SGU Episode 950

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SGU Episode 950
September 23rd 2023
950 wedge-shaped wood.jpg

A flint used to shape the wooden structure. [1] Credit: Larry Barham, University of Liverpool

SGU 949                      SGU 951

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

What is at stake is whether our country will follow science or superstitions & quackery.

Alejandro Frank, professor of mathematical physics at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, Dr. Cara, Bob, and Liz go to Disney World[edit]

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

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. Today is Thursday, September 21st, 2023, and this is your host, Stephen Novella. Joining me this week are Dr. Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: And today is the day where every skeptic will balance perfectly on its edge. (laughter)

S: It is the-

E: Autumnal equinox, 12 hours of light, 12 hours of darkness.

J: Cara is a doctor.

E: And Cara is a doctor, more importantly.

J: So I was texting Cara and I said, she was thanking all, she was like, I really want to thank you guys for essentially like putting up with a lot of schedule changes over throughout the last because she's becoming a doctor, so she had so much work to do.

S: It's been a living nightmare.

J: So I'm like, Cara, you don't get it. Like this is great for me because it lifts my status up because now I'm on a podcast with two doctors. (Cara laughs)

E: That's right.

C: Oh man, it's been a lot, but yeah, I'm so, I am really grateful for you guys' patience, for everybody's patience during these, especially the last few months where everything was coming together. It's so funny. I have to say how quickly you can go from like being overworked and super burnt out to like forgetting how to work at all, like I went from doing so much to so little so quickly.

S: Just turn your brain off. That's good.

C: And I'm loving it.

E: Oh, this happens to me every year, come April, it really does. And we do, we're aware of it. That's sort of a phenomenon in our industry in which they tell you, don't take a vacation the next day on April 16th. Don't do it. They said you have to kind of wean yourself, take a week or two to kind of bring yourself down and then come May. Okay, you can start going places and really detaching from work because it's just not healthy.

C: Yeah, it's like a lot of not just work changes, but lifestyle changes. So my last day of my internship was the 31st of August, which is also the day that my PhD was granted because I defended my dissertation a couple of weeks prior. Then I had the weekend and then I went to Disney to celebrate, which was really fun. And it was a great time to go because it was right after Labor Day, so it was pretty dead and the weather for some reason really cooperated. But then it was pack up my truck and move out and drive across the country immediately afterward. So kind of waving Florida goodbye in the rear view. So it's just a lot of changes all at the same time, but I'm loving it. And now I'm here, I'm actually recording and the Wi-Fi is doing okay so far. I'm recording from Manchester where I'll be speaking at QED this weekend. And then I'm just going to stay in sort of like the UK and close by in Europe for about a month to just take some real time off.

E: Nice.

C: Yeah.

E: Well, well deserved. I mean, that's for certain.

C: Thank you.

E: I mean, it was a grind for you from what you were describing to us, a grind.

C: A grind. And I think it's all going to be a little bit, I'm going to go back to work starting in February, just so everyone knows. I'm going to be starting my postdoc back in LA in February. I'm going to take January to study for, well, I don't want to jinx myself, but to study for the EPPP. Anybody listening who is a psychologist knows the horrors, but basically to get my licensing exam. I want to do that early rather than late.

S: That's a good idea too.

C: Yeah. That's what everyone tells me.

S: So you may have noticed that Bob's not with us this week. Bob is essentially on his honeymoon. He did the stealth marriage thing earlier, like over the summer. He just called us up and said, hey, Liz and I got married, like out of the blue.

J: But then he immediately wanted us to buy him dinner, you know? Which we did. He said, bring us at this very expensive restaurant and you're going to buy us dinner. Okay.

S: We basically had the reception this past weekend and then he and Liz went to Disney World too. You guys didn't cross paths though, right?

C: No, I was gone before he went, but they are, I have to say, they're going to freaking love the Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios. I was in awe of how well it was done, but I wasn't like, I didn't get everything. You know what I mean? He's going to get it to the tee and be freaking out. The rides are incredible. The whole land is, it's like you're there, you're like on another planet and everything's written in this like alien language. It's so cool.

S: Right.

J: I can't believe by all the Star Wars that is inside of me, I cannot believe that I have not gone yet.

C: Yeah, you have to go. You'll freak out.

J: I know. I mean, look, let's cut to the chase here. Disney World is unbelievably expensive.

C: It's so expensive. The only reason I could go is because I was a Florida resident at the time and you have massive discounts.

J: And I can't go as an adult. I have to, I have two children. I have to take my entire family.

C: You can't be like, hey kids, don't you have mom and dad are going to Disney World.

S: They'd be telling the psychologist about that 20 years later.

J: I priced it out. I priced it out. I did my research for a while and then I priced it out. And like before I knew it, like I'm like, I want this, I want this, I want this, I want this. It was like $20,000.

C: Yeah. It's out of control. I've managed to go for, and I'll say this like point blank. I managed to go for about $1,500.

E: For how long?

J: How many days?

E: Four days?

C: Four full days. Yeah. So four days. So basically Monday to Friday, get there late on Monday for dinner and then all day, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at the parks. And then, but again, I could drive there. I didn't have to fly. I could get a Florida resident pricing on both my tickets and on my room. And then, but then that doesn't include food and you spend a lot of money on food.

E: Oh, the food. Yeah. Especially nowadays.

J: When you dig in, like to all the things that you have to do, like when we were kids and we went to Disney World, you'd show up at the park you don't have to like do anything before you come and you just like we're going to go to Disney World. Let's drive there. We drive there. You go. You walk in and you walk around and you go on every ride and then you leave, right?

E: Yeah. It was more like a Six Flags kind of experience.

C: Yeah. It's not like that now. You got to make like reservations for everything.

J: You have to tell them what park you're going to on what day. You have to, ahead of time, schedule what ride you're going to go on.

E: It's like entering a country.

J: And then, yeah, if you want to eat, like you almost are assuredly not going to find a place to eat unless you like you predict it and then make reservations.

C: Yep.

J: So it's really, it's a lot of work. Like it's a stressful thing being a parent taking kids to Disney World because you got to like manage the entire thing from beginning to end. But I mean, look, I got to see Star Wars. I got it. And then I got to go see Harry Potter, which isn't Universal, right?

C: Universal. Or what you could do is you guys can come visit me in LA and I'll take you to Universal in LA, which is the better Universal, because that's like the actual Universal studios. And they've got Harry Potter World there too. But I think they just built, somebody was telling me, I haven't done my research on this, but somebody was telling me they just built Super Mario World.

J: Whoa.

E: Oh my gosh.

C: Which sounds so cool.

E: Get to drive around in carts.

J: Can you actually go into a pipe?

C: Yeah. I hope so. That sounds so cool.

E: Jump on some mushrooms.

C: Super Nintendo World. Yeah. They're calling it Super Nintendo World.

E: Oh my gosh.

C: Like a power up band.

E: That's a multi, you see, that's smart because that's a multi-generational experience, right? You're going to have certainly the young kids, the older kids and the generation or two beyond them actually familiar with Super Mario, Mario Brothers and the whole thing. So it's actually pretty smart. I think so.

C: There's a Mario Kart ride.

E: Of course. Oh my gosh. How could there not be? I'd be disappointed if there weren't.

J: So very interestingly, the two biggest things in the SGU stratosphere that happened this year happened pretty much in the same week. Cara becomes a doctor and Bob and Liz get married and go to Disney World, basically. This all happened in the last week. Pretty awesome.

C: I love it.

E: Everyone's growing up. I'm not crying. You're crying.

S: All right. And I'm still here doing all the work.

E: Oh, hey Steve. Hey, thanks for doing the work. We appreciate it.

S: No worries.

C: Hey, Doc.

S: I'll get started with the news items.

News Items[edit]

CAR-T Therapy (9:01)[edit]

S: So this is actually a really cool science story that I don't know who's been getting a lot of play in the general media. And I don't know that we've actually talked about that on the show. Maybe we've made a reference to it. Do any of you guys know what CAR-T therapy is? Cara, you might.

E: I know who Cardi B is. Is that similar? No?

C: I mean, I know it's a cancer treatment, right?

S: Yeah.

S: Do you have any idea what?

C: It's like immunotherapy.

S: Yeah, it's immunotherapy. Do you know specifically what the technology is?

C: No, I don't.

S: Yeah. It's super cool.

E: It's like a car.

