detail and it wouldn't be explained by function itself. But if they're just analogous, they'll be similar in ways that directly relate to function, but different in ways that don't by chance alone. So there's interesting differences between them. Now, the honeycomb design is really advantageous for a number of reasons. It is very strong. It's an extremely efficient use of material, right? And so evolution converged on this really efficient design, this hexagonal honeycomb design, even in these two lineages. What the paper that I'm pulling from was looking at was another very specific aspect. So both the honeybee nests and the paper wasp nests have another feature that's the same, and that is they have different size hexagonal segments for different purposes. Like they have one size for like the worker bees and another size for the eggs or whatever. And so they need to be able to connect the bigger hexagons with the smaller hexagons. And how do they do that? And they were just asking, do they do it? Did they find the same solution to that construction problem? They do it through intermediary non-hexagonal cells. So here's a big difference. Tell me if you guys can imagine this. Honeybees build their honeycombs, right? They connect their hexagonal cells together vertically, which means that the openings are to the side, right? Paper wasps build them horizontally, which means that the openings are all from the bottom. And I know you guys know this because I know we have seen these nests together. They open up from the bottom, the cells, as opposed to from the sides, like with the honeybees. So anyway, they're independently evolved. They just, evolution converged upon this maximally efficient design. Now Jay, you said you wouldn't be surprised if honeybees and paper wasps have a common ancestor. First of all, everything has a common ancestor. With everything else, it's only a matter of how far back you have to go. But honeybees and paper wasps are both hymenoptera. They're both part of the same group of insects. They're both hymenoptera. So they're actually fairly closely related, even though you go back 179 million years. But it also is a good reminder, researching for this piece, we have a really fleshed out evolutionary tree of just the hymenoptera with a lot of fossilized samples, mostly of fully intact specimens in amber. We have transitional species between wasps and bees. You zoom in on this one little group of animals and there's like, yeah, we've got the evolution pretty worked out because they preserve well in amber. So just an interesting side comment. All right.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: All of this means that researchers were able to transplant mitochondria into damaged kidney cells, improving energy production and reducing toxicity and physiological stress is science. Yeah, this is a great study. So yeah, this is really a new model of transplanting mitochondria. This could potentially be an entirely new form of medicine. It's called MITO, mitochondrial transplantation. And they did the study in two models of acute kidney injury. What they're looking for, one was in vivo, one was in vitro, or one was, I should say, one was in vitro, one was ex vivo. They took it out of a living thing, in vivo. They were trying to simulate kidney transplant, right? You take a kidney out of a cadaverous donor. How do we keep that kidney alive long enough to transplant it into a recipient? And so what they were looking for was, well, if we transplant mitochondria into the kidney cells, would that keep it alive longer? Would that reduce the stress of the ischemia of the taking it from a corpse? And they found that, yeah, they were looking at markers for it, but what they found was that in each of the model, they transplanted mitochondria versus placebo, right? They just transplanted nothing just to go through the process. So the mitochondrial cells showed higher proliferative capacity, higher ATP production, and preservation of physiological polarization of the organelles, and lower toxicity, fewer reactive oxygen species. That's sort of the waste product of mitochondria, right? That's what you need antioxidants for, is to sort of sop up those reactive oxygen species that get cranked out by mitochondria. So basically, the cells did better. Now, this is just a basic science proof of concept. We need to replicate this, as Evan points out, in people, in actual kidney transplants, for example. But also, this could have implications, obviously, far beyond that. If you could make cells healthier, any diseased cells, make them function better, make them healthier by giving them some fresh, powerful mitochondria, then, of course, that gets you thinking, what if we could genetically engineer super mitochondria? You know?

B: Please, let's make this happen.

E: And that will, in their lifespans, what, turn into something superhuman?

S: Well, so let me just, I don't know. But let me just say this. So the efficiency of your mitochondria is really important to your longevity.

B: Exactly.

S: Yeah, because mitochondria, like this is your basic metabolic function here. This is the thing that makes energy from calories.

B: ATP, man.

