SGU Episode 943

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SGU Episode 943
August 5th 2023
943 Perucetus colossus.jpg

"A new species of early whale might be the heaviest animal which has ever lived. While its exact weight is debatable, its unusual bones mean scientists can be certain it was no ordinary cetacean." [1]

SGU 942                      SGU 944

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

Insofar as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and insofar as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.

Karl Popper, Austrian-British philosopher 


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Show Notes
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Introduction, Florida DOE bans AP Psych; politicizing public education[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, August 3rd, 2023, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening everyone.

S: Cara, you got your power back.

C: I did. It's still poor. It's still, it did stop, but it is again pouring down rain outside. Florida weather is out of control. I also, I got to drive in it for the first time a couple days ago in like a torrential downpour with lightning. So that was new. Speaking of something new in Florida, there's breaking news right now, I'm just sharing it on social. A statement was just released by the College Board that said, and for those who aren't, I guess in America, the College Board, I guess, regulates things like the SAT, right? The College Board regulates the SAT, AP course placement, AP meaning advanced placement, which are the courses you take at the high school level to get college credit or to be able to skip certain courses like introductory courses in college. Okay. So they just put out a statement that says, quote, "We are sad to have learned that today the Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP psychology in the state by instructing Florida superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law." The state has said districts are free to teach AP psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics. But then the statement goes on to say that these topics have been in the curriculum for the last 30 years and that it's required to prepare individuals for college level courses in psychology and ultimately for careers in this field and that they are unwilling to take it out of the curriculum because they see it as necessary and foundational. So for that reason, basically kids in Florida now won't be able to take AP psychology.

J: Unbelievable.

C: It won't be offered, which means that if I had come up in the state now, I would not be able to prepare for my own career starting in high school.

E: Okay. There will be generations of people coming out of Florida who will not be able, who will unlikely go on to careers in psychology.

C: Possibly. Or they will have to learn all of this stuff from scratch at the university level and hopefully they're going to a university that is not private where, even then the APA credits a lot of these things. So yeah, if they're going to want to be practising psychologists, they're going to have to go to an APA accredited university.

J: I know it's only one state, but it's a horrible thing, in a country that is completely suffering from a lack of mental health professionals to limit this type of education. We should be encouraging people to get into this career because of how few practitioners there are out there to help people, because we're having a mental health crisis in the United States right now.

E: Definitely need more health care people.

C: Absolutely. And from a broader perspective, we have to remember as well that this is not the only academic endeavour that's struggling in Florida due to restrictions on what can be taught. And so we're seeing that just like fewer and fewer ideas are being openly shared and expressed because of these types of restrictions, which is just worrisome for education as a whole. Education should be more open, not more restrictive.

S: Governments shouldn't be using education as a political football.

C: We're not the ones getting political. Education should be open.

E: But to push back on that a little, what if it's a referendum? What if it's, the public clamouring for it? Should it then be a political issue?

S: Well, that's really complicated because the whole issue of parents should have input into the education of their own kids in public school, yeah, I will agree with that in principle. Should they have absolute power? No. Should one parent have a veto over all other parents? No. That's the way it's being set up in Florida. One crank can ruin it for everybody, basically. Also the laws are deliberately vague in order to intimidate teachers so that they avoid entire subject areas because it's a landmine and they can get fired and even go to jail in some cases. It's ridiculous.

C: And we've got to remember, too, that like referendum or not, public education is protected by the Constitution. And what we're talking about here is public school. We're talking about individuals with the least amount of power and the least, the kind of quietest voices having access to free and unfettered education. If a parent doesn't want their child to learn something, they can send their child to private school. If they can't afford private school, they can send their child to a charter. There are a million loopholes available. But to restrict public education is exactly what you're saying, Steve. It's the voice of a loud few telling everyone else what they are and are not allowed to learn very often based on ideological reasons. And that's really disconcerting. Really disconcerting. Public education should be free and open. The ethic of education is the free exchange of ideas. That's the point of education, is to open your mind and to learn things.

J: And I would imagine that a lot of this is motivated by people's personal religions. I think it's like, this seems so basic in such like a, like, you should know this. Everybody should know this. But your religion limits you as an individual, as a practitioner of that religion. It doesn't limit me, the other person, who doesn't partake in your religion, right? It seems so basic, but religious people seem to be wanting to, certain religions seem to be very much wanting to express what their beliefs are and what they believe in as a practitioner of their religion on other people.

S: Well, this is the principle of separation of church and state. You can't have freedom of religion unless you have freedom from other people imposing their religion on you. But this isn't the worst violation of church and state in education recently. I think it's Oklahoma is trying to pass a law that says that charter schools can be run by religious organizations, so basically taxpayer funded public schools, right? Taxpayer funded public schools can be religious. And that's a blatant violation of the separation of church and state.

C: But it's clearly, it's clearly a long game that's already been, it's been being played with. That's what charter schools, I don't want to say it's the only function of charter schools, but charter schools have long been utilized as a loophole to get taxpayer funding towards ostensibly private education. And so that is, I mean, it's disconcerting, but I'm also not surprised by it. And I mean, obviously, we're not comparing, like, what's worse? But like, this is not a law that's been floated. This is happening right now. Like this past, this is happening. That's really, really scary. This is like 1984 stuff, right? We've got to be open our eyes to it. And I think we've got to not minimize it by saying, oh, it's just political. It's not political. It's, I mean, it is political.

S: But it's being politicized. But it shouldn't be.

C:' Yeah, in the sense that everything is political. You know what I mean? These are people's lives that we're talking about. These are these are children who are not able to learn about reality.

S: Yeah, I think that's why people get to get so, uptight about it, because it's because it is children, it's their children. And I get that. But there's got to be again, this is gets back to the deeper point. Is there there needs to be certain things that we can agree on as a society? Like, what are facts? Like, what are the facts? Let's talk about something lighter.

C: Please, thank you.

B: Yeah, what is science now?

C: Stupid psychology.

Glassblowing and other "experience parties" (8:16)[edit]

S: For my birthday last weekend we had like a party at a glass blowing forge.

B: Yeah, that was fun.

C: What did you guys make? Did you make stuff yourself?

S: Yeah.

J: Kind of. They they hold they're doing the work and they like let you hold the piece of wood or they let you spin the pipe or blow into the pipe. So they they have like an array of like, what, Steve, about 10 different things that you can make glasses, vases.

E: A harmonica.

J: So most of us made like a short whiskey glass type of thing, like a heavy drink with heavy glass. And, we've got all the glass this week. And oh my god, everybody's piece was gorgeous.

C: Oh, I love that. It just reminds me what you're about to say of like when I was in in Eswatini, there was a charitable organization where they hand carve these beautiful spoons. And they're teaching the kids who live in this orphanage to learn how to whittle and how to carve. And so I was talking to the guy about and I was like, the kids made this. And he was like, they helped. It's the cutest way that he was like, yeah, they made that. They're learning.

S: Well, the thing is, glass blowing is always at least a two person thing anyway. There's always had to always has to be an assistant. You can't do it by yourself.

E: Now, that's where robots would come in big time handy.

S: So basically, we were we were the assistant and they were telling us what to do, anything that took any skill they did.

C: That's so fun, though.

S: But the biggest thing we did was get to choose. We had to design it like we get to choose what we wanted to make and what colours and just all the design elements of it. And they did let us like my younger daughter, Autumn, wanted to make a pumpkin. And that wasn't one of the things that they were offering. But they let her do it. And it was amazing. I mean, absolutely amazing. Yeah, it was really, really good.

C: You know what I bet the most requested thing there is that they probably don't let you do.

S: What's that?

C: A pipe.

S: No, that wasn't one of the options.

C: Exactly. People are like, can I make a pipe? And they're like, no, read the sign.

B: Yeah, I was looking for the bongs. I didn't see any.

C: Exactly.

J: They were hippies. They were definitely self-proclaimed hippies.

C: They had them in the back. They were behind a curtain.

S: Yeah, but it's it was a fun, different kind of thing to do for like a birthday party. And I want to explore more of those things, like just like spending an afternoon doing something, artsy or crafty like that.

E: Build-a-bear.

B: Experiences, not things.

C: Yeah, a few years ago, I rented out a shop like, those like paint and party or like colour me mine kind of places. Do you guys have anything like that where you paint the potteries already made, but you paint it and then they glaze it and then they fire it for you?

E: No, I know of what you speak but I have not done it.

C: There's a place like that close to my house in L.A. that was like an adult, like a grown up version where it was all cool stuff, like robots and dinosaurs and stuff. And it was BYOB and we had it catered with food. And yeah, just a bunch of my friends came and we like painted really cool stuff. Like kitchen stuff or like little piggy banks. And it was a really fun way to spend the night. I felt like we were all bonding.

J: Yeah. Yeah, it is a bonding experience.

C: Yeah, it wasn't just like a dinner.

J: You're you're doing something where there's a directive, like you have a goal, something that's creative. You're also learning. I did that thing where you go in and like the person up front teaches everyone how to make this particular painting, and those those classes are a ton of fun. I mean, it's half the fun is watching 90 percent of the room do a horrible job at painting.

C: Oh, yeah. 100 percent. Yeah.

J: Mine sucked, too. But but still, it's a really interesting thing to do. I got to tell you, I learned something. I learned that those glass furnaces unbelievably stinking hot. Like when they open that door, I was 20 feet away from the furnace.

E: Oh, you were blown away.

J: They opened the doors.

B: It was a quarter of the temperature of the surface of the sun. A quarter.

J: But you feel the heat instantly.

B: It's 2100 degrees.

J: You know, maybe it is an instant. It seems instant. They guy opened the door and all of a sudden just felt like a Balrog was in your face.

E: Did you guys have to sign waivers?

J: Yes. Oh, yeah.

E: OK.

J: Yeah. Basically, if anything happens to you, it's your fault.

E: Wow. OK.

J: But it was a really great experience. And it was it was fun because you got to watch not only did you get to do it, but you got to watch everybody else do it. We have a collection of really funny pictures of all of us blowing into like that steel, that steel rod. You got to like everybody had a really, really ugly picture of themselves. Like doing this thing is really great.

C: That's awesome.

S: And you walk away with a little souvenir that you get the glass that you actually participated in the creation of it. So I'm looking for other ideas like that. All right. Well, let's move on with our show.

What's the Word? (13:13)[edit]

S: Cara, you're going to start us off with a what's the word word?

C: I am. I'm still not fully clear on the pronunciation of this word. I think it's mereology.

E: Oh, it's interesting. It's spelled M-E-R-E-O-L-O-G-Y. Whereas the word mirror, you would not pronounce the E, but in here you do pronounce the E, the second E.

C: I don't know. I could be wrong. It could be mirology. That's why I'm like I really haven't been able to quite figure it out. Yeah, I like miriology. So that's what I'm going to say. Oh, guess who recommended this? Our friend Visto Tutti.

J: He's all over the place.

B: He's a punk.

