SGU Episode 956

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SGU Episode 956
November 4th 2023
956 Generation Ship.png

Concept art example of a Generation Ship.
Artist unknown.

SGU 955                      SGU 957

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein


CH: Christian Hubicki,

professor of Robotics

Quote of the Week

The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking – it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before.

Carl Sagan, American astronomer

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, Live from DragonCon 2023[edit]

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

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Sunday, September 3rd, 2023, and this is your host, Steven Novella. (applause) Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody! (applause)

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys. (applause)

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Hi everyone! (applause)

Reflections on DragonCon Panels[edit]

S: And as you can tell, we are in front of a live audience. This is our private recording that we're doing at DragonCon, the second show that we're recording here. So we thought we would start this show with, because we've been on, we've been pretty busy actually as DragonCons go. We've been on a lot of panels collectively. So we're going to talk about some of the panels that we've been on. There's one in particular, I think that would be good for a longer discussion. Bob was on a panel about generation ships.

B: Well, I mean, I mean, clearly I was on the most interesting panel of all of us. So that's why we're going to.

S: So we're going to quickly talk about some of the other panels that we were on first.

Skepticism and Gaming (1:18)[edit]

S: So Evan, Jay and I were on a panel yesterday about gaming and skepticism, which is like two things you don't normally think go together. But it was a fun panel.

E: It was interesting in a sense that we didn't really talk about computer gaming so much.

S: We didn't get there.

E: We didn't quite get there. Most of the time it was occupied by us talking about, well, certainly our live action role playing experience.

B: The height of geekdom.

E: Also known as LARPing.

J: Yeah, LARPing is basically it, Steve.

S: I would disagree with you.

B: What's high? What's geekier?

S: OK, so more geeky than playing a LARP was going to a LARP and while you're there playing Magic the Gathering.

E: Yeah, that's wow.

S: Which we witnessed happen. I mean, LARPing actually requires a lot more physicality. It's really a sport and a lot more social interaction.

J: Yeah, very interpersonal.

S: A lot. It's role playing. It's like acting. You're not just playing, whatever. As you said on the panel, there is no shame. Everything is good. There's nobody at DragonCon has any standing to shame anyone else about what gets them interested or what they're a fan about. But I don't believe in the this is more geeky than that is. But for the record, LARPing wouldn't be on top of my list because of most nerdy things because it actually involves a lot of physicality and social interaction. I mean, what would your criteria be for what's nerdy?

B: I just say it because it's an in-joke. It's an in-joke. I did do it, but I evolved beyond that.

J: On the outside, what a lot of people think that don't know about is they think we're just like pretending to be elves going through the woods. No, it's like if done well. If done correctly. Luckily, the three of us, me, Evan and Steve, got to be involved in the LARP 25 years ago at this point that had really intense writing.

S: It was very good.

J: There was a lot of intrigue. It was hard. In order to succeed in that game, you had to work at it. It was like being on Survivor.

E: Yeah, in a way, you could relate it to that.

J: Because there are players who are evil. If you're playing a good guy, you're fighting, literally manoeuvring around other players who are trying to do bad things. That was incredible. It was an incredible experience.

E: All the while, you're constantly solving a small piece or a large piece of a very big puzzle, effectively. It is a game in the end. There are overlaps between critical thought and how you go about achieving the goals within the game. It takes a lot of skill.

S: Gaming is all problem-solving when you strip it down. It could involve a lot of different skill sets that are applicable in the real world. Logic, resource management, diplomacy, negotiation, cooperation. They're all there. In fact, games were developed to teach those skills. That's actually, oftentimes, the purpose of them.

J: I sit on the panel talking about GMing my kids playing D&D. I was super excited to introduce them. I remember having many conversations with Steve. How do you think I should do this? What should the experience be like? Because I wanted to get Steve's input from a skeptical perspective because he had kids and he kind of went through it already. I'm picking good titbits from him. It was one hell of an experience. First off, role-playing, I don't know if any of you do it, probably most of you do, but you have to sit there and you have to pay attention and you have to buy into it. Kids are known to famously not sit there and calmly listen. It's like they're erratic. My kids have ADHD, so it's even worse. I'm like, while trying to make it work with them and I'm trying to come up with what the scenario is going to be, it's been difficult, but they are getting better at it and they're getting into it. I noticed that they role-play more in their playtime with each other and other kids. It kind of sparked that with them. One story I told was talking about teaching your kids lessons. If you're GMing your kids in a game like that, you have control. You have a lot of really interesting control over the environment that they're in and things that they experience. My example was my daughter, my son and my daughter were at this merchant and it was an old woman and she was showing them things and they were going to buy some stuff and the woman pulls out this diamond and she grabbed it and took it from her. I'm like, oh, all right. I'm going to give her a real-world reaction to stealing from someone just like that. I was literally able to teach her that stealing is bad through the game, but it wasn't just saying it. She was having an emotional experience. She was really excited that she got it because I let her take it out of this old lady's hand, but then I'm like, the way I played it.

S: Did the guards beat her up or anything?

J: Well, the old woman berated her and I went a little too far, I guess.

S: Your role playing was a little bit too good.

J: It was too good. The woman was very upset and then my wife and I had a discussion with her about why do you think the old woman got upset? It was really cool and it made me realize, wow, role playing is a pretty cool vehicle. I could teach them skepticism in role playing. I could teach them difficult social interactions, like the stranger danger thing. It's huge. Kids are like, you go to school, are they going to get shot? Is someone going to take them? It's happening. It's real. This is our world, man. I look at it like I'm going to start to really try to teach them more and more lessons through gaming. It's just a great mechanism.