S: So it's CAR-T. The T is for T cell. CAR stands for chimeric antigen receptor. This is a technology that is 60 years in the making, right? Like any technology, if you go back to its roots, its deepest roots, it's really only come into its own in the last eight years. So it was discovered in 1960 that immune cells attack cancer cells. They actually protect against cancer, right? That wasn't known before. That was really established in 1960. It was 1986 was the first time immune cells were used to fight cancer. It was found that tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes could attack cancer cells. But then the chimeric antigen receptor technology, that dates back to 1993, right? So that's 30 years ago. This was the first generation. So what it is, is you take an antibody, right? Antibodies are Y-shaped, and there's sort of two, the two points of the Y are the antigen binding region. So there's basically two places on the Y-shaped IgG antibody that combined to the target, the antigen. You take one of those, and you combine it with the T cell antigen receptor, right? A T cell is a cell in the immune system. So now, so that's the, that's why it's a chimera, right? You're taking basically two antibody and an antigen receptor, and you're combining them together using genetic engineering. So this, what this does is it essentially targets that T cell against whatever the antibody you attach to it targets. So if you could get antibodies against a protein that's unique to a cancer cell, you attach it to the T cells, you make a CAR-T cell that then will attack that cancer cell. Make sense? So that was generation one, 1993. But the technology took basically 20 years to get to the point where it was clinically useful. They had, so the first generation didn't survive very long, like the cells that they made did not survive long enough to do anything, they didn't survive long enough to attack the cancer. So then they figured out, okay, we have to attach this co-stimulatory domain, the CD28, that will make it persist longer in the body. And then they, they've been essentially tweaking it since then, and in 2017, the FDA approved the first CAR-T-based treatment against cancer. It's not, it's not, so that's 2017, so from the first generation one CAR-T was made in 1993, 2017 is when it got first FDA approval. So it's approved now for the treatment of lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. These are two blood-borne cancers. And then the way the treatment works is you take the T cells out of the patient, you genetically engineer them to make them into CAR-T cells, then you have to amplify them, you have to reproduce them, so there's a whole bunch of them, and then you put them back, and then they attack the cancer. It works incredibly well. It's been a revolution in the treatment of these two cancers.

E: Is it an expensive treatment, like most people can't afford this?

S: It's expensive, doesn't it? I mean, don't do all that, yeah, it is, but, you know.

C: And most people can't afford cancer treatment anyway.

S: Yeah, I mean, this is, it's insurance has got to cover it in the U.S., yeah, in other countries, yeah, whatever the payment scheme is, but unless you're rich, you're not going to pay for this out of pocket, right? But in any case, but like any, every cancer treatment, nothing's 100%, right? Nothing works in everybody, you know. So there's, there could be as many as 60% relapse after CAR-T treatment. And there's also the potential for significant side effects. The most significant side effect is known as cytokine release syndrome, because this is an immunotherapy, and this can trigger an acute immune response, the release of cytokines, which are immune chemicals, that could cause rash, headache, even severe, severe side effects. And then some patients have to be pre-treated with medication to try to minimize those side effects. So there's still a lot of headroom, there's still a lot of room to tweak and improve the CAR-T therapy. And also, there's ongoing research to try to figure out how to tweak it so that it can attack other types of cancer. There was also just a study published where they were looking at its use in combination with chemotherapy against ovarian cancer, for example. That would be great because ovarian cancer is one of the bad ones and there's a lot of room for improvement needed in the treatment of that particular cancer. So this is basically a new technology, right? It's a new platform that we can use to not only treat potentially lots of different cancers, but maybe lots of other things as well. How to target T cells against whatever we want to target.

E: Now, you mentioned 60% of the treated patients will relapse, but is it still the most effective treatment against bloodborne cancers?

S: Yeah, it is. Yep.

E: Wow. It's not as various as these bloodborne cancers are. Oh my gosh.

S: Yeah, but they're also, they're bad, but they're also among the most treatable. And this just really increased our ability to treat them. What would really be nice if we can start figure out how to target these against some of the worst solid tumors like glioblastoma, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer. Those are the big ones.

J: That would be awesome, Steve. Could you imagine?

S: So as you might imagine, soon after these therapies were approved, that's right about when CRISPR was really coming into its own. So now we're basically using CRISPR to make these cells, and that makes them even better and faster and cheaper. So that's helped a tremendous amount. What triggered this discussion was a news item that's just one potential incremental advance in CAR-T therapy, but it shows you kind of where the technology is. This is a basic science study, which they hope will be translatable, meaning that this will translate to something in the clinic. Here's what they figured out, that immune cells and cancer cells, because they're both rapidly reproducing and specifically CAR-T cells, sometimes they don't, they can't get enough oxygen to keep themselves going, the body can't deliver enough oxygen to the cells because they're so rapidly, tightly packed and rapidly producing. So they will undergo alternative metabolic pathways, and one specifically is basically eating the amino acid glutamine for energy, and that requires the reductive carboxylation enzyme and pathway, right? So that's something that both the cancer and the T cells have in common. Here's what they found, that the reductive carboxylation enzyme also is responsible for modifying the proteins that manage DNA. These are the histones, right? So DNA how long do you think, if you completely unwound and stretched out in a straight line one DNA molecule, how long do you think it would be?

J: Oh, god, it's incredibly long.

S: Not as long as you think.

C: Something ridiculous.

S: No, it'd be like three meters.

E: Six inches.

C: That's still pretty ridiculous for one molecule.

S: I know. It would wrap around the world three times.

C: But it's not like it would wrap around the world.

E: It goes to the way my capillaries go to the moon and back to the earth.

S: Every nucleated cell in the body has one of those molecules in it, and so they're all tightly wrapped up around the histones, and then you unwind the sections where you're transcribing the genes into proteins, right? So the active regions get unwound, and the inactive regions are bound up into histones, right? So it's never completely unwound in one cell, right? So the reductive carboxylation also is responsible for modifying these proteins to either unwind or wind up the DNA, and so it is responsible for which genes are getting actively transcribed at any time, and what they found was that it causes the genes for rapid reproduction to become active and some longevity genes to become inactive, and so this correlates with the fact that these CAR-T cells are rapidly producing, but they burn themselves out, right? They undergo what's called exhaustion, which is the technical term for they won't reproduce anymore, right? They're basically at the end of their lifespan. So they're trying to figure out how to extend these T cells so they don't get as quickly get to that point of exhaustion.

E: Yeah, what's the limiting factor to that, Steve? In other words, it doesn't have an energy source, or what is it?

S: Well, no. That's what this study is actually trying to figure out, what causes them to be exhausted, and part of it is that when you turn on the let's rapidly reproduce genes, you turn off some genes that are necessary for keeping it alive for a long period of time, longevity genes. So what they did was, which makes sense because it's like, all right, I'm going to burn myself out. I don't need to survive very long, right? So that kind of goes hand in hand. But what they found out is that they turn off the reductive carboxylation, which does now prevent them from eating glutamine for energy, but they found that they do just fine. They do just fine. So that was one of the things that you just know, would this kill the T cells, right? If it did, then that wouldn't be good. They said, no, they actually do. They metabolize and they do just fine without this enzyme, but this slows down their exhaustion and activates their longevity genes. So they basically found a way to make these CAR-T cells survive a lot longer. So will this lead to the clinic? Who knows? But look, it's promising basic research. But what this, I think, demonstrates really is, think about it, these therapies have only been approved for eight years. This is, we're at the very beginning of this, really, when you think about it. And we are still on the steep part of the curve in terms of innovation and doing research and figuring out. It's kind of like going hand in hand with CRISPR. You know what I mean? I feel like it's the same thing. It's like, we know a lot and it's powerful, but man, we're just getting started. And this has, I think, tremendous potential as a new therapeutic platform. And there's a lot of active research going on, even at the basic science level of how do they work why don't they survive longer, et cetera, et cetera. So I think this is a treatment that we are going to be hearing a lot more about in the future. This is really just wanted to introduce everybody to this technology. And I think it dovetails nicely with CRISPR, which we've talked about a lot. It's a new technology for doing fast, cheap genetic modification. And so it also sort of combines these two things where our ability to manipulate biology is really taking off. And it's specifically because of a few things. One is our ability to manipulate genetics. Another is our ability to manipulate the immune system. And another is our ability to manipulate stem cells. And these things are obviously related to each other. Again, just ability to control biology is really getting into a new level. It's both exciting and scary, but right now we're in the exciting phase. Like the scary stuff is more about what potentially could be in the future. But I'll settle for curing cancer. You know what I mean? I think I'll take that in the short term.

E: What about that side effect, Steve? Are they going to work on cutting that?

S: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That's something they're actively researching. For now, they're just treating it. They're figuring out how best to pre-treat patients so they don't have those side effects.

J: Someday some science like this, some procedure that they come up with or way to manipulate, like using CRISPR, we are going to make pancreatic cancer go away.

S: Yeah. Eventually.

J: But to me, they're like scientific miracles. It's like, OK, it took a long time, but we did it.

C: And a lot of people, a lot of things, I want to recommend just for anybody who is listening and who is like a documentary fanatic like I am, that there's this fascinating and beautiful documentary, Steve, I don't know if you've seen this, but if not, you definitely should check it out too, called Jim Allison Breakthrough about Dr. James Allison, Jim Allison. He's the guy who discovered the T cell. He won the Nobel Prize in 2014. He did precursor research. Obviously, his specialty wasn't CAR-T. It was CTLA-4. That was the earlier cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. But he discovered the T cell receptor for the T cell in 1982. And all of these therapies were able to be built upon that. And he shares the Nobel Prize. I think it was like in 2014, he shared the Nobel Prize with Tasuku Honjo. But there's this fascinating documentary about him, his work, his life. He's this awesome Texan. He's at MD Anderson. He plays the harmonica. He's in a band with a bunch of other immunologists and oncologists. And I love these sorts of stories that humanize science. Yeah, you can see the people doing it and the effects. They follow some of the patients who actually were. And we've been really resistant to using this word, but cured of their cancer. Most people aren't.

S: They go into remission, and that's as close as we can.

C: Yeah, it's like no evidence of disease, remission, things like that. But there are some examples in which the cancer is fully revert. The cancer is gone. And T cell therapy does have some incredible potentials.