C: He said it's actually quite fun. He said, "I came across this word maybe for the first time in a discussion of ants." Because, that's what we do is we have discussions about ants. "Is an ant a being or is it only or is only a colony of being? Where is the information stored in an ant colony?" And so he was like, this word comes up in sociology, epidemiology and veterinary science, although that one may be a typo. Mereology, the theory of part hood relations. And that's a really good description right there. The theory of it's a theory of part hood relations or the relations of the part to whole and the relations of part to part. So mereology is is heavily discussed in philosophy. That's most of the citations that I found are in philosophy, specifically kind of within the discussion of ontology. So the idea here, and I've got a few things pulled up. We'll start maybe with the etymology. Oh, I looked up how to pronounce this guy's name and I know I'm going to butcher it. It was coined by to my Polish listeners. I'm so, so sorry, Stanisław Leśniewski, maybe.

E: Sounds good to me.

C: Thanks. I'm sure I butchered that really bad. It comes from the Greek root for part, which is meros. And of course, ology, logy, that's the science of something or the study of something. So there's a million ologies out there. Actually, a good friend of mine has a https://www.alieward.com/ologies podcast called ologies]. I highly recommend it. And she interviews different ologists every week, which is quite fun. But mereology in kind of formal logic is the discipline that deals with the relationships of parts with their respective wholes. Sometimes you'll see that people discuss it as the study of wholes and parts. But that's not really true. It's really just the study of how parts and wholes relate to one another. And so obviously, there are a lot of related terms like that we'll see in literature or like poetry, like what are some examples like gestalt or synecdoche? Like these are different terms that relate to this idea. But it's actually quite a deep philosophical investigation that started very, very early that describes part hood relations. How do these things work together to make up a whole and what arises from that? And sometimes it'll be discussed almost like as related to but alternative from taxonomy, which would be the discussion of the individual parts, kind of discrete units. Here, we're talking about the wholeness, the relationship of the parts to the wholeness. And it's quite abstract, but not I find it fascinating. I love this stuff. You see it in ontology, like I said, you see it a bit in phenomenology and in a lot of different philosophers writings. So, yeah, mereology.

E: Would you say the Borg is an example of mereology?

C: [whispers] I need more information.

E: Bob, Jay and Steve, would you say the Borg is an example of mereology?

S: The study of how the parts relate to the hole.

E: Yes.

S: I guess so in the way like the...

E: Sorry, Cara, it's a Star Trek. Right. Well, yeah.

B: Sure.

C: Is it like a hive mind kind of a thing?

S: Yeah, it's a hive mind.

C: Yeah, OK. Yeah, I would think that a hive mind would be a great example of that, of that kind of grappling.

E: Neat.

S: Cool.

E: Now it has a term.

C: It's fascinating.

S: All right. Thanks, Cara.

News Items[edit]

Glass-Coated DNA (17:15)[edit]


S: Bob.

B: Yeah.

S: Tell us about glass coated DNA.

E: Oh, you blew some at the party the other day, right, for Steve?

B: Yes. Glass and DNA.

E: Challenging.

B: Researchers claim to have engineered a new material that's surprisingly strong and at the same time, very, very light. But even more shocking is the fact of what it's made of. It's made of DNA and glass. So Seok-Woo Lee is a material scientist at the University of Connecticut. He and his colleagues from UConn, Columbia University and Brookhaven National Lab reported on their research in Cell Reports Physical Science. So, all right. How do you slap together DNA and glass and end up with something that's the opposite of squishy and brittle? What did they do this? What was their process? Let's start with the DNA component. They use strings of DNA that were coated in such a way that they self-assembled into essentially an inherently strong and lightweight 3D shape called a lattice. In this case, it's a nanolattice. And this has been done many times before, so there's really nothing new there. The next step, though, was the special one. The next step was to coat just the DNA comprising the lattices with glass. So now when you think of glass, what do you think? You think fragile. You think it shatters very easily. And it does because there's always flaws in the glass. There's going to be a crack. There's going to be like a scratch or maybe even some missing atoms in its molecular structure. Any one of those things would be enough to make it to make it shatter very easily. And that's why they do shatter very easily is because it's not flawless glass. It's flawed. So now, but how do you get around that? If you make a small enough piece of glass, something on the scale of like a like a micrometer. No, micrometer, isn't it?

C: No, micrometer is fine also.

E: I thought micrometer.

C: Both are acceptable.

B: OK, I don't like it, though. Then I'll go with micrometer.

C: It's just that sounds a little more like transformers, but you can say it.

B: Micrometer to me sounds like a device. Here's my here's the micrometer. It's not a unit of length in my mind and my stupid mind. All right. But if you make a small enough piece of glass on the scale of a micrometer, that's a millionth of a meter, then it won't have any of those flaws because that is what is what is going to make it incredibly strong. No flaws means immensely strong. So how strong is this stuff that's flawless? A cubic centimetre of such a glass could withstand ten tons of pressure. Cubic centimetre, ten tons on one cubic centimetre, no problem. Well, maybe a little bit of a problem, but they can go as high as ten tons. So now the researchers coated the DNA lattice with a thin layer of glass, only a few hundred atoms thick, so quite thin. So now we have what do we have? Two things. We have an inherently strong lattice shape made of DNA that's coated with a very strong, flawless glass. And since only only the DNA was covered with a lattice, that means that there was a lot of large empty voids. So you end up with a material that's both lightweight and amazingly strong at the same time. Now, if you if you find this on the news, you're going to hear the numbers, these numbers tossed around all over the place. You'll see it's four times stronger than steel and five times less dense. Now, I don't know why they say five times less dense instead of just one fifth, like most people, I think. But I'm not even going to get pulled into that debate. I saw too many debates online, whatever. I know what they mean. So Seok-Woo Lee said, he said, for the given density, our material is the strongest known. So big claim. But to me, the most interesting question after this was how, how can this material be both strong and light at the same time? And because it seems obvious, right, that if you increase one, the other one is going to decrease. So how do you increase both of them at the same time? And the answer to that comes back to something that we have discussed many times on the show. What is it? Metamaterials. This is a metamaterial and metamaterials are have been the darlings of material science for a while now. They're just so fascinating. They're they're engineered artificial materials that have the ability to transcend what we see in nature, right? They go beyond nature. And that's really they're they're defining characteristics that you can't see this. These behaviours in nature, even after billions of years of R&D, they haven't really they don't use this technique, if you will. So the properties of a metamaterial depend not on its chemical nature, but on its microstructure. That's what's important. Not the chemical nature, like everything else in your environment that you interact with the arrangement of the engineered nanoscale components of the material. That's what determines its properties. Now, we've seen most often and we've discussed it many times on the show what metamaterials can do with light, right? The way it can bend light, it can manipulate light in ways that we never see in nature. How many times have I read about, bizarre invisibility cloaks using metamaterials that not visible light, but, X-rays and other.

S: Seventeen.

B: Yes.

E: Two?

S: I thought it was 15, but I believe 17. So it's so that's so that's mainly that's got to be 95 percent of what I've read about metamaterials. It's all interacting with light. Well, this is different. These DNA nanolattices are so there are metamaterials, but they're mechanical metamaterials. So it's no surprise since they're a metamaterial that we're seeing such exotic mechanical properties with these nanolattices. OK, so in the future, what are we going to see in the future here? We're going to see these scientists are going to be experimenting with different DNA configurations. But more importantly, I think they're going to be using carbide ceramics instead of glass to see if they can make this even stronger, which may be hard, because I think I think what they're seeing is close to the theoretical maximum of what you could expect with these materials. It's so amazingly strong and light that it's going to be hard to really make any significant improvements over that. Now, it's also very hard to say where you're going to use this material, right? Because strength and weight, that's really what these articles are focusing on. And even the research is kind of hard to get through that dense jargon in the paper. But they they mention more than anything else, strength and weight. And but these are, Steve, I'm sure you're going to agree with me here. These are just two of the many critical characteristics that you need to be concerned with with a new meta material. There's sheer strength, there's tensile strength, there's hardness, there's toughness, there's ductility, there's melting point, there's wear resistance, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It's a long list. And all of those characteristics determine what a material is good for. So I don't know where this one's going to pan out and what things are going to be focused on in terms of like what kind of uses it's going to be good for. So I think we'll see. But I think this definitely is an interesting advance. That's not going to just like go away. I think we're going to see some interesting ramifications to this. Seok-Woo Lee said, now, this quote kills me because you know, that when they interviewed him, they love this quote because it talks about Iron Man. So they every article I read throws this back out. So this is what he said. He's like, I've always wondered how to create a better armor for Iron Man. It must be very light for him to fly faster. It must be very strong to protect him from enemies attacks. Our new material is five times lighter, but four times stronger than steel. So our glass nanolattices would be much better than any other structural materials to create an improved armor for Iron Man. So just end it with the Iron Man quote. So interesting advance here. I love mechanical metamaterials.

S: Now, here's the thing. Whenever they say that is stronger than steel.

B: Yeah, that's almost a nonsense statement, right?

S: Are they talking about specific strength or absolute strength? They're usually talking about specific strength, meaning strength per weight, per mass, as opposed to just its absolute strength. That's the case here.

B: And I think they are. And also they're doing, they tested this at scale. I mean, this was very, very, very small, small sample that they tested. So, when you extrapolate that up, I mean, how is that going to impact the strength? And depending on the exact type of strength that it has, I don't know. This is very preliminary. And I still think we don't know. There's no way that they're going to, I think scale this up soon and have something that still is much stronger than steel and much lighter, except that maybe in a very limited domain of what you would call strength. Whether it's specific strength or, I don't know, what else?

S: And the other thing you always have to think about, is this a laboratory curiosity? Is there any way plausibly to mass produce this stuff?

J: Yeah. I was just going to say that. I mean, if we, Bob, they making like tiny little specs of this? Or do you know they make a chunk of it?

B: No, these are small amounts that they're making. They're basically just testing the concept of, let's create, let's do this origami DNA nanolattice and let's create that, but then coat it with flawless glass and see how strong it is. And it is very strong and it's stronger than anything that's ever been tested in this way, in this way. But I mean, this is a lattice. What they have is a very, very strong lattice structure. And that's something that's just like, lattices are a thing. I mean, they, lattices are in engineering throughout the world. I mean, those shapes are known and they're important. So I think there's probably a decent chance that this will scale and find some utility in some application, but who knows, what the environment would be, or, maybe it's not good with heat or maybe it wears too much and that's going to impact what it's going to be applied to, but we're talking, battery technology, superconductors. There's lots of possibilities for something like this.

Why Heat is Deadly? (27:01)[edit]


S: All right, Jay, tell us how these heat waves are going to kill us.