S: Yeah, psychologists use gaming to teach skills. Quite a bit, yeah. It's pretty legit.

E: Even in something like board gaming, which is my other podcast, if you know Which Game First, a board game podcast, we review board games, play them, review them. We've played some board games that were specifically designed for psychology, for psychology classes, psychology experiments. We have another one. I ordered another one coming up soon. We'll be reviewing that soon. And there's a ton of areas of critical thinking, science that overlaps in board game, especially nowadays. There's been a renaissance of board gaming that's come along. They've become so much more than just monopoly sari in the game. A lot of us used to play as kids. There's so much more complex and so much more going on with them. And just the themes themselves. There are whole companies out there devoted to making science-themed board games. Terraforming Mars, maybe you've heard of. Cytosis is another one. A very popular game called Wingspan, all about birding, Steve. We haven't played it yet. We should play. These are award-winning games.

J: Yeah, I love that.

S: It's not a simulation. It's not supposed to be realistic. But there's a lot of elements in there. Like this became Airborne. And the biggest, you're playing the, you're playing Plague Inc. You're the virus, right, or whatever. You're trying to kill the world. That's your goal. And the biggest threat to you killing the world is vaccines. Is the humans developing vaccines and getting the vaccine program.

B: Pesky humans.

S: Pesky humans. Anyway.

B: Wait, Evan just said board games probably, what, 10 times? Every time he said it, I heard Borg games.

S: Borg games?

B: And I'm thinking, what would a Borg game actually be like? That could be interesting. I think we'll have to think about that.

J: Before we switch topics, Ev, I think it would be cool if you guys on Which Game First came up with a list of games in some categories, like for kids, that would be good ways to teach them.

S: Educational games.

J: Educational games that actually are good. You know what I mean?

E: Yeah. We will definitely do that.

J: That'd be cool.

E: Yeah. Absolutely.

Government Coverup of UAPs (9:06)[edit]

S: I was on a panel on UAPs, formerly called UFOs.

E: Are they real?

S: A lot of it is stuff that we talked about on the show. I think the thing that came out for me on the panel wasn't really new, but it had kind of shown a new light on it. One of my co-panelists worked for the government and kind of emphasized, again, stuff we know, but it's like, yeah, one of the difficulties we have in communicating a skeptical approach to conspiracy theories about the government hiding aliens in UFOs is that the government does hide stuff. I mean, and we know that we have an intelligence community and we have military secrets and industrial secrets, et cetera. There's a certain amount of secrecy, top secrecy, built into modern governments. And so we can't say that the government doesn't keep secrets, because they do. So that just creates a challenge. How do we express to people? It's like, yeah, they do keep secrets, but not that one. Well, how do we know they're not keeping that one? So it was a good conversation, because it kind of drilled down to a couple of things that really make the UFO conspiracy different than just military secrets or intelligence secrets. One is that it's allegedly been going on for decades, 40, 50 years. There's just no parallel in reality for that. The stuff that was happening 50 years ago, we all know about now. Those kind of secrets usually don't survive multiple generations. So really the time factor was really the critical bit. Another aspect to it is that these phenomena are supposed to be international. So conspiracy theorists sometimes forget that America is not the only country in the world. You know what I mean? The American government keep this secret from us. Yeah, but is Zimbabwe keeping the secret from us? Is every country in the world competent enough to completely manage this on an international level that it's never getting out?

J: It depends on how far down the rabbit hole you go. There are people that will say, there are people.

S: You have to continually expand the conspiracy. When you ask questions like, so the media has never penetrated this bubble? Well, the media is all in on it. Why hasn't Russia exploded? Well, there's actually a world government that all of the governments actually kowtow to. You have to keep going deeper and deeper and broader and broader to maintain the viability of the conspiracy. Because otherwise it will collapse in on itself.

B: In that situation, I feel like telling these people, have you met people before? Have you ever met people? Because I don't care. When you have tens and hundreds of thousands of people involved in such an amazing thing, somebody is going to take that smoking gun, amazing evidence, and then become famous. Look at everybody. The world is flat. And become famous and become lion eyes throughout the world as the person who broke the silence. But nobody does that over decades. No one's done it?

S: What we get is rumours. The whistleblowers are just giving us more rumours. The whistleblowers aren't giving us the Pentagon Papers. Again, think about it. How long did it take for Vietnam to blow up, right? The Pentagon Papers were dumped on the New York Times, you know? Why hasn't there been the equivalent of that for this 50-year, world-changing hoax, apparently, that's going on?

J: But the biggest thing, the absolute biggest thing, is you go 50 years ago versus today, is that, again, there's billions of phones and the internet, which means that any one person, one person, just takes one freaking person.

S: One photo.

J: One photo. It goes online.

S: That's legit.

J: Yeah. And the fact is, even with all of those cameras and all of those hands and all of those different places on the world, 24 hours a day, that we don't have one non-blurry photo that's legit.

B: Yeah, but of course, but you know, today, one photo would not be enough.

S: But the thing is, all right, so the other point I made when I was on the panel is, if you listen to David Grush, the narrative is that any time a UFO crashes anywhere in the world, the government's there before anybody else.

E: The men in black come by.

S: It's like, really, how is that happening? There's 8 billion people on this world, most of them with phones. Most of them with cameras and putting cameras on them and the connection to the internet on them. There's absolutely no way they would put the lid on every single event that happens before somebody gets something real to the internet.

E: Unless the men in black are already in cahoots with these aliens, which is, I've seen that, too.

S: You have to expand your conspiracy to lizard people levels in order to maintain the narrative, because it's not compatible with the real world.