S: Absolutely. And it's good old reductionist science. I like to remind people, especially the pseudoscientists and the holistic practitioners, all this stuff, talking about these soaring, airy-fairy kind of concepts. It's nothing compared to nerdy reductionist science, where we actually understand the nuts and bolts about how things work so that we could manipulate it. Nothing is as powerful as that, you know what I mean?

C: Yeah. And I think part of what I love about this specific documentary is that they really just follow that. And all the times when he would go to these pharma companies and be like, we have to make this drug, and they're like, no. And he's like, I'm telling you, this is how. We did it in the mice. We did it in the whatever. This is what's happening to the cells. And just watching step by step by step in all of the different hoops you have to jump through to do this type of reductionist science.

J: That's a huge and important point, because just like battery technology and solar technology, it's like the mRNA platform started development over 40 years ago. They didn't even know where it was going. They didn't say, someday we're going to be able to do this. But the very beginnings of the research that ended up turning into the mRNA platform, with hundreds, I think, into the thousands of doctors who worked on the project along the way. So it's like this slow and steady pace of science moving forward. The breakthroughs are great, but they're not common.

C: And it's basic science. It's smart work.

E: Yeah, there are no shortcuts here.

Martian Life (25:55)[edit]

S: All right, Jay, tell us about life on Mars.

J: All right, well, look, listen. (laughter) Nobody knows. We don't know. I like this news item a lot. I really like it, because if you just pay attention to the details here, and there's some points that I make along the way, it illustrates the scientific process very well. So what we have here is we have a researcher that has hypothesized that NASA experiments conducted with the Viking landers back in the 70s, like 1976, they could have unknowingly killed living microbes that live in Martian rocks. And of course, other experts don't agree. And yet others say it's an intriguing possibility. So we have different scientists at different groups who are believing in different things. There is a consensus. And the consensus, I'll get into the details later, but the consensus basically says, no, we don't think that we didn't detect any life on Mars. But it is a possibility. Of course it's possible. We haven't disproven it. So if you pay attention here, you're going to see an example of science in motion, right? We have some people who think this, some people who think that. And in the end, evidence wins, right? So right now, we have a lack of evidence. We don't have a ton of evidence. We have some evidence that people are drawing conclusions by. So a scientist named Dirk Schulze-Makuch, I must have mispronounced his name, but that's how I pronounce it. I always have to throw that out there because if the scientist happens to be listening, nothing personal, man. An astrobiologist, he's at the Technical University of Berlin. And he suggested in an article back in June that during the 1976 Viking lander mission on Mars, the landers could have encountered small arid resistant microbes that exist inside of the Martian rocks, right? So these are microbes that have learned to live without a lot of water. And the landers did experiments to the Martian regolith. And the experiments likely would have killed microbes, these kinds of microbes, before the lander could detect them or identify them. So both Viking 1 and 2 conducted four different kinds of experiments on the Martian surface. Now this gets a little technical, but I'm going to read it to you. So one of them was a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer. And this experiment looks for organic or carbon containing compounds in the Martian soil. Then there's another experiment they did. It's called the labeled release experiment, which tests for metabolism by adding radioactively traced nutrients to the soil. Then there's the pyrolytic release experiment, which tested for carbon fixation by potential photosynthetic organisms. And the last one, they did a gas exchange experiment, which tested for metabolism by monitoring how gases that are known to be keys to life, like oxygen, carbon dioxide, if these gases changed surrounding isolated soil samples. So all of these different tests could reveal if life was doing biological processing, right? So two of the experiments gave results that certainly looked like there was life on Mars, because the experiments gave back results that said, yeah, OK, we're detecting compounds or gases or something that is released by living matter. One experiment showed traces of chlorinated organic compounds. And the mission scientists later concluded that these results came from contamination due to cleaning products used on Earth, right? Because it had chlorine in it. But later on, what they figured out, what actually happened was that they made a discovery that these organic compounds naturally occur on Mars. So their first way of describing or figuring out what happened was actually incorrect. These compounds exist on Mars. The fourth experiment, which was the gas exchange experiment, and the most important of the four, because it was the most likely to show that life existed, showed a negative result for organic life. And of course, the majority of scientists settled on that conclusion that no life was detected on Mars. And that was the status quo for years. So going back to this scientist who I told you before, Schulze-Makuch, he stated that the majority of the experiments had faulty results due to the use of too much water. And I found this is pretty cool what he figured out. Scientists back in the 70s thought that life on Earth we're a water planet. Most life on Earth requires water. So they thought if we add water to the Martian regolith that they sampled, that it could potentially allow some organisms to function again. However, here on Earth, we have microbes that thrive in extremely dry environments inside something called a hygroscopic rock, which is a rock that tends to absorb water from the atmosphere. So knowing that these creatures exist on Earth, living in an amazingly dry environment, basically what they do is they live inside these rocks that absorb water. And the tiny, tiny little bit of water that's in the air that the rock absorbs, they use. And they don't need a lot of water, just a tiny little bit of water. So Mars has a little humidity in its atmosphere, potentially enough to sustain microbes in the fashion that we see on Earth. Now if Martian microbes also happen to contain hydrogen peroxide, which some also do on Earth, this would explain why some of the gases that were detected in the Viking experiments occurred. So the idea here is it is scientifically plausible, all of these things that I'm telling you. Yes, if there are microbes, if they don't need a lot of water, they're used to living in dry environments, they might have hydrogen peroxide in them because we have microbes on Earth that do. So every step of the way, he's not coming up with any crazy solutions. They are, however, unlikely, but that doesn't really mean much. When you're hypothesizing in science, even though something is unlikely, doesn't necessarily mean it's not happening. So it's safe for him to hypothesize using things that are sound in science, that are not breaking anything that any other scientist would go, that's not even real. No, this is all real. These are all things that we've observed. So we've seen on Earth that too much water can kill certain organisms that can't adapt to wet conditions, there was a flood that took place in a typically very, very dry environment. And what they found was that over 80% of the microbes that were living in the rocks that were used to living in a dry environment just got completely wiped out by the presence of water. They could not deal with it at all and they died. So this is what he's saying potentially could have happened to the experiments that were done by the Viking rovers because they applied water to the regolith. And that amount of water that they applied could have easily killed microbes that were present there. So that's the big point that he's making, that if all these circumstances line up, the testing that we did back in the 70s, the water test can't be the only way that we test a regolith because the water could have killed the microbes. So another interesting fact is that this is not the first time that scientists have claimed that the Viking experiments could have unknowingly killed microbes that they were testing for. Viking also heated up the Martian soil samples and the heat causes unknown chemical reactions in the soil which could have easily just wiped out any microbes that were present. And this also could explain some of the confusing results that they were getting from those four soil tests that they did back in the 70s. So a little complicated, lots of different tests that they're doing and the way that they're looking at the gases and things that are given off from the test, lots of different ways that microbes could have been killed along the way. But there is a other side of the coin. The current scientific consensus is that there are perfectly reasonable explanations why the Viking lander experiments had strange results. And one of the examples they give is the existence of something called perchlorate in the Martian soil. If that was present in the Martian soil and water and heat were applied to it, then it would have given off the gases that they picked up and it would explain the results. Again, we're not 100% sure what happened. It was the very first time we tested the Martian regolith. We need to do it with modern machinery and modern testing capabilities that we have today. I think we would know right away if we could get those soil samples.

E: Well, don't some of the more recent missions have done, I believe, sampling?

J: They've taken samples, but we don't have the ability to get them back yet, Ev. That's a whole separate mission. We have to send they're not building the spacecraft yet to even collect those samples. And we talked about this on the show earlier, like it was a process. There was a lot of different steps to retrieving those soil samples and getting them back to Earth. We know exactly how to do it. We just the money's not there right now. So that's kind of on hold.

E: You just think they would have gleaned some clearer information about perhaps or more of a more something more conclusive about what was going on with Viking based on the more recent missions and the observations they've been making with that data.

J: Well, I think the Holy Grail here is to to get unspoiled soil samples back to Earth where we can do hundreds of tests.

E: Yeah, and they are coming.

J: Yeah, so once we get it'll happen eventually.

E: Isn't it two years or something?

J: I don't know. Last I read and I could I might not be up to date, but last I read like they did, they're not spending the money on that right now.

E: But but the samples are collected and waiting to be picked up on Mars, is my understanding.

J: The samples are collected and then dropped, right? So what happens is as the rover goes over the Martian regolith, the scientists decide, hey, let's take a sample here. They get a sample, it's put in the container and they drop it. Yeah, sealed up and they drop it.

E: And there's there's supposed to be a mission to go collect those samples and then bring them back. But that's the, is that on hold?

J: Yes. That's what last I read that they're just not they're not building every because it's complicated. You know, they have to send something that lands on the planet that goes and picks them up, that pushes them up into orbit. And then the ship has to take them from Mars back to Earth.

E: Yeah, but that's the macroscope of the mission. That's the big picture. Yeah, eventually we'll get those things back.

J: Yeah. So like I said in the beginning, I think this information illustrates science really well, right? There's a scientific consensus with some outliers who have other theories that may be less likely, but they are still scientifically reasonable and plausible. And we won't know until we get to test more soil samples. So in the meantime, the answer is it's a big we don't know. But but again, I think it's really cool that you have people out there that are thinking outside of the box. They're not accepting the scientific consensus because they don't have to because because it's all theoretical. They're not saying they're wrong and I'm right. This scientist is saying I have an idea here that's plausible. That is that might have some value. And let's see what happens.