J: Yeah, it's been really an interesting roller coaster ride that we've all been on in the United States this summer. We had some really extreme heat. I mean, there was a week there where I was looking at the heat map of the United States and they projected throughout the week. This is where the, the extreme heat was going to be. And the lower half of the United States was in either the danger or extreme danger zone. And I wanted to learn what that was. What does that mean? You know, what's the heat index? Cause you read about the heat index and I wanted to learn more about that. So the question is that I'm going to, I'm going to answer tonight for you guys is how bad is this extreme heat to people? Because it's not just the United States that's experiencing this, global warming is happening everywhere and extreme heat is happening everywhere. So the short answer is extreme heat is very bad that, and that's largely because humans, live in a very narrow temperature range that we're comfortable in and that our bodies function well in, like 70 degrees Fahrenheit is like the, like that's a nice little average temperature that most people are comfortable that, but if you go up 20 degrees above that, you could start having heat problems, that is not a big temperature change. So nearly 210 million Americans or two thirds of the population live in counties that have temperature hot enough to cause harm. So that is due to global warming. That figure, wasn't the same, 10, 15, 20 years ago, heat is the number one weather related killer that blew my mind. You think, oh, wow, what about tornadoes and, and, you know, hurricanes and floods? You can add up all of the other weather related events and they don't even come close to what heat does as far as killing people and the danger that is caused by it. So it's been asked if the extreme heat is linked to climate change, people are, this question is still being thrown around, if you're listening to this show, you probably know the answer is of course yes. But to, to give you a more formal answer, climatologists agree that this summer extreme heat is 100% due to global warming, the world weather attribution collaboration analysed the heat changes that happened, they're constantly analysing all, all of the weather and what they have discovered is that it's actually impossible for these temperatures to exist without climate change. So how bad is the heat now? How bad was it this summer? So this summer in the United States, the heat levels were exceptionally high. Phoenix, Arizona had 31 straight days above 110 degrees or 43 degrees Celsius. This crushed the previous record, which was 18 days. So we went from 18 days to 31 days with 110 degrees. Death Valley, California experienced a scorching temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 54 degrees Celsius. That is not the hottest temperature that's ever been there, but the thing to note here is how consistent the heat was at these high temperatures. It stayed there for a long time where, in the past it might reach that temperature one day and it's very brief experience, now, it persists and that makes things very dangerous. There was a span of a week where a huge portion of the Southern part of the U.S. was labeled in the danger of, or extreme danger temperature categories. And I'm going to explain this to you guys in a minute. Heat records were broken all across the country. This tracks with the fact that last month was the planet's hottest June by a significant margin. The nine hottest Junes have all occurred in the last nine years. Global warming, right? Crazy. Scary and legitimately scary. This isn't like, we're not watching a movie here. This is real. You've all probably heard of the heat index. I wanted to talk about this. Steve and I were having a nice conversation about the heat index.

C: It's the story of my life right now, Jay, the heat index is cruel and punishing.

E: That was a heated conversation.

J: Let's talk about what it means. So people understand it a little bit better and can wrap their head around what's happening here. The heat index is what the temperature feels like to a human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. So the higher the humidity, the lower the temperature needs to be in order for it to be dangerous. So humidity mixed with heat is bad. So if it's, you could be in a hundred degrees. And if the relative humidity, say, is that 20%, it's, it's not that bad. Most people can sustain that without a problem. But if the relative humidity was 70% at a hundred degrees, you're in danger at that point. So the humidity has a huge impact on just how bad the heat actually feels. Now, if we take a look at the heat index, it shows that temperature starting at 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 degrees Celsius can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke in some people like the elderly. So even at this considerably, pretty low temperature, 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 32 degrees Celsius, we're not talking like it's not a scorcher, but already, the elderly or people that have medical conditions, asthma, as an example, that type of thing, you could go right to the worst forms of danger that heat can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke. And I'm going to tell you about that as well, cause I think it's important for people to know the details. When the temperature gets to 103 degrees Fahrenheit or 39 degrees Celsius, heat exhaustion is likely to happen in healthy people with prolonged exposure. So already at 103 degrees, heat exhaustion, which is bad, could happen to any of us.

C: That's true 103 degrees or with the heat index.

J: The heat index in the 103 degree zone, right? So when the heat index gets to 125 degrees Fahrenheit or 51 degrees Celsius, it warns that heat stroke is likely. And you know what, 125 degrees was not that uncommon this past summer. We're already there. We're already at like the, you're going to get heat stroke and anything above 125 degrees, you really shouldn't even think about going outside. It doesn't matter what age you are. It doesn't matter what health you're in. It's just dangerous. And a thing I found out about the heat index is all of these temperature numbers, they're, they're assuming that you're in the shade.

C: Oh, wow.

J: Yeah. I didn't know that. It's like, if you're exposed to direct sunlight, it's even worse. You're already in a situation where it's bad in the shade. You walk out into the sun and things will happen faster to you.

C: I had to, Jay, I had to, like before I got my truck, which was just a week or two ago when I was walking to and from work every day, I found myself having to walk under my umbrella, like I had to. If I didn't open my umbrella, I was like, sweat was pouring off my body. And like you mentioned, I'm living in a place where the humidity is regularly 80%.

J: Yeah. Yeah, it's bad.

C: So it does not evaporate and it doesn't cool you off. You're just wet all the time.

J: Exactly. Exactly. When I get into the heat related illnesses, I'm going to really explain this. So let's do it right now. So there's different things that can happen to you in heat. There's mild heat related illnesses like heat cramps. These are pretty common. Heat cramps are typical in people who sweat a lot. Sweating depletes the body of what? Salt and water, right? So this can lead to muscle pains, spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms or legs. So that's a sign you need to get some fluids that have, some electrolytes in them, right? But you're okay. You can get, this type of, this mild heat, tight heat cramps or whatever, you're not going to die from that. It's your body's telling you go get some liquids. Another thing that's common is heat rash. This is caused by sweating. Sweating can cause skin irritations and hot and humid weather. It's most common in young children and it looks like red clusters of pimples or blisters, tends to be in places around the neck, upper chest, in elbow creases. And again, this is a warning sign. You see this, you got to do something about it right away. Now moving up a notch here, heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of water and salt. Now, usually through sweating, of course, heat exhaustion is most likely to affect the elderly, people with high blood pressure or people who are typically working outside or exposed to the sun in these hot environments. If you get heat exhaustion, you're going to feel it. You're going to feel tired. You might even get some confusion happening. And if that's happening to you, then you need to move indoors immediately and you need to hydrate immediately. But the big gun here is heat stroke. And I didn't really know what heat stroke was. I've heard about it my entire life. I just never read about it before. Now heat stroke happens when a person's body can no longer cool itself. And now what your body does is when it, when it detects that it's hot outside and it needs to cool itself, the body increases your heart rate, right? Your heart rate is pumping your blood through all your organs and all your tissue, and then your body will start to sweat and that sweat will evaporate off of your skin and cool your body because evaporation has a cooling effect. Now, when this happens, the body's temperature, if you are getting heat stroke, what's happening is you're in an environment where your sweat is no longer working, it's no longer able to cool you because of either the humidity is too high or it's just flat out too hot for your body's cooling mechanism to actually work because it only works up to a certain temperature and then it's, it's, it's irrelevant at some point. And as soon as the heat stroke starts to happen, as soon as your body no longer can cool itself through its normal mechanisms, your body temperature rises rapidly and in most serious heat related illnesses, according to the CDC, when heat stroke happens, your body temperature can go up to 106 degrees in 10 to 15 minutes from a normal temperature. That's a short amount of time. If you really think about it, 10 to 15 minutes, you're not out there sweating away, digging a ditch or whatever. You could just walk like Cara walking from your car might take you 10 minutes and heat stroke can hit you. And if it's hot enough, it can cause permanent disability or, it can kill you just like that. And if people are suffering from heat stroke, this isn't like just bring them in and give them a cold compress and give them some water. Like this is like, take them to the hospital. You should do those things too, while you're taking them to the hospital.

S: Yeah, your cells can function basically. It's just like you start to get multi organ failure.

C: And proteins denature, like all sorts of stuff happens at, yeah, that's not good.

J: So, rule of thumb here is we live in a world now where people need to be looking at the heat index. Now I was also interested in the idea of how much of the population is going to be affected by extreme heat. And I wanted to know from a global perspective. So a study that I found was published in the journal Nature Sustainability, and they assessed the impact of global warming on the world population. And they calculated that population growth and the expected global warming, basically the amount of temperature, the way that the temperature is going to go up and how consistent that temperature is going to be. They concluded that by 2030, approximately 2 billion people will no longer be living in a location that temperature wise is considered safe. 2 billion people can't move somewhere else. There's nowhere for 2 billion people to go to. The rest of the world can't absorb 2 billion people. This means that we're going to our culture, our world culture needs is going to change. It has to change.

C: It also means a lot of people are going to die.

J: Oh, my god, Cara, it's it's frightening to think, like in the I'm talking a lot about the United States because it was I was not finding it hard to find studies. There's lots of studies that were going on about the temperatures this summer and everything, so roughly about 600 people died this summer from heatstroke. And I read an article and they're like, those numbers are going to skyrocket. People are going to be dying of straight up heatstroke left and right. As these temperatures go up, like here we are in 2023 and the temperatures that we had in the United States were in the extreme zone. So 125 degrees Fahrenheit or 51 degrees Celsius or higher, it's a heatstroke that that's basically the only thing that's going to happen to you at that point is you're just going to get hit with heatstroke. And these temperatures are were common this summer already. And here we are in 2023 and you're saying by 2030, which is, less than seven years away at this point, 2 billion people are going to be dealing with that with extreme danger.

C: Not it's not just people. And that's the thing that we, we focus on that, right? Because that's us. But like, I don't know if you guys were covering or we're following what's been going on in the water temperature in Florida. It was over a hundred degrees.

B: I heard that. That's nuts.

C: And I mean, we're seeing statements coming out from, different management experts here, the Coral Restoration Foundation, 100% coral mortality at multiple reefs off of the Florida Keys.

J: Yeah, a researcher said it was so depressing because I had to read a lot of like, information that wasn't just about people because they were talking about insect populations and, cattle and all this stuff. And they said, 100%, if we go above 1.5, there are no more coral reefs and they're gone and that's it.

C: And they're already dying. We're seeing it in a tiny, a tiny example of it right now in the Florida Keys, they're just, they're bleaching out completely and just going, they can't sustain these water temperature.

J: Once they go, I mean, I would like to know if they could even ever come back. It's like, once they're gone, are they gone forever? Or is there still like?

C: Are they extinct or can we bring them back from farmed coral? I don't know.

E: Banked enough of it to bring it back in the future.

C: Or would there be anywhere to bring it back to?

E: Well, right. It would have to have the conditions correct again to re-introduce it.

J: I didn't want to end on a, on a horrible note, right? So I'm like, let me try to squeeze something positive out of this. So here it is. It is possible that we, as a global community and governments around the world, we could limit this to 1.5, right? And 1.5, they say it's bad, but it's not, it's not horrible and it's completely livable and we're going to be fine if we, if we could do it, if we could, if we hit the brakes and we don't let it go above 1.5. But when we start getting to 1.7, 1.8, 1.9 and two, that's when things could get very bad. So what we need to do, again, I say this all the time. What can I do? I'm some guy sitting in my office right now. What the hell can I do about global warming? Hey, you start with voting. You start with, whatever effect you can have on local politics. Do it, get out and vote and put the right people in that are going to, that are going to focus on this because we can do it guys, we could still do it. It's not too late.

S: It's almost too late. If you look at all the projections, like all the, oh, here's like the 300 pathways forward that we vary all of these variables. There's like out of hundreds of ways forward, there's like four of them that keep warming below 1.5, literally four.