E: Or it's not real.

S: Or it's not real.

E: Which side are you going with?

Generation Ships (14:04)[edit]

S: Okay, I did some other fun panels basically talking about skepticism. We don't have to get into that. But Bob did one that is on a topic that we never really did a deep dive on on this show. And it was a lot of great content, so I thought we should just have that conversation among the four of us. So give us a quick...

B: Yeah, so the topic was generation ships. And I had, talking to the panelists, I was like, we've got to really just define what a generation ship is, which is essentially the classic definition of a generation ship is a large, really large spaceship that has a breeding population of humans. It travels through deep space for such a long time that the descendants of the original people are the people that are going to be landing the ship or reaching the destination. And the original people will be gone.

E: Bob, is there a classic sci-fi that we can point to for that example?

S: Dr. Strangelove is a great one.

B: What?

S: Dr. Strangelove. So there are very few sci-fi examples of actually generation spaceships. There's a lot more of generation silos, you know what I mean? My favorite one, of course, is the planning that we hear about on Dr. Strangelove.

E: Right, the planning.

S: Remember, animals could be there. He's like, slaughtered.


E: Have most people here seen WALL-E? I hope so, that movie. So that ship.

B: I couldn't believe I forgot it, but the original Star Trek series for The World is Hollow and I've Touched the Sky deals with a generation ship.

E: For people under 50.

B: But there's not a lot of them, right? There's spaceships for sure, but there's not a lot of generation ships. Why? Because it's kind of boring because you're traveling for centuries or millennia and there's no contact with anything because that's basically what would happen. So there's not a lot of examples, which is not surprising when you think about it.

E: But the ship is basically a planet unto itself.

B: Yeah, in a sense. So I was in a weird position with this because we were talking about generation ships and as I really dug deep into it, I realized a generation ship is a stupid idea. It's actually silly and I can't even imagine anyone really seriously investing in it because the chances of something of this actually panning out. I mean, if you're traveling, even using a fusion engine, it's going to take you centuries to get to the nearest planets. And in centuries, technology breaks down. Radiation is a horrible problem that we don't have an answer for. Even recycling water. Right now, we cannot recycle water well enough to last for centuries. We don't know what the answer would be for that. Then you've got the psychological problem. This is torture in a sense. You're condemning generations to grow up in a ship that's got to be cramped. It's got to be not a fun place to be. You have to have kids with this woman or this guy. You've got to have kids because your genes are right. That's an option that wouldn't be very nice for a lot of people. You would have a boring job. Well, not maybe a boring job, but you have to have this job because we need these skills. And skills would be lost. It could be mutinies. There could be takeovers. The odds of something like that succeeding, I think, are vanishingly small. And there's other options. If the goal is to get from Earth to another planet that's going to take centuries, then you would need something that does away with the psychological impact on people. So you'd have to have a sleeper ship where people are either frozen or in suspended animation. A seed ship where it's just embryo, so there's no real people there. Or even better, a data ship where it's all data. DNA is digitized. And you've got self-replicating machines to create the infrastructure and create the world for the people that would then be downloaded into cloned bodies.

J: And all for the sake of what, though?

B: Well, the premise is that you need to get to another planet because the Earth is doomed. The solar system is doomed. Assuming you've got a really good reason.

S: Or you just want to expand to do another solar system.

J: If humanity lives long enough, someday they're going to have to leave Earth because the sun's going to consume Earth.

S: Oh, that's a long time.

J: But even still, I mean, who knows how...

S: We can't talk about that part. But you could speculate about running low on resources in our solar system. That's going to be a really, really long time.

B: In our solar system?

S: Yeah, I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. Or, yeah, because you think about Europa has three times the water as the Earth does. I would think it would be more cultural, right?

B: Like Expanse.

S: We saw the launching of a generation ship by a religious group who wanted... They were pilgrims. They wanted to go to a different place where they could found a new world on their religion. That's the kind of, I think, incentive that would exist.

B: Yeah, but still, that's a decent incentive. But still, it's a ridiculous endeavour for the reasons I've described.

S: It's a very low probability of success given extrapolations of current technology. Maybe in 500, 600 years where we have super reliable technology of all the pieces that would be necessary to put into place.

B: Right, I mean, we'll hollow out an asteroid, spin it for gravity, and then have it be a self-contained ecosystem with a water cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, send it on its way, and it will just be a regular self-contained world, and they're going to be there for millennia, and that will be more reliable, say, than anything...

J: I like what you said, though, Bob, about, like, why go anywhere? Like, make an O'Neill cylinder of some sort instead of the solar system.

B: Imagine you build the perfect generation ship. It's got everything you would need. Everyone would be happy and healthy and not bored out of their minds, and everything is recyclable, everything's great, and then you put, like, 10,000 people on it. Why would they even go and spend a millennia going to another planet? Hang around the solar system. You know, go to this gas giant and get resources, hang out. Why go anywhere? Because you've got your world right there. It's been created for you. Why go somewhere else and subject generations to such solitude?

S: The dilemma you're setting up is you've got to make it good enough to function without being so good that people just prefer to stay there. But there's probably a space in between, don't you think? Where it's like, yeah, this is good, I could survive here, but if I could go to a planet, I would prefer that. If we could have a new planet to settle in.

B: Yeah, but would you still want to go if you said, well, you'll never see it, and neither will even your great-great-grandkids. But there's this generation...

S: Well, you'll have to sell the first generation on that. Everyone else is screwed.

B: Exactly. If we're going to do it, I think we should be content that we are not. There is no faster-than-light travel. We have to be content within our solar system, and maybe that will actually give us the motivation to take better care of the Earth and other planets in our solar system, which is always a good idea because we're not doing a good job right now.