S: It's an alternate interpretation of the existing data. But the next piece is, did he propose like this is the experiment we need to do in order to resolve the different interpretations.

J: From the reading that I've done historically on this topic? They already know a ton of experiments that they want to do on the Martian regolith to test it for all sorts of different things, including microbes. I mean, his big statement here is let's test things dry before we add water to it. That that was what his result was, like because the water could have killed the microbes.

[commercial brake]

Oldest Wooden Structures (39:17)[edit]

S: All right, Cara, tell us about the oldest wooden structures ever.

C: Yeah, this is really interesting research that was just published from scientists in the UK and Zambia. The research is actually the site of the research is in Zambia at a site called Colombo Falls. So this was published in Nature. It was just published on the 20th of September. So very, very new called Evidence for the Earliest Structural Use of Wood at least here comes four hundred seventy six thousand years ago. So that would mean that it predates homo sapiens.

E: Oh, OK.

C: So and and it's interesting in that I think this is very common when we look at archaeological research, when you look at sort of a cross section of researchers that were not involved in these specific studies. We're actually not seeing a lot of pushback. We're seeing a lot of researchers saying, yeah, this seems completely plausible. And it's actually the reasonable conclusion that we would all come to. The issue is it's really rare to find wood that's that old. Yeah, that's really what a lot of this comes down to. Wood does not keep for this long. And so being able to see evidence of hominin utilization of wood is just pretty rare. And like there's even a researcher that's quoted as saying, if wood kept the same way stone did, we might not call this the stone age. We might call it the wood age. It's very likely that wood was being regularly used because it was a plentiful material that was right in front of these these individuals. But the issue is we just didn't have a lot of evidence to support it previously. So this specific site in Colombo Falls, Zambia, has been investigated, I think, since like the 60s. And there was a fair amount of interesting stuff that came out in the 60s. The problem is we had no way to date the actual artefacts. Back then, we didn't have the technologies to figure out how old these things actually were. So this new study uses something called luminescence dating, which I had never heard of. But I think it's not new and it's really common. It was actually first suggested in 1953, but it wasn't like it's, wasn't regularly used until, I think, like the 70s and the 80s. But basically, luminescence dating is a methodology that can figure out how long ago specific materials. And usually they're going to be using things like quartz. So oftentimes, sand grains, grains of minerals, were last exposed to sunlight because they there's trace radioactive isotopes in these different soils and sediments. And they're able to look at that decay and they're able to do it sort of based on it's similar, but not not at all similar to radiocarbon dating, which is what we're used to thinking about. But luminescence dating specifically is looking at the effect of sunlight. So the photons and how they have when they were last absorbed and how long since then they've been changing. And so usually they're going to be looking at quartz and feldspar. And in this specific study, yeah, they looked at the sediment right around the wood. So the question is, what did they actually find here? They found, I think, five big chunks of wood, but two of them were really fantastic. They were these really, really large pieces that appear to be notched out on the side so that they fit together pretty cleanly. So think Lincoln Logs. You guys know Lincoln Logs?

E: Sure.

C: In the US we probably do. Yeah, some of our listeners, it was actually funny. I was reading one of I've read a lot of articles about it. And one of the interviews with one of the researchers, because most of the researchers are out of the UK, were like, it wasn't until I saw a children's toy from the US called Lincoln Logs. I was like, oh, that's amazing. And they're really big. There's a lot of cool pictures that you can look at online and you can see places where they were notched out using tools, where they did sort of fit together quite cleanly. There were other pieces of wood that were found from the same area. And they more seem to be serving as like tools. So a wedge and a kind of like a pointy stick thing that were very likely used as tools. And apparently those types of artefacts were not uncommonly found, especially in this region. But I think the big wow piece here were the two really, really large pieces of wood that had been notched out and sat together. Now, as for like what they actually were used for, like what what did they do? Honestly, anybody's guess is as good as the researchers guess. They put forth some ideas like maybe it was a foundation of sorts or some sort of raised platform to sit on the riverbanks. This is a very wet region, and it's always been very wet because the water table is really, really high. And they think that that's why the wood actually was kept so well, is because it's in this like very dense clay area. So they're really unsure exactly what the wood would have been used for. But it's clear that the wood was fashioned. It's clear that there are scrape marks on it, cut marks on it, and that it was fashioned by a hominin. And what else is clear is that especially or I should say specifically the large pieces of wood were luminescence dated back to four hundred seventy six thousand years ago. Now, there have never been remains of a hominin in this in this exact location. It's on the bank of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia, and they've never actually found hominin remains there. But nearby, they have found remains of Homo. What is it? Heidelbergensis? Is that what it's called? Heidelbergensis. OK, good. I was just doing that from memory. So I think, yeah, Heidelbergensis. So it could be that this sort of common ancestor that predates Homo sapiens and Neanderthals may have been the hominin that was hanging out and that was doing this this woodworking back then. So I think historically, there was this sort of narrative that these ancient hominins were much more free roaming, that they weren't settling down or at least they weren't putting down any roots whatsoever. And this may sort of turn some of that on its ear. It at least invites a conversation about the act of building. So not just making small handheld tools for hunting purposes or for cutting purposes, but actually to produce something that you would leave behind, to produce something that you could utilize in a space and stay in that space for whether it was an extended period of time or a short period of time. It sort of sets the clock back on, I guess we could say, hypotheses about when our human ancestors were hunkering down and saying, let's make use of what we've got near us. We've got this lake. We've got these we've got this water. Let's fish here. Let's let's maybe sleep here. So super, super interesting. Again, not really. It's new, but it's not new because we've seen these things before. We just could never date them to where they were dated. But now we know that this is Middle Pleistocene. So we're talking super, super old.

E: And before this, what was the earliest discovery?

C: I know that we had-

S: Didn't it say 100,000 years older than the other.

C: Well, 100,000 years older than than humans. But I know that we had at the very same site, the tapered piece of what is 324 000 years old. The digging stick was 390 000 years old. So we're talking generations and generations. So four hundred seventy six. You may be right, Steve, it may be a solid hundred thousand years older, but definitely significantly. It pushes the clock way back for wood at least. And no researchers are like, I can't believe this. We never would have thought that we're using wood back then. It's more like this is the first time we have evidence of it because wood doesn't keep.

S: Yeah, I remember studying this in the 80s. And at the time, the question came, of course, you asked the question. Well, how do we know if they were using wood tools or not? The discussion is entirely about stone tools. And my professor was like, there's no evidence. You can speculate all you want, but we cannot say they were using wood tools because we have no physical evidence that they were.

C: And now we do.

S: And so you can't talk about it, right? Because you can only talk about what we have evidence for. Everything else is just naked speculation. So that's why it's like speculation with.

C: Yeah, it's like it's naked speculation with solid face validity. But you're right. We can't like we can say-

S: How do you test it?

C: -well, it seems likely, it seems reasonable. There's wood everywhere. Why wouldn't they use wood?

S: Why wouldn't they, yeah.

C: But nobody does anything until they first think to do it. That's such an interesting thing when we're looking at like this Pleistocene era evidence, it's like these were some these were potentially again, we don't have previous evidence, so maybe they weren't the first, but potentially some of the first people to go, I'm going to take that and I'm going to fashion something out of it. And how cool is that to see that hundreds of thousands of years later? This was us.

S: That was the other side of that question was when you start to go back to hominid species before evidence of stone tool use, were they using any tools? And then the answer is, we don't know, because we don't know. There's no evidence of tools. And could they have you been using wood tools? We don't know.

C: Is it that something just happened and then we all of a sudden saw this explosion, overnight? Or is it really that things were happening? I mean, it's much more likely that things were happening slowly, but surely. But that earlier evidence doesn't exist. And so we just have, as we know, when we look at evolution, it's a perfect example when we're simply just looking at fossils. We have these massive gaps in the fossil record. We know things didn't jump. We just know that we only get a certain percentage of things preserved. And so it's also very similar, I think, when we're looking at human or hominin archaeology is we can, like you said, we can speculate all we want and tell these beautiful narratives and these beautiful stories. But they are very much based in hindsight. They're very much based in what we know now and how we can try and understand history through our modern lens. And ultimately, all we have to go on is the physical evidence. And now we have physical evidence to or we have had physical evidence, but now we were able to date that physical evidence and say, whoa, this predates homo sapiens. And I love I love to this. I think it's so important that we sometimes remember. And this is a specific case. But when we look at ancient humans versus modern humans, let's say specifically, we're looking at homo sapiens and we're looking at homo sapiens through different archaeological or cultural eras. I think sometimes it's important to remember that a lot has changed socially. A lot has changed culturally. A lot has changed when it comes to knowledge. But not a lot has changed physically. That was us. And so this is an example of pre us doing these things, which is such a cool thing to think about the pre us brains, the pre us bodies and the capabilities of those pre human organisms. That's exciting.

S: Yeah. A related question was, well, maybe they were using unmodified stones as tools. Sure. It makes sense.

C: Totally. How would we know?

S: How would we know?

E: Or an animal bone or something.