B: That's better than Dr Strange he only found one out of millions.

S: And that's where we do everything right. That's where we do absolutely everything at the maximally best end of the spectrum. It's not going to happen.

C: It's so frustrating is that we have the toolkit to do that. We're just choosing not to, it's not like a passive thing. We're like, oh, if we just like, it's like, no, we just got to do it.

S: A hundred percent, a hundred percent. We have the absolutely have the, we know what to do. We have the technology to do it. This is purely a function of political will. We do not have the collective political will to do everything that we have to do.

J: But that's why I don't want to sound dramatic right now, but everybody that listens to this podcast right now, we need to talk to other people and educate people and get them to vote and get them to talk to other people and have this, be, you tell 10 people and they tell 10 people that we have to do, we have to, it is, it is up to us. It really is because we, in most places around the world, we vote people in to political positions of power. And the, I look, I know that that's a super oversimplification.

C: No, but it's true. And those are the places where our will has to be flexed because in the places where we don't vote people in, they can just snap their fingers and make these changes, whether they do or they don't is, going to be, it's left to be seen, but it's actually in democratic places where we need to be doing this because these are the places where we can have such political failures. Interestingly.

S: I mean, we could spend the rest of the show talking about this.

J: Yes, you're right. So anyway, Steve, I just wanted people to have this information to be careful because most of us are going to have to deal with extreme heat. So read about it, educate yourself, make sure your friends and family know. And man, I'm telling you, when it's in the danger or extreme danger zone with the heat index, wherever you are, whatever, Fahrenheit or Celsius, figure it out and protect yourself.

S: You need a back a plan if you're air conditioning fails.

J: That's right. That's right.

Australian Psychics (44:41)[edit]


S: All right, Evan, tell us how things are going with Australian psychics.

E: You know, it's amazing what comes up in your searches and feeds. The other day, so, Hey, Evan, we want you to read about this brand new news item about a psychic from Australia. Oh my gosh. They know me so well. I cannot resist those kinds of things. Scary. So yeah, television show in Australia called A Current Affair. Remember our Current Affair?

B: Yeah.

J: Oh yeah.

E: Late eighties, early nineties in the United States, there was a show called A Current Affair. And this isn't unlike that. What do we call the magazine, television shows, TV shows, something like that. Well, in any case, A Current Affair, Australia did a piece on a psychic named Kale O'Donnell. He's 27 years old. He's got 1.1 million followers on TikTok. He is self-proclaimed the number one psychic in Australia right now, simply the best according to, well, himself. But don't ask me.

S: There's no better source than that, right?

E: Yeah. Well, how about you remember Shaman Durek, he of the belief that sadness causes cancer in children. Sad children that bring cancer about themselves. So he says, Kale is amazing. So powerful and so vibrant. That's Shaman Durek. So that's the kind of company that he keeps, but apparently O'Donnell's becoming something of a household name in Australia. He's been on several news shows this summer, and this is why A Current Affair sent an investigative reporter named Martin King to interview him and to watch him perform his gimmick. Here's a summary of his claims. Let me know if this sounds familiar at all to you. He claims to talk to dead people. He claims to talk to plants. He thinks there are spirit guides. He uses a spirit box to get messages in graveyards. We'll get back to the spirit box in a minute. He says that people should not overthink a psychic reading, and you should not put stringent expectations on a reading. Setting limits or expectations on a reading messes up the frequencies of that reading. And he states he has nothing to prove to skeptics. He says, I'm not really in the world to try and prove to skeptics. Instead, he says, my job is to convince the skeptics. I think it's the job of the psychic to convert a skeptic into a believer. Any of that sound familiar?

C: Oh, just like all the time.

E: Exactly. Every single other self-proclaimed psychic who claims they can communicate with dead people say pretty much the exact same thing. So basically the report consists of Kale and this reporter walking around a graveyard, listening to a device that, looks and sounds like a palm held transistor radio with an antenna, and they're just walking around, whereas this device is basically picking, making these noises and he's interpreting what the noises basically are saying and saying that that is dead people communicating. What is the device? It's called a spirit box, specifically the PSB7T model spirit box, a compact tool that is ideal for attempting communication with paranormal entities. This is from the manufacturer, by the way, it uses radio frequency sweeps to generate white noise, which theory suggests give some entities the energy they need to be heard. So while this occurs, you may hear voices or sounds coming through the static, these anomalies may be generated by spirit entities in an attempt to communicate and according to Kale, you have to train yourself to hearing it. So yeah, basically what it is, it is a radio, it scans the AM and FM bands, but it jumps. For a half of a second will remain at one channel and then it'll jump to the next channel and then the next one. So it says blip, blip, blip, blip, blip, blip, blip, blip, blip, blip, constantly changing of channels and you're getting little blips of sounds, static noises, the occasional perhaps word that comes through and ghost hunters, psychics, and others believe that this is a means by which ghosts, entities, spirits, everyone else can communicate with the living world through this device. Oh, and by the way, it has a plus or minus five degree hot and cold spot detection feature in there. I checked it out in the specifications.

J: Evan, it sounds like it's designed to create anomalies.

E: Yeah, that's exactly correct Jay. Look, you gotta have the right tool for the right job and if you're going to play this role in life, then this is the tool that you apparently you have to have. Remember when Perry wanted to invent his nope-a-meter? Nope-a-meter for skeptics, it was a box and all it said was nope, nope, nope, nope, but you turn the dial, it would go faster if you get near the nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Oh my gosh, correct. He cracked me up the nope-a-meter, right? So this is just good fun, right? No harm, what's the harm? Wrong. O'Donnell is Kale O'Donnell. He has the nerve to charge people $800 per hour for his services. And he claims to have a 2.5 year waiting list of people wanting these services. So what that means, if we put a conservative estimate on it of four hours per week, and that's, I think that's a conservative estimate, that would be at 800 bucks, $3,200 per week, 52 weeks a year, I call it 50 weeks a year, give him two weeks off, times 2.5 years, that's about $400,000 that people are willing to pay him or roughly $160,000 per year. Now either he's lying about the number of people who want this schtick, which I would not be surprised about, or he's really getting it, which is a sad reality indeed that this person is making bank off of this. He guarantees in that hour of work, he will make contact with at least three dead people, minimum of three, and he will record himself talking over the static of this frequency jumping radio dopometer and give that to you as proof of his work. He says, I connect people with their loved ones. I am basically the postal service person of the spirit world. Yeah, postal service charging 800 bucks for three deliveries. What a bargain. Now, fortunately for a current affair, they did the right thing and they contacted the Australian skeptics and our good friend, none other than Richard Saunders appeared on the show. And Richard Saunders is of course the host of the Skeptic Zone podcast, which we highly recommend to our SGU audience. Richard was given ample time throughout this eight minute segment. He made all the good salient points. He was not unfairly edited or cut short, and he correctly, Richard correctly reminded the audience that psychics will use cold reading and in many cases, hot reading techniques to get the results that their clients desire. Do I need to go into what cold reading and hot reading are for the audience? Do you think?

S: Give a bullet.

E: Sure. Cold reading when a psychic does not have any specific facts about their target, but they'll throw out a bevy of questions and phrases, which are so broad that anyone could believe that these loose statements are about the person they're trying to communicate with. It's like a game of 20 questions with the dead where the person who's paying the psychic will give feedback and reactions to the words and phrases being thrown around by the psychic. It's a powerful illusion that often leaves believers impressed, especially when they've invested their hard earned money in this reading in the first place. But a hot reading is when a psychic will find actual information and facts and data about say that dead person. Nowadays, that happens often by scouring social media pages where loved ones post facts and other things about the people who have passed on. That is out and out fraud, but a psychic might use that to wield great emotional and financial advantage over their victims who are paying for it. Now, Richard informs us in the current affair section that what Kale is doing as far as the meter and the devices is going is that it's audio pareidolia. Basically, he's going around, he's hearing the static that's jumping around to frequencies, and then he's basically telling the person what he thinks he's hearing and therefore bang, some kind of communication audio pareidolia. We've talked about it many times on the show before. Saunders and the Australian skeptics, they're urging O'Donnell to take up their challenge, offering a big cash reward, a hundred thousand dollars. If he can prove he has psychic powers, come on, test it and the money is yours. That's what Richard told the current affair. And so far they've not heard back from, I communicated with Richard about this last night and not a peep, although Kale in the interview that he did with the current affair, when this was brought up about the hundred thousand dollar challenge that the Australian skeptics have is that, he'd never heard of it before, how real could it possibly be if he somehow was never brought to his attention? I'll end on this according to an organization called ScamWatch, last year Australians were robbed of a reported $260,000 from psychic related scams, which is an increase of 219% compared to the previous year. So these things are on the rise up, up, up social media, TikTok, all these things, no doubt having an impact on it. But that number is conservative because a lot of victims of these scams don't report these incidents out of embarrassment. Beware the psychics always.

S: All right. Thanks, Evan.

E: Yep.

Speech Deepfakes (54:19)[edit]


S: All right, Cara, tell us how good people are at detecting speech deepfakes.

C: Well, according to the authors of a new study, not great. Let's see, a few takeaways here, but first I want to introduce the study. It was just recently published in PLOS One, which means that it is open access, the Public Library of Science. Study was published by four researchers from University College London in the department of security and crime science and the department of computer science. And the title is Warning: Humans cannot reliably detect speech deepfakes. A little bit of a spoiler alert on the title there. And actually the numbers, I think when you look at them alone are a little bit misleading because they found that listeners correctly spot deepfakes 73% of the time. That sounds like not bad, but it's also not that different from how often they correctly spot real speech. So that starts to become problematic and they break down the data in a lot of really interesting ways. So they basically ran a study where they looked at about 500 people, plus or minus 529 was their N and they presented genuine and deepfake audio. And they talk a lot in the study about how they, produced the deepfake audio. They did, the bona fide stimuli and the deepfake stimuli, both in English and Mandarin, because they wanted to see if there were any differences in detection capabilities of different language speakers. And then they presented them in interesting ways. So they did a unary presentation where they took 20 randomly chosen clips and they presented them to people separately, like separate screens or separate pages I guess you could say. They listened to about an equal number of bona fide and synthesized clips, but they didn't know what the proportion was going to be. And so they just were tasked with deciding whether they were real or fake. And then they did a binary presentation where they presented again, 20 randomly chosen, but this time they were pairs, not clips. And they had them choose which one's the real and which one's the fake, which was kind of similar to how you did this with us the other day, right Jay?

J: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah.