J: I was going to comment on that.

B: I think when we really need or want to do that in the far future, we'll be advanced enough to send the information and not matter, but the information that can then be reconstituted through super advanced technology. I mean, if we're going to do it, that's probably how we're going to do it.

J: I imagine that people, if a generation ship existed, it's likely that they'd do the same thing that we're doing on our spaceship, which is our planet, right? We're screwing up our planet, and they will screw up their ship. You think, oh yeah, there's going to be laws, and they'll have directives and all that stuff. Hello, here we are. We have laws and directives, but people can't seem to get out of their own way. Why would it be any different in a group of 10,000 people.

S: Because you're going to put an AI in charge of the whole ship?

E: I'm out.

S: This is an interesting part of the conversation on Bob's panel.

B: They laughed at me when I said about AIs rearing these digital kids that have been created, and they were laughing at the idea of an AI raising a generation of humans. Well, I mean, come on.

S: They're controlling the society during the trip.

B: Right, yeah. That's probably how it'll be done.

S: One of the panelists made the point that there'd probably have to be a lot of deception involved. People need to be told what they would need to be told to make them buy into their role in that they're picking up the stick and passing it to the next generation. That's all they're going to do. Again, they have to do a certain job. They have to mate with a certain person to make it all work out. Somebody needs to have a long view, the 1,000-year view. That's got to be an AI running the ship.

B: Sure.

S: It is very dystopian.

E: Oh, absolutely.

S: There is no nice way to make this happen.

B: Right, and imagine if that information came out, the true nature of the world.

S: You shut down the AI, then it's chaos.

B: Yeah, then there's your chaos again.

S: There is a lot of science fiction where they're not going anywhere, but they have to create the same situation. So, like, Silo is a recent series where it's the same thing. Whereas, again, they have all the problems of a generation ship except for the ship part because it's a self-contained population of 10,000 people. The Earth is irradiated, so you can't go outside.

B: They do have water, though, which is a nice thing.

S: They have a source of water. Other than that, they have one generator keeping the whole place running.

B: They're growing food.

S: People have to have a job within the system. They're told who can have kids and who cannot have kids. Because, yeah, you have that small population. You can't count on random genetic assortment. You've got to make sure that people are compatible.

J: So it has to be super tight. That's the problem.

S: Yeah, and there's a secret government cabal behind the scenes who are secretly spying on everybody.

B: With a long view.

E: Oh, gosh. Is there a rebel faction who's trying to hunt it?

S: There's a rebel faction, yeah.

B: Of course.

S: That's a very common plot device because it kind of makes sense.

E: It stimulates reality.

S: Something like that would happen. I also always think of Fallout because every Fallout shelter is being run by Vault-Tec, and it's the same thing. They're going to be there for hundreds of years. This is a game. Yeah, it's a game. But it's the same thing. It's, again, science fiction. These modern video games are like movies in terms of their production, even more so than movies in terms of the production, the writing, and the storyline that goes into them. Of course, this was a very dystopian world where the company running each vault was secretly doing experiments on people in a different experiment in each vault. But it was still the same kind of thing where how do you have a self-contained community for multiple generations? Ember is another recent picture.

B: That was a fun movie.

S: Yeah, City of Embers. It's the same kind of thing. There, you took a test, then you got assigned a new job, and that was it. That's your job. You struggle shit for the rest of your life. No...

B: Ifs, ands, or buts.

S: That's what the test told us that you're going to do.

E: So is this the direction the panel took, or did you talk about just the technical limitations of something like that?

B: I threw the cold towel, wet towel on everything, but then we talked about, all right, assume we create a great generation ship. What would it be like psychologically, reproduction? What would that be like on such a journey on such a ship? So we went with that, but I tried to get a little real in the beginning, to let them know, no, this is a bad idea, but if we did do it, then this is what it would take.

S: This is what it would take. Like anything to do with space travel, it's a lot harder than science fiction makes us think.

E: Oh, yeah. Radiation?

S: Yeah, the radio, yeah, we were talking at breakfast about the radiation thing. There is really, I'm not aware, you guys tell me if you know, I'm not aware of any science fiction show that really, realistically deals with interstellar radiation, like gamma rays, cosmic rays, high energy. They really don't, they just kind of ignore it.

J: It's too complicated.

S: Yeah, it kind of, it's really, it's a tough problem.

E: It's a tough nut to crack, yeah.

S: Ships are never designed in a way that you would actually design them, if you actually had to deal with radiation. The part of the ship where people are would always be in the middle. You wouldn't have a bridge on top of the ship with a dome, it wouldn't exist. You would always have the maximal shielding between you and a hard space.

B: Sometimes there are some shows that have such advanced medical technology that they can actually repair. I mean, God, even in Next Gen, I'm rewatching Next Gen, and they were being irradiated by some outside source. It was not natural, but they were being irradiated, and the computer kept saying, you've got ten minutes to a fatal dose of radiation. And they brought it down to one minute away from a fatal dose of radiation. I'm like, a minute away and everyone's this calm? Give me your breaks. Which means that at the end of the show, the doctor had to go around and cure everybody.

S: You're retconning that, they didn't show it.

B: No, but no, it just makes sense.

S: I remember that, though, and that's not uncommon.

B: They were seconds, literally.

S: But they're treating it as, like, you're perfectly fine until you hit that fatal dose, then you die. As opposed to, it's a continuum. If you're 90% of the way to a fatal dose, you're 90% dead. But they weren't treating it that way.

B: No, they weren't treating it that way.

S: So you're just retconning.