C: Exactly. The only way we know is because of scrape marks, of pointed edges, because of all the modifications. You're right. And so that's all we have to go on. And I mean, again, I'm sure if you talk to somebody who does this for a living, like an archaeologist who's in the field all the time, they're like, of course, before they learn to mark the tools, they were using them. It's like it's it's nothing jumps overnight. It's a slow, steady drive. We're talking hundreds of thousands of years. But I'm just always fascinated by like, who was the first person? This is the example I usually use, who looked at an artichoke and goes, I'm going to figure out how to eat that because that blows my mind. Like you think of every example of that, how do I that thing's too far away? How do I get to it? I see that fish. I want to eat it. How do I catch it?

E: That's why they called it artichoke, because Artie tried eating any choked on it.

C: Choked on it.

E: Hey, look what it did to Artie.

C: I just I love the the kind of very human experience of seeing a problem and fashioning a solution to that problem through trial and error. And the sad thing is the archaeological record doesn't always show us the trial and error. It shows us the after the fact. So we're we have such a deep hindsight bias when we look at these artefacts, because we're like, this is how they always did it. It's like, no, but they had to figure that out.

J: Cara, you know which one blows my mind?

C: Which one?

J: The idea that at some point, some human or I don't know exactly how far back it goes, but somebody figured out selective breeding.

C: Oh, yeah.

J: We are going to turn these plants into plants that are better to eat. That is so profound.

C: We make this thing bear more fruit. Yeah, I mean, it's it's incredible. Like just it's incredible. I. Yeah, I don't know. I always go back to my artichoke. It's so much work to eat one. And I said that to my friend the other day. And I was like, the first person who figured out how to eat. And he was like, oh, especially because the really, really good part is right next to the pokey, hurty, not edible part. I was like, I know.

S: Cara, the artichoke doesn't even crack the top 10 of difficult things for people to eat. I'll never forget when we were in Australia, we were getting a lecture about like the Aborigines and what they had. There was this one tuber or something that they ate that took like weeks to make it not poisonous. It was an incredible. But you have to realize that art that until very recently, our ancestors were living and still in some places of the world, living constantly, perpetually on the brink of starvation and getting enough food and extending the kind of food we can eat. Like the starvation desperation food is is was constant, a constant fact of life. So like eating an artichoke. Yeah, massive motivator.

E: But it makes you eat fish brains.

J: Even going back to like my grandmother, which is two generations ago, they would give her an orange for Christmas because that was a big deal getting an orange. Today, you walk into the supermarket. I hate to say this, but it's a fact. I throw away more bananas than I eat, right? Because I get them. I get a bunch of them. They're super cheap, like a buck fifty for like as many as you can freaking carry out of the store. And I can't get through all of them and they go. They turn brown fast so I just throw them away. I feel bad about it.

S: You got to buy them three at a time because they have a very narrow, ripe sweet spot and that they all get ripe at the same time. We're going to eat six bananas in a day. So I would just buy them three at a time.

C: I do, too. I always buy just a few.

J: Here we go.

Mexican Alien Bodies (55:07)[edit]

S: OK, Evan, tell us about these Mexican alien bodies.

E:Yeah, if we had recorded an episode last week, we most definitely would have talked about that news last week. And rightfully so. It dominated the headlines for most of the day back on September 12th. And that was the day that lawmakers in Mexico held a hearing about extraterrestrial life, bringing in various types of people from different fields of investigation and science to talk about recent news reports about unidentified anomalous phenomenon, UAPs. But the testimony from two witnesses who brought them physical evidence of the alleged remains of extraterrestrial creatures. I mean, that totally stole the show for the day. Politicians were shown two artefacts by Jamie or is it Yami? I'm not sure, but Jamie Musan, Jaime, perhaps.

C: I don't know. Yeah, depends.

E: Jaime Mussan. I'll call him Mousan, M-A-U-S-S-A-N, I'll call him Musan for now. He's a journalist, longtime UFO enthusiast, and that's putting it nicely. And he and his partner claims that what they're bringing them are the corpses of extraterrestrials. Yep. Well, in so many words. Because, of course, as you know, quality scientists will always follow strict protocols and take their earth-shattering findings and science-altering revelations to where? What, their colleagues? Oh, no, no. Independent laboratories? Not, not, not. Skeptics? Please. They barely acknowledge we exist at all. Like good scientists, they present their evidence directly to politicians. Yep. And I don't know that it could really get any less scientific than that. But according to the gentleman, these specimens were not related to any life on Earth. That's what they said in their testimony. The two bodies, in quotes, bodies, they measure about two feet in length from head to toe, and they each have three fingers or appear to have three fingers on each hand. And they have got these elongated heads, a head to me that resembles that of E.T. from the movie E.T. If you can it's a very sort of definitive look to it. And I think that's where most people's vision or thought about that goes when they actually see these things. Little hard to describe on an audio podcast, but that's the best you can come up with. Here's a quote from Mussan from that day. He says, "I think there is a clear demonstration that we are dealing with non-human specimens that are not related to any other species in our world, and that all possibilities are open for any scientific institution to investigate it. That these corpses are not part of our terrestrial evolution, and that almost a third of their DNA is of unknown origin." And of course, he had to drop the catch line for the press to run wild with when he said, "We are not alone". Did you guys see this? You must have seen this news item. Cara, even you did?

C: Yeah. I mean, I kind of I obviously didn't dive deep into it, but yeah, I was trending everywhere.

E: Sure. Sure. Okay. So he was joined by his name is Jose de Jesus Zalce Benitez, who's the director of the Scientific Institute for Health of the Mexican Navy. All right. He did the science work behind these things, and he ran them through x-rays or used x-rays on them. He did 3D reconstruction and DNA analysis on these figures, and he said in his testimony, "I can affirm that these bodies have no relation to human beings." Now, Mussan said that these were recovered in Peru near the ancient Nazca lines back in late 2016 or early 2017. He said they were about a thousand years old, and the reason that they know the age is because it was analyzed using carbon dating processes by Mexico's National Autonomous University. Now he says this, but not without some pushback by the university, of course. They released a statement right on the heels of this, basically a day later, saying that they republished a statement, which they first issued about this back in 2017, I guess, when the specimens were originally analyzed, and they said the work by the National Laboratory of Mass Spectrometry with accelerators, or L-E-M-A in Spanish, in Mexico, it was only intended to determine the age of the samples, and in no case do we make conclusions about the origins of these samples. Okay. So back in 2017, that's when this dating process occurred, and that's when Mussan began his first sort of public campaign about these bodies. This is really a six-year-old news sort of thing, repackaged and just sort of rebranded, polished up to take advantage of, I think, what's happening right now with media and Western culture, sort of this waxing phase of the latest, greatest UFO sort of movement. So I think they're just trying to kind of catch the wave, as it were. However, Mussan has a history of this kind of behavior, shall we say. Back in 2015, he led an event called B-Witness, where a mummified body claimed to be an alien child was unveiled, but the mummified corpse was later identified as a human child. In 2016, Mussan was involved in publicizing a specimen dubbed Metapec creature, which later turned out to be a skinned monkey. And also in that year, he was part of a project known as the Demon Fairy, which turned out to be the remains of a bat, wooden sticks, epoxy, and other bits of pieces, things that they used to kind of put this fake fairy together, essentially. So here we are, 2017 with those bodies, and now again in 2023 with the same bodies. So if you think about it, how significant, how culture-shattering or scientifically explosive would this be if this were legitimate? Certainly back in 2017 and even perhaps more so today. Would this not be the most significant discovery in human history?

S: Oh yeah, the single most amazing discovery in human history.

E: Yes, I think you would have to say that that would be the case. Well, why isn't it? So you sort of have to ask yourself that, like, why aren't scientists all over the world a gog at this? Well, because maybe it's not exactly what he says they are.

S: It's fake and everyone involved is a fraud.

E: Right. What does he have? What are these things? Well, these are mummies. And they are Nazca mummies. And these things are well known. They are archaeological discoveries. But it's expected that the mummies were probably manipulated to give them sort of this different appearance. And their authenticity has been soundly rejected by scientists, archaeologists, anthropologists and anyone else of repute from around the world. They call it the World Committee on Mummy Studies says this is absolute fraud. They said it's an irresponsible organized campaign of misinformation. Absolutely correct. No doubt. No doubt about it what these things are. Did you guys? I thought a piltdown man, frankly. When I was reading more about this, this is not the first time in history somebody has gone ahead and taken the remains of something and cobbled together the remains of other animals or things into it to come up with something different. And presented as something scientifically an enigma and something that can't be explained by science.

S: But it's worse than that because this is racism, too, and cultural appropriation, because basically, and this is not an isolated incident. What's happening is there are lots of artefacts of pre-Incan society, so-called Paracus culture in that location, right? And it's all interpreted as alien artefacts. It's like, no, this is culture of this is people. This is their culture and their history, right? They were able to make stuff like this like the head wrapping they did to change the shape to elongate the skulls. That's what they did. There were hundreds of these bodies have been found. They were discovered in 1928. But every few years, some asshole goes around saying, look, aliens. No, forget it. They're trying to erase a whole culture by reinterpreting it as alien. It's ridiculous.

C: Yeah, it's super insulting.

S: Totally.

E: It is. Yeah, I mean, it comes up all the time and it happens everywhere. These cultures were not sophisticated enough to build pyramids.

C: Like ancient aliens. It's like an entire show is predicated on that.