C: So yours was more like a binary presentation where it was a choice. Is it this one or that one? Whereas the unary was like, there was no context. It was like, just let us know if it's real or fake. And you have no idea how many of each there are. And then they did something called a familiarization treatment where they took half of the participants randomly assigning them to basically familiarization. So they told the participants that there were the synthesized examples that let them listen to the synthesized examples multiple times. They were separate from the ones that they were using in the main task, but they were of the same ilk and allowed them basically to, "train" on listening to deepfakes. And so let's talk a little bit about the results because they're pretty interesting. Ultimately, their takeaways were that overall people are not great at this, just like individual people. They do make the correct classifications 70.35 percent of the time in the unary scenario. So classifying whether it was real or fake, they were actually better at identifying deepfakes than at identifying bona fide things, which is interesting. There they only identified the bona fides about 68 percent of the time and the deepfakes 73 percent of the time. The researchers actually think that the reason for that is because people were like primed. And so now they had increased skepticism. They were like, oh, there's going to be a deepfake. So there were like false positives there. And then when they gave the binary scenario, there was a little bit of better performance. They were able to correctly recognize the defects in 85 percent of the trials. But this is not realistic in the real world, because in the real world, when you're presented with a deepfake, you're not going to be asked if it's real or fake. And you're not going to have another version of it next to it, which is the alternative. So even if this is a better scenario, the researchers said, this isn't this isn't realistic. People aren't going to actually ever be approaching the question of whether this is fake in the real world this way. So then let's talk a little bit about the interventions. So the training. They found that when there is a reference audio, it does help with deepfake detection. So when there's more context, it is easier to hear synthesized speech. But when they trained humans on deepfakes, it didn't really improve their accuracy that much. It increased their detection accuracy, they said, by four percent on average.

S: Yeah, that's negligible.

C: Yeah. So the familiarizations, they said it equates to an accuracy that's only slightly above chance. Fifty two point three one percent.

J: So that's basically where we're at already.

C: They said it's equally difficult to tell the difference between real speech and synthesized speech in Mandarin and English. Even like they said that, well, they said shorter deepfakes were deepfakes are not easier to identify, but I wouldn't have hypothesized that they are. They also found that listening to the clips more frequently did not aid in detection and spending more time on the task did not affect performance at all. And you really don't get better unless you get explicit feedback. So just listening over and over, you don't improve your ability to detect. You have to actually hear explicit feedback. You're correct. You're incorrect. You're correct. You're incorrect. It's the only way. So basically, the researchers big takeaway was we shouldn't be putting too much effort into training people to do this, because people aren't probably going to be able to learn how to do this. We need to be putting effort into training automated detectors. They did say, though, as kind of a secondary check that crowd speech detection is comparable to the top performing automated detectors right now. So there is strength in numbers interestingly. Individuals aren't very good at this, but crowds working together can do a good job of differentiating between the two. And so I think there will be some really interesting research now on the horizon of why that is and what exactly they're tapping into.

J: But my response to that is, isn't it just a matter of time? I mean, in three years.

C: Yeah, it's going to be so much better than even the ones that they used here.

J: Yeah, like it will get to the point very, very, very soon where you can't tell the difference.

C: And they even they even said, like, ours aren't that good. Like in this study, they were pretty crude and people still sucked at it. So it's not going to be good in the future.

E: We're going to need A.I. to help detect what is fake and what is not.

B: Absolutely.

C: Yeah, that's the outcome of this study.

B: And we all have our A.I. shields.

J: I don't like it.

C: Is it going to be that kind of rat race of like, we've talked about this before, Steve, I know it's like a weird analogy that I'm coming to in my head, but like designer drugs, it's like there's new designer drugs. So we have to come up with new designer drug tests and then there's new designer drugs that get out of the way of the drug test. And it's just this constant chase. It's like the deep fakes get better. The detectors have to get better. And then the deep fakes are going to try and outfake the detectors. And, we're constantly going to be catching up with our own tail.

S: That's all right, Jay. Eventually we'll just, have a deep fake voice of you do do all of your online activity.

J: It'll probably be better than me.

S: Thanks, fake Cara.

E: Wow, that was impressive.

S: You never know.

E: Yeah. How are you going to prove it? You only have a 4% difference.

Special Report: Electric Vehicle Myths (1:01:47)[edit]


S: All right. I'm going to test how much you guys know about electric vehicles.

J: OK, I'm ready.

E: I know two things about them.

S: I've been writing a lot about it. I've been doing TikTok videos about it. My god, people on TikTok are out there. The comments are just like this is an alternate reality. Anyway, there are some common themes. A lot of questions come up when I write about it. The comments. There's a few comments that happen over and over again, so I thought I should review it. I've deepened my knowledge about it in answering these questions because some things come up like you like you wouldn't anticipate. All right. So what do people say who push back against the notion that there are some advantages to electric vehicles?

J: Like, what do they say?

S: Yeah. What do they say? What are people's fears and complaints? And what what is the narrative, the anti electric vehicle narrative?

J: I have a few answers for that.

E: Expensive.

J: One of one of them is that the electricity is being generated by fuel.

S: Yeah. So one one comment is that electric vehicles don't work because the electricity is being produced largely by fossil fuel. So the answer to that is even if you're charging your car from electricity that's produced by one hundred percent fossil fuel, it's still better than burning gasoline. The electric vehicle is more efficient. You get more miles per carbon, that gets put in the air to make the energy. Basically that they're about twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine. There's also the fact that, because of the range issue, electric vehicles tend to be more aerodynamic. And then, of course, the idea is that while we like over the next 20 to 30 years, which is how long it's going to take to fully transition our car fleet from internal combustion to electric, over that same period of time, we're going to be decarbonizing our electricity grid. So like these things, we can't wait until we're 100 percent renewable and then say, OK, now let's get rid of our gasoline burning cars. It's like, all right, it's going to take another 30 years to do that. These good things have to be done at the same time.

J: Yeah, of course.

S: So that's a nonsensical response. And it's it's also not true because just the efficiency of the EVs make them better, even if the energy mix isn't great. Evan said something for Evan throughout cost.

E: They are too expensive, Steve.

S: But they're not, Evan.

C: No, no. But my hybrid truck costs less than the gas version of the same truck.

S: And you know what? It's a hybrid.

B: That's amazing.

C: I know.

S: So the upfront cost of electric vehicles is more expensive, like 20 percent or so. Although that price is coming down, we're just getting over a price spike for EVs because demand soared and supply was hampered by all the supply issues that everybody was having during the pandemic. There were no chips, et cetera. So supply and demand, the prices spiked, but they're now settling down and they're actually really coming into parity with ICE vehicles. But here's the thing. If you look at the cost to own the car over the lifetime of the car, electric vehicles are significantly less expensive for several reasons. One, it's cheaper per mile. It's just cheaper to drive them. You pay less for the electricity per mile than you think. And you pay for the gasoline that you got to burn per mile. Two, there's almost no maintenance.

C: No oil changes.

S: No oil changes. There's very few moving parts. The brakes last a lot longer because of regenerative braking. There's just no maintenance. They're very, very low maintenance vehicles.

C: By the way, cars are just more expensive now than they ever have been before. Like, I think we sometimes forget that because it's like we're comparing them to how cars, how expensive cars used to be. But just only like I think the average cost of a new car is like over thirty five thousand dollars.

S: Yeah, they are. They are getting because, yeah, it's partly because we like we like our big cars. But the other thing is, if you finance your car, like if you finance your car over six years, which most people do, and most people don't plunk down cash for a car, put down a deposit or you do a trade in and you finance the rest, it's a five, four, five, six year finance. If you finance it over five or six years, over that period of time, you will have made back the extra money it cost you for the more expensive vehicle in lower maintenance and operating costs. So if you have to look at what's this going to cost me per month over five years, not just what's the upfront sticker shock, you know what I mean? And they're actually cost effective. You save money at the lifetime of the car. All right. The insurance is a little higher on electric vehicles. And the reason for that is because of uncertainty. It's because the insurance companies don't have decades of actuary tables, so they just don't know what the real risk is. And so they they basically charge for that unknown by higher rates. But as we get more electric vehicles on the road and there's more history, the uncertainty is going away and the prices are coming into parity with the gasoline cars. Even if you include that, you include everything. They're still cheaper. And here's the one big thing. Guess what the average life expectancy of an internal combustion engine car is in miles.

C: Miles? 150?

E: 120.

J: I'd say 200.

S: 200, Jay. Jay's correct.

E: 200? Really?

S: What's the expected life expectancy of an all electric vehicle?

E: 300?

S: It's 300. 50 percent more. The car is going to last you 50. And that's I think that's honestly, I think that's a conservative estimate. Three hundred thousand miles, that's 50 percent longer. So, right, you have to advertise the cost over time. Electric vehicles are much more cost effective, much more if you include that factor. It's like the LED bulbs. Yeah, they're they cost a lot more like, oh, my God, I'm going to pay $20.

E: Oh, I love my LED bulbs.

S: But then you. Yeah. But then they.

C: Good, because now that's all you're allowed to buy.

E: I know. But that's a great thing.

S: They are. They're wonderful. I used to be in a constant state of changing light bulbs. And I hated it. When you own a house with 40 light. I can't remember the last time I changed a light bulb.

E: No, I can't either.

S: But but they're all they are cost effective if you if you counted over the lifetime of them, just like with electric vehicles. So cost is really favors electric vehicles. What else?

C: OK, how about this one? And this one I'm, a little close to home, but I seem to remember some people on this very show, like 10 years ago. I don't know when I started recording seven years ago, having a lot of range anxiety.

S: Yeah, range anxiety is the number one reason people cite for why they're anxious about electric vehicles. And we've discussed this on the show before. I'm going to just very quickly summarize it that it's range anxiety is really irrational and for a couple of reasons. Now, first of all, I have to say that everyone's different. So your experience will depend on your driving habits. If you're somebody who says, oh, I need to drive 300 or 400 miles every day for my job. OK, don't get an electric car. That's not for you. Get a hybrid.

C: Interestingly, what's funny is that some of the first electric cars in use were trucks. So it's like, clearly there has been there's a little bit even of a disconnect there because individuals within these industries knew that electricity was going to be beneficial for buses and like long range trucks. You just have to be able to charge.

S: Yes. So, there's a lot of figures here. The average distance people drive per day is about 30 miles. You could also look at it. Averages are not a great way to look at it. The best way, better way to look at it is 95 percent of days people will be driving less than 40 miles. And like if you go to fit to 100 miles, you're like over 99 percent. So it's very rare that somebody is going to need more than about 100 to 150 miles range on the car. But again, people still say, well, what about that one or two trips a year that I take where that's long distance? You have to recharge all the time. And I got to tell you, I've owned an electric vehicle now for a long time. We take all of our long trips with it. And it's really nothing. I mean, I know this depends on where you live, too. But, just like you're going to fill up your tank on a long trip. You're going to fill it. You're going to recharge your car.

C: It's the exact same. It's it's like almost the same intervals, too. Now with fast charge it's very similar.

S: It's very similar. And in fact, it's easier. I actually find it takes less time because on a long trip─

C: And it doesn't smell bad.

S: It takes. I'll tell you why. Because first of all, tell the car tells you where to stop. Like it plans the trip for you. I'm going here. It's like, OK, you're going to stop at this charging station. And this will get you to this distance. It plans it out for you. It also you should do that because it prepares your battery. It conditions the battery, prepares it for the charge. And then it charges faster. You get a faster, fast charge when you do that. And it takes like 10 minutes, 15 minutes to throw an extra 200 or 250 miles into your battery. And that's like a bathroom break. If you're going to stop for lunch, no problem.

B: What are you talking about?

C: He's talking about fast charging.

B: 15 minutes for over 200 miles. I call bullshit.

S: No, Bob, that's correct.