B: I assume that the doctors would have to go around and give somebody an injection, at least, to get rid of all that damage. But their calmness was disturbing.

S: Again, if you're writing the science fiction, it's so easy to throw in little things about, oh, you gotta take your radiation pill today, or whatever. Just talk about something. But they just basically ignore it.

B: And even NASA, we interviewed somebody at NASA, and we were saying, what are you doing about the radiation? Because everyone's talking about going to Mars, and going to Mars is not a good idea because of this radiation. Astronauts are going to be irradiated. How much are they going to get irradiated? And she said, this is her solution. Right now, get there fast and deal with it medically.

E: Oh, my gosh.

B: That was it. They're not even at the point now where they can attenuate your radiation.

E: It's like fire walking. How do you walk over the fire without burning your feet? Just walk really fast. And then we'll treat the burns.

J: All the information that I've been reading about, because I'm a huge fan of space travel and everything. We're going to the Artemis missions, and then it's a stepping stone to going to Mars. And you start reading about, man, Mars is it. That's a tough environment. It's a planet not too far away from Earth, and it's really, really hard to put people there and make them be able to live there.

B: Yeah. The magnetosphere is diddly. It's spotty. It's not a real magnetosphere.

S: It's not global. It's weak, spotty.

B: The atmosphere is 1/1000, the density of...

S: 100, 1%.

Pre-special Report: A changing Earth (28:40)[edit]

J: It's made me appreciate the Earth. We are so unbelievably set up. We are all trust-fund human beings on this planet. We have a wonderful, awesome planet that it was almost by design.

E: Oh, here you go. You said it. The D-word.

B: We evolved here. That's why we're suited to it.

J: We evolved to live on this planet. But it is protecting us from radiation. The things that we need are plentiful.

S: We are adapted to the planet. It isn't adapted to us.

J: Exactly. But the point is, we have this wonderful thing. And I'll say it again. Holy Christ, can we please take care of this planet? It freaks me out. Every morning I wake up and I'm like, more negative news about what's going on with global warming and the fires in Canada. We live in Connecticut. And that's smoke, man. There are days where they are saying, don't go outside. That's our future.

B: That never happened where we live.

S: That was the first time in my life.

J: Yeah, but wow.

S: Hazardous air condition.

E: The air turned pink. You could see it.

S: I remember the first time it happened. I smelled smoke in my house. I'm like, holy shit.

E: It wasn't just smoke.

S: Where's that coming from?

E: Almost that chemical.

S: Yeah, like ashy. It was like ashy smell. I'm trying to locate it in my house. And then I go outside. It's like, no, it's worse out here. Maybe it's the next door neighbor. Then I realize it's everywhere.

J: And I'm like, why is all the light pink out here?

S: It changed the colour of the sky. The whole atmosphere changed.

J: And then you have a friend that lives in Texas. And he was telling me recently, he came for a visit. And he was just telling me about the temperature. I mean, it's unlivable. He's like, we can't go outside.

S: Can't go outside.

B: He's like, summers, I'm inside. He's inside. That's it. Even the pool. Even the pool, he said, is ridiculous. The pool doesn't help, because you're walking into what? 100 degree pool? It's not refreshing in the slightest. Why would you do that?

J: But this is right now. We are at the beginning of seeing the dominoes fall with the global warming threat. It's already really bad.

B: It's happening faster than I anticipated.

J: Yes, exactly. I didn't think we'd be here.

B: And I was pretty pessimistic.

E: South and Southwest took it on the chin this summer.

S: Yeah.

J: The penguin population, the ice shelf is disappearing. It was one of the worst.

S: They had a breeding season failure for the emperor penguins.

E: Oh, yeah. That's right.

J: We are going to see some horrible stuff. It's important to say, we are so far from hopeless. There's so much that we can do as a global community to work on this.

S: We're going to get into this, actually, in a later segment in today's show.

J: I'm warming it up.

S: All right, good.

E: We don't need more warming, Jay.

J: Who's talking about what? What's the news item?

S: It's not a news item. It's a discussion topic. But we'll get there. All right.

News Items[edit]

Augmented Reality Interactions (31:16)[edit]

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S: But so, Jay, since you're very enthusiastic, tell us about the augmented reality and how does that affect social interactions?

J: Apparently, it's going...

S: We call this the glasshole effect.

J: The glasshole effect.

E: What did you call me? A glasshole?

B: Is that coming back?

J: The Google augmented reality. So, researchers from Cornell University and Brown University recently did a collaboration study that observed the effects of augmented reality smart glasses on people socially interacting. So, specifically, they studied interactions between someone who was wearing AR glasses and someone who wasn't, like they were in pairs. And up until now, much of the existing research on AR didn't have to really do with that. It was mostly focused on the wearer's experience, like how good is it working and what's it like wearing the glasses and how do they feel, like whatever the thing was that they were wearing. So, this study's goal was to understand how AR glasses influence the dynamics between the wearer and other people in their vicinity. And not just a single person, but the study, I think, was looking at a broader view of it as well. Like one person wearing them could affect multiple people in the same room because they're all aware that somebody is wearing a headset. Unless you're Bob, you might not know specifically what augmented reality glasses are, so I figured I'll tell you guys. So, in essence, it could be glasses, someday it could be contact lenses, whatever it is, but you have some type of device that you're seeing through and the computer will put in things into your field of view. Now, it could be floating text above somebody's head.

E: Like a cartoon bubble?