S: Yeah. And the more efficient your mitochondria are, and the less stress they put on the cells, the fewer waste products they put out, the fewer reactive oxygen species they produce, the better. The less the stress on the cells, the longer they'll live, and the healthier they'll be.

B: Right. Animals that live longer is, to a significant degree, related to how efficiently, how few waste products are created and not ushered away, and not, because the waste products of metabolism, in a lot of ways, they stay there, and that is implicated in a lot of aspects of it.

S: And there are some disease states where basically you have malfunctioning mitochondria that's just cranking out toxic waste products, you know?

J: Jesus.

E: That's rough.

S: Yeah. So anyway, I'm all in favour of super mitochondria transplants.

E: I can't think of a downside other than cancer?

S: Totally feasible.

E: As long as the cancer doesn't occur or something.

S: Well, I mean, that's always a good point, though, Evan, because there's a reason why we don't already have super mitochondria. You have to think, what is it? It could be that we just didn't get around to evolving it yet, or just chance, or is it a trade-off? Is there a downside that we would also have to be able to compensate for? Maybe those super mitochondria would put stress on cells in a different way or increase the risk of cancer or whatever. You certainly don't want cancer cells with super mitochondria, right? That would be a bad thing. So I hope that we could make it work and mitigate the downsides. That could be nothing we're going to benefit from, guys. But I mean, this is for future generations. It's interesting to think about. This could be an interesting future medical technology. All right.

B: Oh, yeah, man.

S: Good job, Jay.

E: Well done, Jay.

S: Evan, can you give us a quote?

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:45:36)[edit]

Critical thinking is an active and ongoing process. It requires that we all think like Bayesians, updating our knowledge as new information comes in.

 – Daniel J. Levitin (1957-present), American-Canadian cognitive psychologist, from A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age

E: "Critical thinking is an active and ongoing process. It requires that we all think like Bayesians, updating our knowledge as new information comes in." And that was written by Daniel Levitin, his book, A Field Guide to Lies, Critical Thinking in the Information Age.

S: Very nice. And of course, yeah, we throw out the term like Bayesian analysis a lot, but it's really just that. It's just you have a prior probability, you get new information, you update the probability with the new information. That's Bayesian thinking. But here's the thing, guys. Most people do that inherently for most things. People inherently take a Bayesian approach to what they believe. What critical thinking comes in is in all the ways that we deviate from Bayesian analysis. And we deviate from a Bayesian approach any time our emotions are engaged, any time there's something that we want to believe in or our identity is being threatened, or we're defending our team, our tribe, right? So whenever we have a motivation to deviate from Bayesian analysis, we do. The critical thinking is in recognizing that and consciously and conscientiously going back to a Bayesian approach, right?

B: Absolutely.

S: Because that's just a basic common sense approach. New information, update my belief to accommodate this new information. You don't throw out all the old information. You now just incorporate it into a new unified way of looking at things, right? You're not just jumping from belief to belief with each new piece of information. You're just adding it to the pile. You're adding it to the entire pile of information that you have, which makes perfect sense. But it's good to know that that's what we inherently do unless we have a reason not to. Unfortunately, we have lots of reasons.

B: Lots of reasons and we're good at it.

E: What if you start with bad information and compound on that? I mean, isn't that a problem?

S: Well, yeah, but the thing is though, the new information could be that your old information is bad.

E: Well, hopefully that's how it works.

S: Yeah, it could replace it. It could modify it. It could just add to it. It just depends on the context and what it is. You might learn that that thing you thought was a fact was really wrong. It's like, oh, that's wrong. Okay, I'll update with the new thing. That's true. Whatever.

E: Mark Twain didn't say that quote, huh? Okay. Scratch that one.

S: It's so Mark Twain. All right.

Signoff (1:48:07)[edit]

S: Thank you all for joining me this week.

J: You got it.

B: Thanks man.

E: Thanks Steve.

S: —and until next week, this is your Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

S: Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU Productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information, visit us at Send your questions to And, if you would like to support the show and all the work that we do, go to and consider becoming a patron and becoming part of the SGU community. Our listeners and supporters are what make SGU possible.


Today I Learned[edit]

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[9]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description


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