C: Yeah, he's not talking about standard 240 charging. He's talking about DC charge.

S: Fast charging, I'm talking about the fast charge.

B: But you're not supposed to fast charge all the time.

S: Who's talking about all the time?

C: He's talking about long road trips. All the time you're plugging it in your garage.

E: He said one percent of your trips are going to be that long road trip.

S: Well, yeah, so maybe it's three times a year. In fact, when they considered fast charging for "frequently" that's like every week, you're doing it. Or three times or four times a month, as opposed to if you're doing it just a few times a year, even if you do it once a month, that's not even considered a lot. That's not considered frequent. That's considered just occasional or rare. And it's no problem. And if you look at the lifetime of the battery, it's another issue. Batteries, you have to replace your battery. Battery lifespans are in the three hundred to five hundred thousand mile range. So if the car is going to last for three hundred thousand miles, the battery is going to last for three to five hundred thousand miles. You're never going to have to change your battery. Yes, you're you can kill your battery if you don't treat it well. But it's not a big deal. All it means is don't let your battery go completely empty and sit empty. That's really all you need.

E: It's like keeping enough oil in your engine.

S: That's like saying don't let your engine overheat because you can fry your engine. Has anyone here ever fried your engine in an ice vehicle?

C: No.

S: I have once in my life. Which is which is one more time than I've ever bricked a car battery. But it's not the same amount of time. But anyway, the risk is is very low if you just do basic, and again, this car is so easy to take care of. Just do basic battery hygiene. And it's if you plug your car in every night, which you're going to do every way anyway. Another objection people have, unless you guys want to throw out some more.

E: More objections. The minerals to make the batteries is very harmful to the environment.

S: That is actually the one legitimate complaint about electric vehicles, is that we still are sourcing cobalt from Democratic Republic of Congo. Is that right? DRC. And it's horrible, slave labor. And that's a problem. And we allowed China to dominate the cobalt industry. So now it's China and the DRC. And we're basically to be holding to them. So it's a problem. I admit that. But, what we need to do is exert political pressure to improve the quality of the lives of people who are mining cobalt in in the DRC. But more importantly, we need to design batteries that don't use cobalt. And they already exist. They already exist. And the industry is already switching over. This is a very temporary problem that will be going away within the next few years.

E: Really? We'll have a cobalt free battery.

S: Yes. Yeah, yeah. It's going to be the lithium. It's going to be the lithium sulfur batteries, which don't use cobalt. And also, the Ampreus and those companies that are doing the lithium silicon anode batteries are working on also getting rid of the nickel and cobalt. So, yes, I admit that is a problem. It's a temporary problem. It's not a deal killer, in my opinion. And you also have to think that if we don't evolve this industry and switch over to, cars that don't burn gasoline, the people who are going to pay for it the most are the very people that you're trying to protect. By not buying batteries. If that's your thing.

E: I wish they could incorporate a solar component to it, like get a little bit of the juice from the sun.

S: There are cars that do that. But it is a little bit.

E: Yeah, right. I get that. You're not going to power the whole thing.

C: You can. But like, I mean, my my little like off road or rig, I plan to put some solar panels on the top to power anything that I don't want to use my car battery for. You know what I mean? Because I'm sort of living.

S: Just put solar panels on your roof and charge about your car at home.

C: That's what I'm going to do. Yeah, exactly. Anybody could do that.

S: Well, anybody who owns a house.

C: No, but I mean, even on your car. You can do that with your car too.

S: Yeah. How many people own their own parking space that has access to an outlet? What percentage of people?

C: That's hard to say, because so many people rent.

S: It's in the US. This is the US.

J: 50 percent?

E: 40.

C: 60?

S: It's 45 percent.

C: Wow.

S: But there's another 30 percent that own their own parking space, but there isn't already an outlet there. That's easily solvable. You just put in a charger there, right?

C: Eventually that's going to change as more people have them. Houses are just like my house has one. I don't even have an electric car anymore. But, my renters are using it.

S: So in other words, there's a lot of people. It's actually it's 48 percent, not 45, 48 percent. But a lot of people already have access to a way to plug in their own car. Another 30 percent potentially do just by, installing an outlet there or putting electricity to it. And, the rest of everyone else, it is more difficult if you don't own your own parking space. But with a lot of chargers, chargers at work, chargers at grocery stores, that last 10, 15, 20 percent of people, there will be solutions. So but again, we're not talking about everyone buying a car now, right? We're talking about this is going to be phased in over time. Certainly pick the low hanging fruit. I didn't really finish the discussion on range anxiety because that really is a big issue. So if you there have been studies which show that a car with 250 miles range is more than most people need. It's fine. If you go to and the average range of the electric vehicles being sold in the U.S. right now is three, it's approaching 300 miles. So that seems to be where things are settling into around the 300 mile range, which is fine.

C: It's not jsut fine. It's great. You can't get more than that in a gas car. Like, that's the thing. You're still filling up that.

S: Yeah, right. And again, the recharge thing is not that big a deal. Having done it many, many times now, it's literally a non-issue.

B: What about battery fires?

S: So battery fires. Thank you, Bob. That's a good one. So let me ask you a question. What is the what has a higher risk of catching fire? A hybrid car, a gasoline car or an electric vehicle?

J: A hybrid car.

S: What makes you say that?

C: I bet you gasoline car.

J: I read it somewhere.

S: OK, so yeah, you're correct. So for per 100,000 sales, the risk of a hybrid vehicle catching fire is 3474. That's about 3.4%. For gasoline cars it's 1529. So for gasoline cars, it's 1.5%. And for electric vehicles, 25. It's 0.025%.

C: It's just it got all the attention when Tesla was new.

E: Fires are awful, right?

S: They're worse when they happen. They're much worse when they happen because they're harder to put out. But the risk is teeny tiny and it's much less. It's almost more than an order of magnitude less than a gasoline car. It really is such a rare thing. And we get it's not that it's not a problem, but it's it's a 0.025% risk. It's not a big deal if you're buying a car. There's a lot of other things, higher risk.

E: It shouldn't give you anxiety.

S: It shouldn't. Shouldn't keep it from buying an electric vehicle. But the other thing is that the batteries get better that risk is only getting lower. They're already, in fact, designing batteries that are encased in a substance that turns into foam when it heats and it puts the fire out. So it keeps the battery from basically continuing to burn. So that's a problem that is actually actively being solved by advances in battery technology. And, again, we talked to the Ampreus guy, like their fire risk is even lower than an existing battery. So it's tiny and getting smaller. So basically a non-issue. All right. There's a lot more to talk about, let's talk about one more thing. And this has come up quite a bit. And I was, I was at first, I was like, I kind of brushed it aside, but then people kept bringing it up. And in fact, I did a response to a TikTok video where a guy spent a whole video talking about this. So let me ask you this question. I, when I'm basically say, dispelling a lot of myths about electric vehicles and saying that they're a good option and why they're good for the environment, one of the responses was that, again, I had this from multiple people that we shouldn't be, trying to fix this problem by selling people new cars. We need to fix the problem by getting people to drive less. To essentially through mass transit and other means.

C: Can't it be both?

S: Exactly. I mean, my response has always been, yeah, we'll do both. I mean, it makes absolutely no sense to frame this as an either or it's right. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. And every time I was like, yeah, that's great. We should build mass transit. We should make cities and towns more walkable and just, and going forward start to, yeah, cause we've basically built our civilization around the personal car. I get that, for most of us, on the show, it would be impossible not to own a car. I could not exist without a personal car. I would be shut in at home.

E: Connecticut's not the state for that.

S: It's not the state. I'd say there's like, yeah, it's sprawling suburbs without mass transit. I couldn't get anywhere, anywhere, even in good weather, let alone in a snowstorm and rain and all that stuff. So anyway, just the, the cars aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Yes, we can do a multi-generational program of slowly, reversing this hundred year trend, of building, basically building our infrastructure with the idea that most people own their own car to make it easier not to own a car or to make it so that people have to drive less, that they have more walkable options, more bikeable options, more mass transit options, absolutely. But there's still going to be billions of cars on the planet for the foreseeable future. And the question is, should those cars be electric vehicles or burn gasoline, we could say, should they be hybrid, should they be hydrogen? We could, compare all of those things. I'm just focusing on electric vehicles today, right? Isn't that like a non sequitur? It makes no sense to say that we shouldn't be advocating for electric vehicles and we should be advocating for no vehicles. No, we should be doing both.

C: There's also no such thing as no vehicles. We're always going to need buses and trains and those should be electric also. So it's like─

S: That's the other thing is that we're just trading one type of vehicle for another.

C: And like, and the future of mass transit, the future of driverless cars, where you just kind of rent one sort of like Uber, but there's no driver. Like all this is great because it's true. It does get fewer cars off the road, which is another brilliant goal, but it's not either or because yeah, you can't, I don't know, all these roads lead to improvement.

S: It's amazing how I had a really hard time convincing people that that was like a logical fallacy that we should just do both.

C: I think it's hard because so many people already don't drive.

S: They all don't drive. All the people who are stuck in it, they live in a city and they don't get it. It's like, no, my life is impossible without a car. I do think that was part of the difference in perspective.

C: Even if your life wasn't, the change would be so severe and significant. It's just, again, it's a difficulty like taking somebody else's frame, but I think it does work both ways too. Cause we see this a lot with our, vegan and vegetarian friends too. Or like, how can you possibly eat meat? And it's like, that's, I think valid and there are valid and interesting arguments there, but people aren't monolithic and just because you have managed to do it and you don't see it as being a huge threat to your lifestyle, you like try to empathize with people who can't or won't and, and vice versa, we need to try to empathize with people who can and do and go like, what can I learn from them?

S: Yeah, absolutely. To me it's like let a thousand flowers bloom, right? It's all good. But the idea that like, we don't need to be advocating let's for electric vehicles is nonsensical. I don't see how you get there.

C: Yeah. If there's no emissions, there's no emissions and that's awesome. And that's what we want.

E: I'm looking forward to electric planes, electric planes too some day.

S: Electric planes too, yeah.

E: Oh my gosh. That will be big.

S: And I have to say, and interestingly, somebody got really offended the last time I said this, which is like a weird thing to get offended about in my opinion, but electric vehicles are really fun to drive. So for a couple of reasons, the pickup is tremendous. It's absolutely tremendous. There's no, and now I kind of get frustrated when I drive our other car is still gasoline and you hit the gas and it's like, there's nothing there for a half a second. It's like, oh, come on. But here's the other thing is that electric vehicles are weighted better. Their weight distribution is much better because all, most of the weight is in the battery, which was on the bottom and evenly distributed. Whereas with a gasoline car, the engine is higher up and in the front and so the electric cars handle better. They're just better cars.

C: And of course, I just said there's no torque, but I meant there's maximum torque that like they instantly accelerate because they instantly instantly like off the line, electric cars beat the most intense performance cars, they might not be able to sustain that. It depends on the level of the electric car. But off the line, their torque is like equivalent to, or better than like Porsches and Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Like it's incredible. They're so fun to drive.