J: Yeah, it could be. I mean, it could virtually be anything because it's computer generated. But like a heads-up display when you're driving a car, say, let's say the directions are showing you an arrow in your vision that's going along the road that you're traveling on, so it's like an object that's in your view. Virtually anything could be in augmented reality. It's like a digital overlay on reality. I've seen people playing augmented reality games where they're playing Minecraft, but it's on the table that they're in front of. You know what I mean? So they're seeing it in a 3D way, so when they look around, they're moving around and they can really see it. So it's pretty cool. It's going to be a game changer for industry. You have someone that's building an engine or building a car or whatever they're doing. Let's say they want to see all of the electrical wires in the thing. Ghost the plane, but show me every single electrical wire and color code them so they understand what they're looking at. That's a total game changer. But there's a problem socially with this. So Jenny Fu, a doctoral student who specializes in information science, she presented the study's findings at the 2023 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference. So the researchers noted first off that AR technology advances like smart glasses are becoming hard to detect, meaning that people are wearing AR right now and there's products out there that kind of look like regular glasses. The technology is getting much, much better. There's companies that are putting a lot of money into this.

S: But I wouldn't say right now you could be wearing AR glasses and nobody would be able to tell. It may be subtle.

J: They could tell. If you know what you're looking for, sure. But very soon, it's going to be where you won't know. And that's where they were going for. They want to talk about what's the experience going to be if people really don't know. Which I find a little, I love the technology and I think it's interesting and it can do great things, but socially again, it could have this negative social media effect in it. And this is what the study was trying to get to. What they found was that it raises concerns about the potential for the wearer to do a few things that other people won't like. One of them is recording audio and video without people knowing about it, which if anybody in here wanted to be recording audio and we wouldn't know about it if video right now device has an obvious device has to be pointing at people. We still can kind of tell when we're being video recorded in this environment, not when we're out in the street because there's cameras everywhere. But people don't like to be recorded without them knowing about it. Another thing was the test subjects, the people who were not wearing the glasses were aware that the person wearing the glasses was able to manipulate the way that they look like with an overlay, like and they didn't like that.

S: So, like, just to be explicit, I could have an overlay on my AR glasses that make you wear a clown costume. Right? So you would dress like a clown, whatever.

J: So in this test-

S: You wouldn't have a way of knowing, you know.

J: In this study, they had, you could turn someone into a deer, a cat, a bear, a clown, or a pig bunny. What is that?

S: Pig bunny?

J: There must be one of them out here at the conference. But the other thing, too, was people were, people have this understanding now of deep fake technology, and people are saying things like, well, they could take a video of me and then they could use that to make a deep fake of me, and it's a privacy breach. So this will absolutely increase the difficulty of trying to maintain your personal privacy. Today, so much of our privacy is gone, and we're not fully aware of it. I don't really know if you really could find out what all the companies have on you, at this point. The cat is already out of the bag. And this will just be like throwing gasoline on a fire already. So the researchers conducted an experiment where there was five pairs of people. So each pair had one person wearing and one person not wearing the device. So what they did was they had them discuss a desert survival scenario. They gave them a topic of discussion. And while they were discussing it, the wearer had on a pair of this company called Snap Inks AR Spectacles. And they're kind of clunky looking. They're like big very black sunglass looking things. And you can tell that there's a device in there. They were equipped with a camera. They had the five custom filters that I told you about. So after the session was over, the participants discussed improvements about what the AR glasses could potentially have. Like people wanted to know when they were being recorded. But the really, the very interesting part of this, there's two things. One, the wearers, for some reason, and I haven't really fully wrapped my head around this yet, but the wearers of the AR glasses said that they experienced reduced anxiety during the conversation and it made them more relaxed. And I just don't really know why. I don't, I don't get that. I find that really interesting.

S: It gives them like a social distance.

J: Yeah, maybe there was a psychological barrier. Now, the non-wearers had a lot to say. So let me go through this with you guys. Feelings of disempowerment stemming from their lack of awareness about what was happening on the other side of the glasses. Okay, I totally relate to that. They didn't know what the other person was experiencing. They could have literally been not paying attention to them and doing something else. They could have made them look like something. They could have been recording them. They could have whatever it's, the sky's the limit.

S: Looking up personal information about them.

J: They were uncomfortable with the fact that the filters took away their control over their own appearance, which I, that's interesting. Would you be upset if somebody had a silly overlay of you whenever they saw you? I don't know. I guess that would be kind of weird.

S: What if they could share it with other people too?

E: Oh, that's right.

J: They also didn't like that they could be recorded, like I said, while talking to someone. They didn't like not being able to see what the wearer was seeing. And they didn't like the fact that they couldn't see the wearer's eyes, which right now AR works better if the glasses are dark. I'm sure that in the future that they'll be able to overcome that. So there was a lot of things that the non-wearers reported and some of the non-wearers were so uncomfortable that they were trying to do things. They wanted to try to get behind the person and see what they were seeing. And some of them even did funny things with their face to make the AR recognition, not be able to read their face and not put an overlay over their face, which is like, wow. I mean, I wouldn't personally do any of that if somebody was had AR glasses, but these people did. And I find that pretty interesting. So the feedback they gave, it was underwhelming. It was like incorporate a projection display so I could see as a non-wearer what you are seeing as a wearer, like what you're doing, whatever. You're never going to see what the other people are seeing. Like you're not going to be like looking at someone and like, what do you see? It's like, no, you have your own AR glasses. You're going to be in your own experience. So I thought that was really weird. Like you're really going to like really care. I don't know. I don't get it. And then a recording indicator light to show you when you're being recorded. Well, that's also kind of weak because in the future we have to just straight up consider every single thing that we do in public and say in public is going to be recorded in one way or another. I mean, so in Minority Report, I love that scene where Tom Cruise walks into like the jeans store. And the machine is like saying, hey, last time you were here, you looked at the whatever. Like they knew who he was and knew what he shopped for. It was like selling things to him and his whole world had augmented reality elements going on and all that. And I think an indicator light like, yeah, you can see everyone has got these blinking red lights on their glasses because they're constantly recording what they do. We're all going to do it. It's going to happen. Humanity is going to record their lives. So this feedback is like so 20 years old.