E: Oh, my gosh. Can it get more insulting to those people? And a total slap in the face to anything resembling science. I mean, and to go to it's such cheap publicity that they're going after. The absolute shock value and presenting and getting the forum to even be able to get in that door and present it to politicians in Mexico or any other country, frankly, and to use that for their advantage is disgusting and distasteful. In fact, I read other reports from the other people who were participating in that same conference who basically were astounded that they came in there and did this because it totally undermined the other things that they had to say about UAPs and their own things that they were looking into or their own studies and research. And they said that this was and it takes them all down a peg, frankly. They don't want to be associated with this anymore that anybody in the scientific community wants to be, and rightfully so. The whole thing's a sham of the highest order. And and governments are now, especially Peru, they're looking into, how did they really acquire these? And was it legal? However they did get their hands on them. So you may not have heard the exact end of this story yet. And you may see some more coming from authorities in the future, with some real questions about what exactly is going on here. So we'll continue to keep an eye on this. But no, these are not aliens. Bottom line.

Life Signature on Exoplanet (1:06:02)[edit]

S: All right, so speaking about life on other planets is another news item related to that. James Webb Space Telescope, JWST.

E: Love it.

S: Has potentially found this signature of life in an exoplanet. So how would we know that life exists on a planet in another solar system? We can't send probes there like we did to Mars. We would have to be able to use spectroscopic analysis to see the chemical signatures of some substance that is only produced by life. Remember, a couple of years ago, we talked about Venus.

E: Yes.

S: They thought they discovered phosphine[link needed], which on Earth mostly comes from bacteria, from critters. But it turns out they probably, it's disputed they said probably didn't find phosphine. And even if they did, it's way too dry to support life. So that's not looking good. But this was, this is different. This is a chemical known as dimethyl sulfide, DMS. And DMS is, on the Earth, is only produced by living organisms. There isn't any abiotic or nonbiotic origin. So if confirmed, that would be pretty gnarly, right? That'd be pretty exciting evidence that there's possibly life on this planet. So what is this planet? It's K2-18b. It is a super Earth surrounding a red dwarf. It contains, the atmosphere contains methane and CO2, which could indicate that there's liquid water on the surface. Again, that hasn't been confirmed. Methane itself could be a possible signature of life, but there are geological or abiotic sources of methane as well. So that's not as definitive. The planet is in the, it's star's habitable zone.

C: Habitable.

E: Habitable.

S: So it's possible. It all depends on the atmosphere, right? If the atmosphere traps the right amount of heat, it could have liquid water on the surface. That could explain the atmosphere that we're seeing. And if this dimethyl sulfide signature pans out, which will take some additional examination, then it's that this may be like the really first confirmed signature of life discovered in an exoplanet.

E: That's pretty impressive.

J: Yeah, that's cool.

S: Yeah, so it's a little bit too early to get excited.

E: Okay. And it's too early because why they need to double check?

S: It hasn't been confirmed. Yeah, they need a longer period of observation to see if it's really there. So, yeah, it's like the possible signature of dimethyl sulfide. It's just a matter of getting more time on the scope or maybe having the Hubble telescope take a look at it. It's not that far away. It's only 124 light years away. So it's relatively close, which is good. It makes it easier to look at. And it was discovered through the transit method. So that's why we have a pretty good idea of how big it is.

E: Because we were talking recently about the precious time for certain things that James Webb telescope is being used for. If they'll now devote some more time specifically to this with the telescope to give it a real solid look.

S: Yeah, I don't know. I think it's probably booked out quite a way.

E: Right, right. You know, it's dance card is filled. But hey, I mean, that's intriguing enough where I would say, okay, that's worth the second look, definitely.

S: But it's preliminary evidence. But it is, I think, the beginning of this type of research, right? Of looking for, because we've been talking about this, looking for the signatures of life in the atmospheres of exoplanets. And this could be an incredibly important source of information. Because right now, we don't know of any life anywhere in the universe other than on Earth. As we like to say, we have an N of one. And it's hard to do statistics on one. So it has a hydrogen-rich atmosphere, this planet, which is not incompatible with life. There are critters that could live in a hydrogen-rich atmosphere. That probably would also explain the methane. So that's why that's not so exciting.

E: Yeah, you can't use methane. And methane used to be like, oh, methane. But now it's like, oh, methane.

S: Yeah, well, that's because it's short-lived. And so it has something's making it. Because there's non-living sources of it. It's by itself, it's kind of definitive. Yeah, like we found methane on Mars. And people go, oh, methane. But they found geological sources of it. All right, so again, we'll keep an eye on that if there's any update.

Who's That Noisy? (1:10:54)[edit]

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

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

[Eerie mechanical hums, groans, and screeches]

I got so many responses. Oh my god. It's probably any of them.

E: Any of them correct?

J: Nobody guessed it. Nobody guessed it. And I thought that this was one of those ones where I'm like, so many people are going to get it because it kind of was like, it was like a thing that happened on the internet. It was on Reddit and stuff like that. And usually when anything is on Reddit, a lot of people get it. But nobody guessed it. It's OK. All right, so William Steele wrote in and said, "Hi, Jay, is this week's noisy an observatory rotating or opening up?" Man, I love that guess. So when an observatory opens, it's hard to describe if you haven't been in one. But basically, like the whole top kind of shifts on wheels and turns. And when it turns enough, it opens up.

E: Remember, we went to the oldest observatory in the southern hemisphere in Sydney. Do you recall that?

J: I do.

E: And yeah, because it had that sort of mechanical sound and feel to it.

J: The top of an observatory spins. So as you rotate it, there's an opening that gets exposed. And it just works. It's a really cool idea. It's a very heavy metal thing with a lot of wheels. And that's what this sounds like. So William, that was a great guess and a very cool one. Another listener named Joe Lanandrea. Joe Lanandrea. "Hello, Jay. I get the strong sense of some sort of electric powered machinery echoing through some sort of corridor. So I'm going to guess that this week's noisy is an open elevator descending or maybe ascending through a mine shaft." I thought that was another cool guess. And I can hear it. I can hear what you're saying. It's just like when you think about an open mine shaft elevator going down and you're exposed and you can hear more noises and all that. It's not correct, but I definitely do like it. Alexia, A-L-E-K-S-E-E-I. Alexei. Right?

C: Yeah, Alexei.

J: Alekseei Stevens. "Hi, longtime listener since 06 and big fan. The combination of creaking and the hum of resonant frequencies makes me think of the sway of large metal cables like a suspension bridge." Another really cool guess. Yeah, I can hear that. I see why you selected that. It's not correct, but definitely like all the cables and if the wind's blowing and if the bridge is moving. Yeah, absolutely. The creaking. Absolutely. Very good guess. Dave Weldon said, "Howdy, Jay. Longtime patron supporter and past Who's that noisy recording submitter." This was the person who submitted the running drip irrigation system and he said no winners. "My guess is wind turbine sounds recorded within the nacelle". So I think he's talking about a recording of a wind turbine inside the shaft and it is not correct, but I thought that that was another clever guess as well. He also said, "P.S., we all met at the L.A. show in 2019".

E: Yes, that was, yeah, before we headed out for Australia and New Zealand.

J: I believe you're correct. Anyway, that was it just seems like so long ago to me. My god. All right, like I said, no winners this week. So what is this noise? This noise is the sound of a rock. Now, you know that I always tell you it's not a sonification. Because I always tell you if I'm going to if I use a sonification, I will tell you it's a sonification. But no, this is really one of those things that you kind of have to see it. But OK, imagine a rock that's been put on kind of like a rotation, like imagine if it's like on a turntable. So the rock is just spinning in a circle, right? And then there's an arm that touches the rock. And as the rocks bumps and everything as the rock is spinning, the shape of it is bumping this arm that's pressed against it, that's kind of reading the shape of the rock. And those different bumps and movements of the rock as it spins around is sending sound into the arm. It's collecting the noise. And that's what you're hearing is basically the sound of the surface of a rock as it spins in a circle. So let me play it to you again. And of course, there's a little bit of an amplification type of thing here. [plays Noisy] So this was created by an artist named Leonel Vasquez, and he creates a lot of nature sounding, nature based sounding things like he builds machines and stuff that interact with natural elements that make noise. Very freaking cool. Lots of tons of fun things that this guy has made and everything. And this one, I just thought was very interesting, very eclectic, strange, but really cool.

New Noisy (1:16:35)[edit]

J: So I have a new Noisy for this week. And this Noisy was sent in by a listener named Dan Proctor. Dan writes, "Hi Jay, love the show and have recently started listening to it with our two boys, age 9 and 11. Last weekend, George, our 11 year old made a cool Noisy." And then he tells me what it is. "And he immediately asked me to send it to you because he was proud of it and thought it would be a puzzle. And he says, I know I'm biased, but I agreed." So anyway, very cool. So an 11 year old came up with a Noisy and I wanted to play it for you guys. And let's see if anybody can guess what, what is this.


Short and sweet. If you guys think you know what this week's Noisy is, or you heard something cool, you can email me at And I will formally say that that is the only way that anybody should ever be sending me in Noisies from here on out, because I get people sending me in Noisies on the SGU subreddit. They send them to me directly to my email address. If they know what my email address is, they send it to INFO@, they send it through the website. Just send it to the email address, That will easily allow you to have an attachment on there so you can send me the sounds.