S: But here's one downside to that is that people do like to accelerate with them and they wear out their tires faster. I think we'll get over it. And also the thing is don't go, don't get more range than you need, cause then you're dragging around a bigger battery than you need. Don't treat your range anxiety by just getting a massive battery. It's heavy. It's expensive. It uses up limited resources, really think about what you need and what you're driving is and get the size battery that you need.

C: You could say the same about the actual dimensions of your car, I feel like a lot of people need to hear that advice.

B: Steve, you said that, that 91, 95 or 99% of your driving is like a hundred miles or less or fewer. Now, could you get a car with 150 mile range? Probably not at this point.

S: It's getting hard to get anything less than 200 to 250. They're still out there.

C: Just don't get the extended version. It's getting to the point now where you can buy different versions of an electric car.

S: Most of the models have like the basic version and the extended range version and just, just, personalize it to your driving needs. Some people, I take a lot of long trips. It's not like once or twice a year. So like, I actually did really appreciate like the 300 mile range, but if you're somebody who like most, like you're really just commuting 30 or 40 miles and the rarely take long trips, don't get a massive battery. It's not necessary. It's inefficient.

C: Even that commute. Did you say that was the average? That seems high.

S: So average is like less than 40 miles, like 30 miles, but less than 90 for less than 95% is like 40 miles, which is a better way to look at it. All right. Let's move on.

Quickie with Bob: Heaviest animal (1:27:11)[edit]

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

C: Hey.

B: Get your mind out of the gutter. Thank you, Steve. This is your quickie with Bob. Big whales make big news this week. It turns out the biggest creature ever to walk, I mean, to ever exist on the earth may not be the big and beautiful blue whale that we all know and love. Recent fossil evidence points to a new potential winner of the coveted most nagging life form ever called perucetus colossus. I'd love that name perusitis colossus. This whale lived over 39 million years ago. It's 18 fossil bones were discovered back in 2010. So it took 13 years to really get some solid detailed information, but we finally got it and it shows that they could have weighed almost twice as much or more than a blue whale. Twice. But remember I said could have because the official range now is between 85 and 320 tons for this new beast.

C: That's a big range.

B: It's a huge range, but apparently there's lots of assumptions made on like the weight of an organs and blubber and all sorts of stuff. So there are a lot of assumptions there, but it could have been as heavy as 320 tons. Big whales get as heavy as 190 tons and this potentially could be way, way beyond them. So now we can't definitively say it was heavier, right? We have like basically one data point, for this new, colossus whale, but we can say that the colossus has the heaviest skeleton ever. That's pretty much definitive. The best, the biggest, the heaviest skeleton we've ever encountered. That's because the, the normally spongy interior of bones. I mean, your bones are not bone solid all the way through. It's like a spongy material on the inside, but not for these guys. They had deposits filling those pores, making it much, their bones are much, much heavier. And the researchers even described them as swollen. When they looked at the bones, they thought they were rocks and they thought they were, when they realized they were bones, they look swollen to them. Just not even a blue whale's bones. They're big, but they're kind of sleek. They, they described them as these bones just seem like they're inflated. Regardless though, the blue whale is still the longest ever that we know of over 33 meters, 108 feet. Perucetus colossus was only 20 meters or 66 feet. So definitely not as long, but possibly heavier. So maybe we'll find more and more complete specimens in the future to be sure that perucetus colossus really deserves, deserves its name. So we shall see. Back to you, Steve.

S: Yeah. So just a couple other things. So before this specimen, the thinking was the evidence suggested that the age of gigantism among whales, what happened four to four and a half million years ago, this guy's 30 million years old.

B: So that's a big push back.

S: It pushes it back. But the thing is, this could be just one branch. You know what I mean? It doesn't necessarily mean that there have been these giant whales for the last 30 million years. We don't, we don't know it's one specimen, but it is also lovely to see, especially since I lived through the era when creationists were saying there's no transitional whales to like just explosion of whale ancestor fossils and just this amazing branching bush of whale evolution. This is just one more twig, one more branch.

B: One more fascinating, big happy twig.

S: Absolutely. All right. Thanks, Bob.

Who's That Noisy? (1:30:39)[edit]

S: Jay, it's who's that noisy time?

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

[squeaking, as of birds or wheels]

E: Oh, that wheel needs some oil.

J: I got a lot of people that that wrote in and a lot of people got it correct.

S: I know exactly what that is.

J: I think you would. So the first person, it's a listener named Elliot and Elliot wrote in. "Hello, my name is Elliot. Longtime listener. First time guessing. Osprey I grew up on a lake in Colorado mountains and we had several Osprey nests with ears within earshot of the house."

S: Not a bad guess.

J: Not a bad guess, but not correct. Thank you for that. Jim Kelly wrote in, "Howdy from Texas where people vacation in hell in order to cool off. My guess for this week's noisy is that it's a squeaky wheel turning such as on a car or some kind of mechanical device, such as a wheel and pulley system, etc." Boy, does that sound like a squeaky wheel, but Jim, it's not a squeaky wheel. Let's keep going. Next one from a listener named Daniel. "Hi Jay. This week's noisy sounds to me like birds chirping in a rain forest. Yeah, I know. Unimaginative and probably wrong, but that's what my ears say." Daniel, not bad. You're, you're heading in the right direction. I had, like I said, I had tons of listeners. The person that one basically wrote "Eagle, nuff said", that's all they wrote. That was Craig Bleebleal, whatever I can. Sorry about your last name. I can't pronounce it, but then I had another listener named Dave Martin write in and give a little more explanations and "Greetings from Seattle, Washington or Seattle, Jay. I am fairly certain this is the sound the bald eagle makes. In my late twenties I worked as a guide and naturalist in Alaska, Northern British Columbia and the Yukon territory. Mostly I led hiking and rafting tours. One of the rafting tours I would take clients on was a day trip float down the chill cat river within the Alaska chill cat bald eagle preserve located just outside of Haynes, Alaska." So he said the preserve is home to the world's largest concentration of bald eagles. So basically he is correct. This is a group of bald eagles that are all talking to each other. I think it's likely that these were younger bald eagles and they're just chittering and chatting away at each other. They sound absolutely nothing like the sound of a bald eagle that you'll hear in any movie or TV show. Real quick. Listen again. Bald eagles, everybody.

S: They're beautiful. I love [inaudible]

B: I remember seeing one for the first time at a bird show on this guy's arm and it was so striking, so beautiful and so large, it's like they can rip your head off. It just seemed so, so like intimidating in a way knowing that if they let loose, they could do some amazing things, but magnificent, just magnificent. I just, I just wish they didn't sound so lame.

New Noisy (1:33:47)[edit]

J: Well, I got a new noisy for you guys this week. This one was sent in by a listener named Lucas Snyder.

[Mechanical beeps]

That's a weird one.

E: Oh, it's a ghost detector. It sounds like.

J: Exactly, exactly. You walk it through graveyards, right?

E: That's right. They're communicating with you. You're saying I miss you. I love you.

J: The money I hit is under the bed.

E: That's right.

J: So if you think, you know what this week's Noisy is, or you heard something cool, email me at WTN@theskepticsguide.org. Don't email me anywhere else. Email me there. I, that, that'll guarantee that I see it.

Announcements (1:34:34)[edit]

J: So a few things, Steve, we had a meeting recently about NOTACON, all the people that are running NOTACON because we wanted to finalize a lot of important details, and I'm going to pass those details onto you. First and foremost so NOTACON is a conference that's happening on November 3rd and 4th in White Planes, New York, accessible to the New York airports, the West Chester airport, even Bradley international airport in Connecticut. So the basic concept of the conference is that during the day, we're going to be doing different events and different bits and things that are there to entertain you, and then you will have plenty of time mixed in throughout the day and the night to socialize with your friends that are, will also be attending the conference. So here are some things that we'll be doing at NOTACON. Well, first off on Friday and Saturday night, we will both of those nights. There'll be nighttime entertainment. We'll be doing a live Boomer vs. Zoomer quiz show that we created, George Hrabb is the host of that show. And that'll be on Friday night. We'll be picking people as contestants from the audience. And on Saturday night, Brian Wecht and George Hrabb will be doing something called the insanely eighties sing along. This is a theme sing along featuring eighties music and some cool stuff. I'm about to drop some cool details on you. I don't know if any of you have ever heard of Trey Magnifique, but this is a special guest that we will be having that will be joining us for the insanely eighties sing along theme. If you are fans of Ninja Sex Party, you probably know who this character is. And also speaking of Ninja Sex Party, there is a character named a Ninja Brian. We have made communication with Ninja Brian, which you cannot do with words. You have to write things down and send secret messages and whatnot. But, but what we did get back from Ninja Brian was that Ninja Brian will be doing silent standup comedy. Yes. Yes. He will be doing this at NOTACON. He specifically asked that we did not announce when it will happen, but he will be there. He will be making an appearance and there will be standup comedy happening. And I want to tell you that I've seen Ninja Brian do standup comedy in the past and it is remarkably funny. He's so goddamn good. It's so good. It's such a treat. So those two characters will be showing up. And then we have a few things that I wanted to tell you about. We have, let me give you an example of some of the things that are going to happen. We have a thing that we're going to do at NOTACON called how to blank. Sounds crazy, but what it is, is that each one of us throughout mixed in throughout the course of the two days, each one of us, like, so all the people in the SGU, then we've got Brian Wecht, we've got George Hrabb, we've got Andrea Jones Rooy. We are going to be teaching you something from one of our skill sets. And we talked in detail about what everybody's going to be doing. I know what everybody's going to be talking about. And I got to tell you that if there's a lot of fun and interesting things that are going to happen during this part of the show. We have something called truth or dur, this is another, another game that we're going to be playing. This is really, again, each of these things, most of the things that we're doing will involve the audience in one way or another, we have another thing that's called the actor's nightmare. This is a really heavy audience interaction game that we're going to be playing. So there's going to be improv games, there's going to be a dedicated Q&A to ask any types of questions that you want to any of the people that will be attending. There'll be a live geologic podcast, which I don't think anyone has ever seen. There'll be another game show happening called, is it Mayo? I'm not going to tell you anything else about that. There'll be a live SGU recording. We are going to have a VR headset hooked up and we're going to be doing some crazy stuff with that and definitely having audience interaction with that. So if you're interested, all you got to do is go to theskepticsguide.org, scroll down a tiny bit and you'll see a button that will take you to all the information that you need to know. Of course you're going to have to get a hotel room and all that. So you need all those details and you can find it out on our page. So just go to our website. I also want to remind you guys that QED, the skeptical conference that happens in Manchester, UK, that's happening on September 23rd and 24th. It's coming up quick. Now, last week I said that only patrons can enter, but due to Patreon rules, I need to open this up to the public. So if you are a listener of the SGU and you are able to attend the conference, the QED conference happening on September 23rd and 24th in Manchester, UK, then simply email us at INFO@theskepticsguide.org with your full name and your current email address that you'd like us to use to let you know if you win. For more information on the conference, you can go to QEDCON.org. And I'm going to tell you from personal experience, the conference is awesome. And you're going to have a really good time if you go.

S: All right. Thanks Jay. Okay guys, it's time for science or fiction.