E: It doesn't make it any less comfortable for a lot of people.

J: I don't disagree. I just think we have we got to get a lot more nuance in this. I don't know how we're going to deal with this. This is I've thought about it. I'm like, wow, it's going to just be there. And it's going to be a you got to deal with it. We're not going to have like this. So Ghost Rider, I remember reading one of his comic books where he had the ability to whenever anyone saw him through a camera, he had the ability to pixelate his head so you couldn't see who he was. No, we're not going to have that technology. Everyone is going to videotape you.

B: I saw a Ghost Rider costume here a few years ago. It's epic. Fantastic.

J: So I'm curious to know what you guys think. You know, under the idea, like we all I think we all agree it's going to happen. These products are going to be available. It's going to happen soon. It's really not going to be that long. The advancements are going to come quick. And before you know it, it's like we're going to be like we're going to look at people and my glasses are going to tell me your name and tell me information about you. And we don't know each other. You know what I mean? You're just going to have this whole layer of information that we really don't have instant access to. It's going to change humanity. It's going to change the way we socialize. It's going to it's pretty impactful. I appreciate that they did the study. I just feel like they are so far away from getting to like the real nuts and bolts of what this is going to be like. You know what I mean? It's kind of superficial.

S: Yeah. I mean, we have to start somewhere. Right. So I know one study is not going to plumb the depths of a complex social phenomenon like this. So it's a baby step forward in our understanding of like the issues that we might potentially face. As we've just often discussed until you put the hands technology in the hands of millions of people, you can't predict how it's going to be used and how people are going to try to abuse it, how they're going to try to break it.

E: Internet.

S: Yeah. What kind of benefits they're going to be or hacks or whatever with the killer app is going to be. You can't predict any of that. So I think when AR actually comes into wide use, it'll be completely different than this. But there may be elements here that are informing that experience. And it is a good time to start thinking about it, studying it and preparing for like the potential issues. All the proposed fixes here, some are I think worthless, but some are like the recording lights, only a partial fix, but it's better than nothing. At least if you require that in the technology, people could then hack it and disable the recording light. There's not going to be any perfect fix.

J: Yeah. But I think it's so obvious that like we're all going to be recording everything. Imagine.

S: Yeah, you just assume that you're being recorded.

J: We essentially already are.

S: I mean, it's a good assumption right now.

J: It is like when you see police videos online, right? They have like multiple shots of car accidents this store and this store and this store. And they're like, oh it's like it is already there. It's kind of like living in a police state. And that's the other thing I thought about, which I bothered me is that let's say we all do have these devices. Think about how powerful that would be to the police or whoever to be able to get all that information.

S: Yeah, again, we tend to think about like the United States, but imagine parts of the world with, yeah, like China or the authoritarian governments or oppressive governments. They get their hands on this technology. Yeah, that is one of my fears for technological advance is that it's going to just empower dictators to such an extent it's going to almost make a democracy impossible. Or maybe it may not threaten existing technologies, existing democracies, but it'll give so much power to dictators that once you have a dictatorship, there really is no way to bust out of it. Or it just becomes that much harder, an order of magnitude harder, because their ability to nip any rebellion in the bud is massive because they just have everything and everyone under surveillance.

J: I totally agree. My attitude towards like 10 years ago, I would have thought about AR and I wouldn't have had any negative thought about it. I was like, bring it on. It's going to be awesome or whatever. But since social media and since we've seen what social media did, like I'm intimidated by this.

S: The unintended consequences.

J: I'm intimidated by artificial intelligence. Everything that's happened in the internet itself, like I remember how awesome it was when the internet first came out. We were super excited and it was so much fun chatting with all these people around the world and all that.

E: Download the picture in eight minutes. Yey!

J: But then it went kind of dark.

B: Jay, back to recording real quick. I think in the future, nobody is going to give a second thought to being recorded because I think it will be ubiquitous. I mean, how long before we've got like thumb drives with exabyte capacities on us? You could literally, I mean, once you get to a certain level, exabyte, petabyte, yattabyte, one of those, you could literally record your entire life in high definition. Decades and you could have it in one on a drive.

E: That's not innately good.

B: And people will. I mean, why wouldn't you do that if you can? Imagine having your whole life recorded. What did I do that day?

E: Because I don't want everything recorded in my life.

S: You don't.

E: Yes, I know.

S: Future generations might though.

B: But imagine you have that recording that then you can give access to your personal A.I. That could then distil it into finding exactly the things that you want. Imagine the Facebook videos that come to you every every few months like this is like this. Look at this video I made for you. Imagine one that's a million times better with the best images of the past five or ten years. It will be something that would be... People are going to do that.

J: I thought of something weird. You're like, you're like, I don't want that. I don't want to record my life. Yeah, you could choose to not record your life from your perspective.

E: Right.

J: But any time you're around other people, they'll be recording.

E: That's OK. But as long as as long I don't I don't need them identifying that as me, though.

S: You get tagged.

E: Right. Exactly. And I think I think therein lies the line.

B: Evan's going to have a carrier scrambler on him at all times. All the electronics near him.

E: I mean, there may be technological solutions.

S: You may have camera free zones.

B: Yeah, there will be. Absolutely. It'll be like an arms race.