Announcements (1:17:56)[edit]

J: All right. A few things going on. The biggest thing we have coming up is NOTACON. It's happening as you listen to this. It'll be roughly just over four weeks away. There's lots of cool things to tell you guys about what's going on with the conference. But in case you haven't fully heard or fully comprehend what this is, this conference is largely about the SGU community and our people, the SGU patrons and other people who listen to the show, who want to be a part of the community and have a lot of fun. And during the course of the two days that we're doing this conference, we will be putting on a lot of different types of shows and entertainment pieces that are just there to entertain you and to give you guys reasons to interact with each other. It's all about having a good time. It's all about having fun. This is not a skeptical conference or a science conference. This is a conference about socializing, meeting people, being entertained and having time to be adults and enjoy being in the same room with each other. We're really proud of all the things that we've come up with. We have so many fun bits and little things that we're doing throughout those two days. There's going to be plenty of entertainment. You're not going to be stuck having to entertain yourselves all day. But if you wanted to, you can. You could go to another part of the hotel and play board games if you want. Whatever. It's up to you. But we will be supplying tons of entertainment. A few highlights. Ninja Brian. If you don't know who Ninja Brian is, look it up. Ninja Brian will be making an appearance and basically scaring you into laughing. I've seen Ninja Brian's show and it's a ton of fun. That'll definitely be happening. We are going to have on Friday night. The Friday night entertainment will be the Boomer versus Zoomer game show. We will be picking four people out of the audience to be our contestants. It's going to be a total blast. We've done it live and in person before and it was the best show we ever did. It was wonderful. So much fun and the audience gets involved. Every single person in the audience can get involved in the game. We have created a custom app so everybody can get involved. It's really cool. Then Saturday night, George and Brian Wecht are doing the insane 80s sing-along. I think you can figure out what's going to happen. It's going to be a ton of fun. Costumes are welcome. If you want to wear 80s clothing, you got a members only jacket. I think I actually have one from some old Halloween costume. I will find that bad boy. I'm going to do it. Now a couple of other things that you could do. If you're a listener of the show and you just want to help and you want to give us like 30 seconds of your time, go give us a rating on whatever podcast player you're using. If you want to go to Apple and leave us a review there, most people look at those reviews. That would help other people find the show. We'd appreciate it if you do that. But another big thing you could do for us. If you really enjoy the show and you get a lot out of it, now is a great time to become a patron of the SGU. I've said this before, but as you notice, there are very few ads on the show. It's going to be like this for quite a while. Just because the ads in general are way down. Companies are just not spending the money on that right now. A good portion of our income comes from that. We could use your support as a patron. Right now would be a wonderful time. If you enjoy the show, please consider doing it. Any dollar value would be wonderful. Go to You could read up on that. I will remind you, we have a really awesome Patreon community. It's on Discord. There's an SGU Discord and it's tons of activity with all sorts of different topics being discussed every day. I'm just really proud of that community and how respectful they are and how much fun they're having with each other. A lot of these people are going to be coming to NOTACON. Maybe going to NOTACON would be a great way to meet people. All right, so guys, there are about 10 tickets left for NOTACON. It's not too late. A lot of people might think, oh, by the time I hear this, it's too late. You never know. Just go to the website. Go to the SGU website, We have a button on there. You might get lucky, but there's about 10 seats left. We also have a NOTACON dinner that's happening on Friday night, which is another, you can find that on the website as well. There's a link to it. And that's basically going to be a two-hour dinner where all of us, every single person, all the rogues, Steve, George Hrabb, Brian Wecht, Andrea Jones-Roy, we're all going to be there. We will be moving around to the different tables. We'll be sitting with you guys. We'll be joking around with you guys. And I have a potential secret, triple secret upgrade to where we might be eating that dinner. The dinner is, I was originally going to have it at the hotel. And I said, you know what? I might be able to do better because I got a little perturbed with the hotel, to be honest with you. It's a hard thing to organize all this stuff. There's a lot of stuff going back and forth. But I'm like, you know what? I think I can find a better restaurant. And I think I found a really cool restaurant today. Let me tell you what happened. This is so adorable. I call up this Italian restaurant that's in White Plains, not too far from the hotel. I'm like, all right. I'm having a conference. And the guy's like, what are you having a conference? What's it about? He's an old school Italian guy, right? And I tell him, it's a social gathering. And we have about 60, 70 people that are interested in having a dinner. And I thought maybe we would take them to your restaurant. And I said, but look, I have a tight budget. I'm like, I know that these things can get very expensive. I got another quote from another restaurant. The guy wanted like 15 grand. I'm like, are you out of your mind? Like, oh my god, that's more expensive than a wedding. So I wasn't expecting much.

E: Well, that's expensive.

J: So the guy goes to me and he kind of goes into a whisper and he goes, hey, don't worry. We'll make it work out. Don't you worry. You come to here. We'll make a nice time. He's like, talking to me like that? Oh my god. If this works out, I already love the idea of this restaurant. I go to their website and the main picture on the website is a giant hunk of Parmesan cheese with a knife stuck into it.

E: Or I was going to say a meatball and like they were sold.

J: Yeah. But I mean, I just like that the visual got me. The guy was such a sweet little Italian old man. He's like, you call me next week and work it out. We'll talk. I'm like, oh my god, this better be the joint. I think it's really going to happen there. So I'm psyched. So I think we just had a major food upgrade as well, but I'll keep you everybody updated. Thank you. I can't wait guys. See you in four weeks.

C: Yay.

S: All right. Thanks, Jay. All right, guys, let's go on with science or fiction.


Science or Fiction (1:24:39)[edit]

Theme: Climate change

Item #1: According to the most recent statistics, deaths due to extreme weather have almost tripled between 1970 and 2019.[6]
Item #2: 2022 saw both global coal consumption and CO2 emissions hit an all-time high.[7]
Item #3: The Earth is losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year, and this pace is accelerating.[8]

Answer Item
Fiction Weather deaths have tripled
Science All-time high emissions
Accelerating ice loss
Host Result
Steve clever
Rogue Guess
Weather deaths have tripled
All-time high emissions
Accelerating ice loss

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 I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fake. It's the theme this week. The theme is climate change. I know you guys know a lot about climate change.

C: Oh no.

J: But there's so many details we don't know about.

S: But a lot of little details.

J: Of course.

S: This is just to see if you're up on the details.

E: Oh, gosh, it's all going to be bad.

C: I know.

S: Of course, it's all bad. It's about climate change. (laughter)

E: Why can't there be a good climate change?

S: It's all rainbows and unicorns. All right, here we go. Item number one, according to the most recent statistics, deaths due to extreme weather have almost tripled between 1970 and 2019. Item number two, 2022 saw both global coal consumption and CO2 emissions hit an all-time high. And item number three, the Earth is losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. And this pace is accelerating. I know big numbers make your head spin. There they are.

J: I wish I could just turn on a module in my brain so I can understand big numbers.

S: Evan, go first.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: The first one about deaths due to extreme weather almost tripled between 1970 and 2019.

S: Right, so that's like deep, cold, hurricanes, floods, that kind of stuff.

E: Well, there's certainly more people as time goes on. And you would think that everybody is subjected to weather and extreme weather events. And it would, I think in that sense, statistically, come more people to triple, though. That's the question. Is there an increase or is it really triple? I don't know about that one. That seems, it seems sadly excessive, if it's true. And then the second one about 2022, where both global coal consumption and CO2 emissions hit an all-time high. I have a feeling this one is the truth. I've read some really bad things about the next couple years of global coal consumption as well. It's not good. I mean, it sounds, I think we're going, despite the good efforts, despite all the efforts, somehow we still manage to burn more coal. It's crazy. And of course, hand in hand with that, well, an all-time high of CO2 emissions. We've got two components here on this one. They both have to be right for this to be science. So there is that. All right. And then the last one. The earth is losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. Losing meaning it's melting, I'm assuming. And at this pace, and the pace is accelerating. All right. I mean, yeah, it's hard to quantify exactly 1.2 trillion tons of ice and think about it in terms of a map or in geography terms. So that could definitely be correct. Gee whiz. All right. Well, I guess the one I feel has the most wiggle room maybe here is the deaths due to extreme weather having tripled between 1970 and 2019. I think it triples a lot. So I'm going to say that one is fiction.

S: OK, Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: Yeah, and that was the one that hit me right away is probably science, because even though we might not even need to go back to 1970, I would say the heat alone. So I think that one is science. 2022 global coal consumption and CO2 emissions hit an all-time high. I mean, I don't see why that one isn't science either. But I really do think I know it's this big gigantic 1.2 trillion tons of ice number that I can't comprehend. I just think that one sounds very much like it's right on the nose. It's like very matter of fact. So I think the third one is science as well. I think we are losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. I have a sneaking suspicion that the second one, the one that saw both global coal consumption and CO2 emissions hit an all-time high, I have a sneaking suspicion that one of those two is incorrect. And that's the fake.

E: Yeah.

S: OK, Cara.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: I mean, the pace, I'm sure the earth is losing a ton of ice, and I'm sure it's accelerating. Is it 1.2 trillion tons? I have no idea. I'm sure that global coal consumption is sadly increasing before it decreases. Because I think we think about like really, really developed countries and a lot of the movements that they make to reduce. But we don't think about how developing countries are ramping up. And then I'm sure that deaths are increasing. But are they tripling? I don't know. Is the devil going to be in the details for this one? I mean, we're all spread out here. Should we just... Strategery.

S: Strategery.

C: Let's see.

E: Well, it'll be more psychologically pleasing to me if you agree with me. I mean, I will admit that.

C: I know, right?