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Science or Fiction (1:39:37)[edit]

Theme: Volcanos

Item #1: About 30% of the world's population live under potential threat from volcanic activity.[7]
Item #2: The Pacific Ring of Fire contains 75% of the world's volcanoes and is the location of 90% of all earthquakes.[8]
Item #3: The largest recorded volcanic eruption was Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which killed about 100,000 people, and rated a VEI-7 out of 8 on the Volcanic explosivity index.[9]

Answer Item
Fiction 30% under potential threat
Science Ring of Fire volcanos, quakes
Science
Mount Tambora eruption
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
Bob
Ring of Fire volcanos, quakes
Evan
30% under potential threat
Jay
30% under potential threat
Cara
30% under potential threat

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. Cara let me ask you a question.

C: Okay.

S: How much do you know about volcanoes?

C: I know a tiny bit.

S: Okay, good.

C: Not much.

S: Cause that's the theme this week, volcanoes.

J: Oh boy.

S: Okay. Here we go. Item number one, about 30% of the world's population live under potential threat from volcanic activity. Item number two, the Pacific ring of fire contains 75% of the world's volcanoes and is the location of 90% of all earthquakes. Item number three, the largest recorded volcanic eruption was Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which killed about 100,000 people and rated a seven out of eight on the volcanic explosivity index. Bob, why don't you go first?

Bob's Response[edit]

B: Okay. 30% of the population, the world's population living under threat volcanic activity. Well, I mean, does that include super volcanoes? Cause then I think the number would be even larger. So I'm going to say no.

S: That includes active volcanoes, not like a rare events like that. No.

B: Yeah. I'm still, it still seems that 30% is high. The ring of fire, 75% of the world's volcanoes and 90% of all earthquakes. That doesn't seem right. 90% of all earthquakes. Interesting. Let's see the third one. Mount Tambora. That was the largest, a hundred thousand people. Largest in what way in terms of deaths, in terms of explosivity.

S: Pretty much everything. Yeah, definitely explosivity and deaths.

B: Wow. I mean, that could be right. I don't know enough about that one to say one way or the other with any certainty here. Yeah. I mean, hard to say between one and two. I just don't know enough to be confident at all. So I'll just toss my coin here and I'll go with a 75% of world's volcanoes ring of fire.

S: That's the fiction.

B: Yes.

S: Okay. Evan.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: 30% of the world's population live under the potential threat from volcanic activity. Okay. So potential threat. We have to, if we had a better definition of what that meant, then the 30% might be a little clearer. Look, I mean, remember we did Nexus one year and, and the Iceland, it was 2011, the Iceland volcano blew and that impacted a lot of things going on. So is that considered, is that considered a threat, right? Shut down the all air traffic in Europe and stuff. I mean, are we talking about loss of human activity or loss of life?

S: No, direct threat. Not indirect consequences of there having been a volcanic. Direct threat.

C: Cause that would be like a hundred percent of people change the atmosphere's composition or something. You could extend that for sure.

E: Not sure about that one. The second one about the ring of fire containing 75% of the world's volcanoes and 90% of all earthquakes. Maybe the earthquakes part is right. I'm not sure about this. That where 75% of the volcanoes are. It would be a lot. It wouldn't it be a lot? It would be, but gosh, there's a lot of stuff. There's a lot of stuff going in the Atlantic ocean as well that is not there. Maybe that one's the fiction. Bob, that's the one you said was fiction, right? 75% of volcanoes. And then the last one, the Mount Tambora Indonesia, which explosion was this? Was this the one in the late 19th century? The one that like snowed in August or something, or there was one also in the early 19th century. I cannot remember which was which was Kilimanjaro's volcano. I go, oh my gosh, what am I thinking? It's one of those, boy, did it kill a hundred thousand people. It's good. I don't know about these facts. Ah, I don't know. I'll say the one about 30% of the world's population is fiction. I don't think that's the right number.

S: Okay. Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: I'll start with the third one. The largest recorded volcanic eruption was Mount Tambora. I do believe that one is science. Killed a hundred thousand people. That's amazing. That must've been amazing when that happened. God. The second one here, the Pacific ring of fire, saying it contained 75% of the world's volcanoes. I got to say, like, it blows my mind that I have never heard anything about the Pacific ring of fire.

S: Really?

J: Yep. I don't know. It's just one of those things that just slipped through the cracks. I've never heard about it. I can admit that to all of you here openly. So I don't know anything about it, but it sounds like a pretty nasty place if it exists. And then the first one saying 30% of the world's population live under potential threat from volcanic activity. 30%. That's a large percentage, but there's volcanoes everywhere, and so that doesn't, if anything, I would think that that number might even be low. And I'm going to go with my gut here and I'm going to, I'm going to say that the first one to 30% is the fiction.

E: Oh, that's what I did.

S: And Cara.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: Jay, you've never heard the song Ring of Fire?.

J: I have, but I thought that was about hemorrhoids.

C: I think the only one that I feel pretty confident about is the ring of fire. The numbers might not be perfect, but I think they're pretty close. And I think that probably what would throw people off here is that the ring of fire is like the whole Pacific. Yeah, it's not tiny. It's the rim around the Pacific ocean, which is enormous. So it's like all of those. So it's a lot. So I could see that one being true. I hate to admit this is like embarrassing that I've never even heard of Mount Tempura, but I do know that there are a lot of pretty destructive Indonesian volcanoes and the history there is brutal. And if this was a super long time ago, I wouldn't be surprised if the death toll was high because of course there wouldn't be that many mitigation strategies in place. So the one, yeah, that bugs me is the 30% because if the vast majority of the world's seismic activity or plate kind of tectonic activity is occurring around the ring of fire, if we've got the most risk happening around there, is that 30% of the world's population? I sincerely doubt it. It seems like that number is too high. So I'm going to go with, with two of the boys and say that that one's the fiction.

S: Okay. So you all agree on the third one.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: The largest recorded volcanic eruption was Mount Tempura in Indonesia, which killed about a hundred thousand people and rated seven out of eight on the volcanic explosivity index or the VEI, as we like to say.

E: Oh yes, every day.

S: You guys all think that one is science and that one is science. That is science.

C: Brutal.

S: Yeah, it was brutal. The estimates are a hundred thousand people, but I've also seen it saying that it killed at least 88,000 people. So that's like the low end of the estimate range, but a hundred is kind of like the about average range there. And yeah, the VEI, the is a exponential scale, right? A logarithmic scale. So each number is 10 times more powerful than the one before it, just kind of like magnitude scale for earthquakes. And a VEI of seven is the most powerful, volcanic eruption ever recorded. It is estimated that the last time there was a VEI eight, which is the high end of the scale was 10,000 years ago. There haven't been any in the last 10,000 years, so it had to be more than 10,000 years ago. And yeah, this happened in, when do you think it happened?

E: 19th century.

S: Yeah. Yeah. That's correct. You want to be more specific?

E: No.

S: 1815, 1815.

E: Oh, that was the early 18th. Okay.

S: Yeah. April 10th to be precise. April 10th, 1815. Massive, massive explosion. Very, very powerful. Okay. Let's move on. I guess we'll go backwards.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: We'll go to number two, the Pacific ring of fire contains 75% of the world's volcanoes and is location of 90% of all earthquakes. Bob, you think this one is fiction. Everyone else thinks this one is science and this one is science. And this is science. So yeah, the ring of fire, that's probably one of those things you've heard a hundred times, but it just never registered cause you didn't have anything to anchor it to, but it basically goes up the, like the west coast of South America and North America across Alaska into Russia and then South to Japan, Korea, then across Australia and down to New Zealand. That's the ring of fire. And that's where most volcanoes are. And it's of course a tectonic phenomenon. It's where the Pacific plates are diving in under the continental plates and pushing up the magma and causing, it's at the plate boundaries basically, and that's what causes it. So yeah, the ring of fire. I was, I found the 90% of all earthquakes to be more surprising actually. That's why I threw that in there.

B: That's what made me─

E: Because there are very small earthquakes too.

C: Exactly. They're just constantly happening there.

S: Absolutely. But there could be tons of earthquakes all over the place, but yes, 90% of all earthquakes occur along the ring of fire. That's according to National Geographic. So I'm assuming that's correct. All right.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: Which means that about 30% of the world's population live under potential threat from volcanic activity is the fiction. What's the real number? What do you guys think? High or lower?

E: Order of magnitude three or 300? No, three percent.

S: Any other guesses?

B: Yeah, 12%.

S: It's 10%. 10% of the world's population live under the direct threat of volcanoes. And if you look at the ring of fire, you could see as Cara, Cara correctly pointed out, that's a lot of people there. I mean, it goes through Los Angeles and things like that, but it's hard to imagine that 30% of the world's population lives in that ring of fire. So yeah, then I just tripled the number and figured that'd be enough. All right. Well, good job guys.

J: Thanks, Steve.

E: Thanks, Steve.

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

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:50:16)[edit]

Insofar as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and insofar as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.

 – Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, academic and social commentator 


E: "Insofar as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and insofar as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality." You want to guess who that was?

S: Yeah, I know.

E: Carl, I did tell you, Carl Popper. Anytime I see the word falsifiable, Carl Popper pops into my head.

C: But I feel like he, I feel like there was a little bit of a misspeaking in this quote.

E: Okay. Explain.

C: Can you say it one more time?

E: "Insofar as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and insofar as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality."

C: Right. So I think the important thing is to remember that the second half has parallel structure. He's still referring specifically to scientific statements. And if you don't specify that, he's not saying that anything that speaks to reality is falsifiable, and if it's not falsifiable, it doesn't speak to reality. He's saying that scientifically, like if it were to be described scientifically.

S: Yeah, it says the scientific statement. That carries over to the second half.

C: To the second half. Yeah, it's got a parallel structure there.

E: And he is using a semicolon. It's not two separate sentences. So there is a semicolon that separates the first part and the second part.

C: But that is, I think, important to specify.

S: Well, because the it in the second part refers to a scientific statement. Because by definition, being falsifiable is a necessary criterion for being scientific. If something's not falsifiable, it may be true. It may not be true, but science has nothing to say about it. Because what could you do? You can't falsify it, you can't really test it.

E: That's one of the very first sort of principles of skepticism I learned back in the 1990s and when it's like a light went off in my head once that was explained to me. You're like, oh my gosh, of course.

S: Yes. There's one whole category of nonsense, right? It's just one way things evade scientific investigation is they just arrange themselves in such a way that they're not falsifiable, like creationism. Again, since we, since we brought that up earlier in the show, like evolution could be falsified because evolution makes predictions if whales evolved from terrestrial mammals, we must find transitional whale species. But creationism makes no such predictions. If you find transitional whale species, well, god just decided to create them, like, and they do say that, they, anything that we find is compatible with an arbitrary, intelligent designer. It's unfalsifiable. Even if it's rock solid proof of evolution, that still doesn't falsify creationism because the creator could have done anything it arbitrarily desired, unfalsifiable, not science. All right. Well, thank you all for joining me this week.

B: Sure man.

J: You got it Steve.

C: Thanks Steve.

E: Thanks Steve.

Signoff[edit]

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

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

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Today I Learned[edit]

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

References[edit]

Vocabulary[edit]

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