E: Right? Being wrong alone is lonely. Being wrong with somebody else is less painful.

C: Oh, deaths due to extreme weather. Okay, so we're talking about 70 to 2019. So it's not like we're talking about a long time ago and there were no protections and deaths might have been higher because the infrastructure was so terrible. Gosh, I wonder if it's like more than tripled. I think I'm going to have to spread out and say it's not 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. I think it's accelerating, but who knows? Big number problem. Could be 11.2 trillion tons of... I have no idea.

S: Okay, so you're all spread out, which is always good. So I will take these in order.

E: Starting with number two.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: Item number one, according to the most recent statistics, deaths due to extreme weather have almost tripled between 1970 and 2019.

E: Oh, the most recent statistics. Oh, I should have read that more carefully.

S: Evan, do you think this one is the fiction? Jay and Cara, I think this one is science. This one is fiction.

E: It is!

C: Good job.

J: good job, Ev.

E: All right. Painful, Steve. Why do you make it painful on the way there?

S: Why not? In fact, deaths are down to a third. It's the other way. They're reduced. And Cara, you hit upon it, Cara. It is because of infrastructure. It's because just because the world is more developed than it was 40 years ago, 50 years ago, and there are more measures in place to keep people from dying from these sorts of things. So there's more extreme weather events, but they're not as deadly because we are mitigating it. That's it.

C: I love when I'm wrong for the right reasons. That's much more rare than being right for the wrong reasons.

S: Now, there's another question, which I don't know if we've touched on the show, is how much are these extreme weather events costing? And there are so many different ways you can slice and dice this data that you can kind of make whatever narrative you want. And I've seen it cut both ways with global warming proponents saying, oh, my god, it's so bad. And the deniers saying, it's not so bad if you look at it this way. So what's happening is there's more events and it's destroying more stuff. But that's because there's more stuff to destroy. Right? So that's the flip side of the world is more developed. So fewer people are dying, but when hurricanes happen, there's more property to destroy. So if we just look at how much dollar damage is being done, it's going up. One researcher said we should look at it per GDP, and then it's going down. But I think that's a totally bogus way of looking at it too. Because the other thing is, it's like not only is there more stuff to destroy, but we're getting better at sort of building infrastructure that's resilient. So how do you, it's like there's too many variables. And it's just not a good way to even look at the question. Unless that's the question you're interested in.

E: How about slow down the destruction?

S: But well, yeah. So it is not a good way to get at the question of is global warming having an impact because there's just too many intervening variables. It's not a good marker for that. Because as I said, depending on how you look at it, you could make whatever story you want. But the bottom line is there's more extreme weather events, and then they're more powerful. There's more fires and the fires are more destructive. But you can't, but trying to put it in terms of dollar amounts is too complicated to make a clean story out of it.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: Anyway, this means that 2022 saw both global coal consumption and CO2 emissions hit an all-time high. That is science. The world, this is global. The world's burning of coal and releasing of CO2 is still going up every year. And the year for which we have the most complete year of records, 2022, was the highest ever, which is absolutely devastating to think about. Everything that's happened, everything that's all the Paris Accord, everything we're doing and we're still putting out more CO2 than ever before. Now it is mainly due to Asia, right? So that's just the bottom line. So you look at the data, the U.S. is decreasing its CO2, the Europe is, and the rest of North America is. South America and Africa are very low to begin with. And they're decreasing. Asia is more than making up for, and it's mainly China and then India, and then the rest of Asia are more than making up for the decrease elsewhere. China is going to continue to build new coal-fired plants through 2050.

E: I read 300 by the, 300 more by the end of 2030. That's in just seven years.

S: Just terrible. And they said this is what we're doing. And then we'll decrease it.

E: Right. Yeah. Sure. Yeah.

S: It's too late at that point.

'E: If that's even going to be a true statement, ultimately, who knows?

S: But those are their plans. It's terrible. And I get it. The whole thing is not a fair comparison. We've already went through our period of bootstrapping our, developing our country through burning all of, we already burned through our carbon budget. Who are we to say they can't burn through theirs? It's not fair.

E: Because we know about different things.

S: I get all that. But it's different because now we know that that there's, we're heading towards these tip, these climate tipping points, and it's going to be bad for everybody. And the life isn't fair. I'm sorry about that. And we could talk about whatever, how we reparations or loaning money to countries that are developing because it's more expensive for them to develop because we burned through the world's carbon budget. I get all that. But we still shouldn't be building new coal-fired plants. Just shouldn't be doing it. I was just reading another report this week. And they said the bottom line is that there's really only one thing we really need to be doing right now. The single most important thing we should only be doing one thing. But the single most important thing we should be doing right now is shutting down coal burning as quickly as possible. We should basically, we should just ban any new coal plant construction and we need to phase out existing coal as quickly as possible. And unless and until we do that, everything else is a rounding error. It's just, it's just not, that's the biggest, biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. And so we could build as much solar and as much wind as we want to. But you build as many electric vehicles we want to. It's nothing if we're building more more coal-fired plants. It's nothing. We have to shut down coal. That's the number one thing. And that's the one thing for which there really is no political appetite. No one's willing to say no coal. Like you can't have coal, you know?

C: Which is mind-blowing.

S: Yeah.

E: In the nuclear age, it's just remarkable.

S: Yeah, it's nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal and grid storage and all the newest technology in terms of wind and solar. But the thing is, we're building out that capacity as quickly as we can, but our electricity demand is going up faster. And that gap is being filled with coal. That's the problem. And some natural gas, which is much better than coal. It's still not great. But I would take natural gas over coal any day. It's 10% of the carbon emissions of coal.

E: Yeah, it's a no-brainer.

S: It's just frustrating. We could do all these things and it's better than not doing it. I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing these things. It's much better than if we weren't doing it. Imagine if we weren't decreasing our CO2 and the developing world was dramatically increasing theirs. It would be terrible. We have to do it as quickly as we can. But it's just frustrating that we're still increasing our CO2 emissions despite all of that because of coal. I don't know what else to say about it. I mean, it's really, really sad.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: OK, this means that the Earth is losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year and this pace is accelerating is science. I know the number's mind-boggling. Is it 1.2 billion? Is it quadrillion? Unless you have read that statistic or wrapped your head around it, it's hard to know if that trillion is appropriate or not. But it is. That's how much.

E: It's hard to even envision what one ton of ice looks like. So how are you going to envision what a trillion tons of ice look like?

S: You can't imagine. That's kind of the point. But that's land and sea ice. So we basically divide it up into those two main categories. And losing land ice is worse for sea level rise because sea ice is already displacing water. But if you lose land ice that then goes into the oceans, that is just directly adding to sea levels. It's both bad. It's both bad, but land ice is worse. Greenland is going quickly. Antarctica is slower, but there's a lot more ice there. And the other thing is that this old ice is white and reflects a little light and mitigates warming. And as we lose the old, thick land ice, it's going to accelerate warming, because that's all that light that we're not reflecting back out into space. That's one of those feedback loops. That's not good. NG.

E: Well, I predicted this would be a depressing fiction.

S: Of course it is. Every now and then we got to remind everybody global climate change is real. It's happening. No, it's not a hoax. Because we're doing a lot of TikTok videos and everything. There's all these TikTok videos going around of people from like 2015 or something saying global climate change isn't happening. The world is not warming. That statement did not age very well, did it? It's not a coincidence that the last 10 years are basically the hottest 10 years on record. And 2023 is on the path to be the hottest year on record. It's not a coincidence. It's what climate scientists predicted. It was predicted not based on some vague notion, but on their models. Their model said this is how much warmer it's going to get, and we're pretty much right in the middle of what the models were predicting. It's validation of those models. It's amazing that we have to still be having this conversation in 2023.

J: That's right, Steve.

E: And we'll be continuing it next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.

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

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:41:18)[edit]

What is at stake here is whether our country will follow science or superstitions and quackery.

 – Alejandro Frank (1951-present), professor of mathematical physics at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 

E: Here it is, short and sweet. "What is at stake here is whether our country will follow science or superstitions and quackery." Alejandro Frank, professor of mathematical physics at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. And that's the university that did involve with these Mexican alien claims, the Peru alien claims, in which they had a seminar or a gathering of scientists in direct response to the events of the prior week, in which they held a conference themselves talking about this very point, in that how things like this really do set sort of a national tone for people. What's going to rule the day here? This fascinating, fantastical story about aliens or actual real science, and which one is going to win out?

S: Yeah, that's one thing as disgusting as this whole episode was, for all the reasons that we said. The backlash against it from the scientific community has been good to see. And also just online, there's a lot of debunking going on. There's a lot of people who are saying, nope, this is not real. These guys are hoaxers. This is how we know. So we are seeing, I think, the bright side of this as well. I think that the whole thing was a bit of a flop, to be honest with you. So it's good to see that there are at least some things that are so dumb and so transparent that most people won't buy it. There's always going to be the true believers who are going to believe anything.

E: Of course, and select media outlets who are going to love it. But there was actually good scientific treatment from the get-go, as you said. So it never generated steam or got snowballing to a point where it couldn't be dealt with.

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

J: You got Steve.

E: Thank you, Steve.

C: Thank you Steve.

E: And Dr. Cara.

J: Yeah, Dr. Cara.

S: Yep. Congratulations again, Cara.

E: Congratulations.

C: Thank you.


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

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


Today I Learned[edit]

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


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