E: We ride the subways to kill cell phones. They'll do it.

J: We went into the Internet. When I say we, I mean, collectively, humanity was like, well, this is cool. And this is great and everything. We never did the let's really think about it. We couldn't have even predicted it, in my opinion. Now we know better. Let's take these technologies and like artificial intelligence and augmented reality and all that. And let's if we can, can we can we slow it down? Can we really talk about it?

B: No.

S: No.

B: Not slowing anything down.

S: We can't. We got to we got to speed up. I don't think we could slow it down. All right.

Guest Rogue & Disruptive Technology (47:37)[edit]

S: So we're actually getting joined by a special guest, Christian Hubicki. Christian, welcome back to the SGU.

CH: Well, thank you very much. It's good to be back. I've missed you guys.

S: Yeah. It's been a few months. Podcasting time it's been a couple of hours.

CH: There's a time dilation thing going on.

E: Folding space.

S: The real time versus podcasting time thing going on. So, yeah, so we did the live show at DragonCon with you. You were awesome. It was a lot of fun.

CH: Well, thank you.

S: And we wanted we wanted more. So we said, yeah, when you're when I know you have another panel and other stuff to do. So when you're free, come join us. So we're just talking about how terrible augmented reality is going to be for society and for people.

CH: Oh.

S: Not really. We're talking about like all these technologies going to be a mixed bag. I think there's going to be some good things. It's going to be some bad things.

B: And wait, who the hell is this guy?

S: So in any case, so Christian is a survivor. And what I mean by that is he was on the show Survivor, not a Holocaust survivor.

CH: Oh, no, no. That's a Curb Your Enthusiasm joke. You recall, right? Yeah.

S: That's a kind of disease survivor.

CH: No, not that you're aware of. Be a hippo. Correct.

S: You're a celebrity survivor.

CH: Yeah. Celebrity. Thank you very much. I'll take that generous term. Take the generous term. Those on survivor.

S: People that you don't know know you.

CH: That's correct.

S: That's a good working definition.

CH: That's fair enough. I'll take that one. Yeah. So yeah. That's correct.

B: Millions. Millions.

S: Your day job is you're a roboticist.

CH: Yeah.

S: Which is also super cool.

CH: It pays the bills which is great. It brings the bread home. I'm a robotics professor and I work in robots that walk on two legs primarily, but I've also been branching out to drones and some flying, flying robots and such. It's been a good time.

S: Let's just finish this off and then we'll go to.

J: Yeah. Close it out.

S: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You're done. You said everything. I didn't want to say one last point I was going to make. So we're talking about what happened when we get to the point when you could record every moment of your life? Will people do that? Will they not do that? Would that be a good thing?

B: I'd do it.

S: Bob will do it. Evan hates it. I think it'll be terrible if you live in a police state. It'll be. But think about for policing, if the crime was committed and you were there or whatever, you could immediately eliminate yourself as a suspect by just saying, look, here's what I did for the last 24 hours. It would make policing a lot easier, but of course that's making policing easier is always a double-edged sword.

E: Absolutely.

J: And with deepfake technology, I mean, you can get around that.

S: Well, that's a different technological arms race.

B: That's a wrinkle.

S: And then that's the fake detectors versus the fake creators.

J: But the thing is, we have a lot of technology coming up that is all scary because I always assume now, since social media, I always assume that think of the worst thing that's going to happen, and someone will probably try to take advantage of it. So we have the ability to mimic anybody's voice. We're going to have really seamless, unbelievably good deepfake video technology, and it's going to get into the hands of anybody. It's going to be like anybody's going to have access to make any audio video thing that they want, and it'll look real. That's scary.

S: It's awesome and scary.

J: It is. It's cool. You and I are using mid-journey to create imagery for gaming, and that's fun and everything, but the applications are happening. It's evolving really fast, and society takes a really long time to catch up. We all know that social media is bad, and it's bad for kids.

S: Again, double-edged sword.

J: It is, but the thing that I don't like is that we don't seem to be doing anything about it.

S: The thing is, what can we do about it?

J: What do you mean, what can we do? I don't know. That's a great question. I don't want to say the good things, whatever.

S: You have to fix it. But how?

E: Self-control.

J: We can't get into it now. I would like to take the time. Study it.

E: Teach people better self-control methods.

J: Are people talking about what we can do? Can we fix the algorithms so people don't go down the information rabbit holes that they're going in?

S: There are definitely some discrete things. The algorithm thing is a huge thing, in my opinion. Having algorithms optimized for radicalization, because that's what optimizes clicks, is not a good thing. That can be done at a corporate level or a regulation level, but when you get to how billions of people are using social media, I'm not sure what we can do about that.

J: I think it's something, though, that humanity somehow needs to learn to slow down. We need to think about these things. They're dangerous.

S: We need to keep up. We'll get through it. We've survived other disruptive technologies before.

CH: What you said about, in terms of ways that... What are the ways we got out of these things in the past? We are currently alive despite the nuclear arsenal. That doesn't mean we will always be alive despite the nuclear arsenal.

S: We survived the Cold War.

CH: We survived the Cold War. I call that a win. An absolute win that happened.

J: Christian, there's a shortage of Sriracha right now, and I'm surviving it.

CH: Okay. Well, that's... Godspeed to you, sir.

B: That's a hard one.

CH: That's tough. Well, RIPJ. There was the hole in the ozone layer issue, right?

B: Remember that?

CH: Yeah. I mean, that was a real thing. It's not like that wasn't a real thing. We did something about it.

B: We said we kind of fixed it, basically, right?

E: The whole planet got together.

CH: Yeah. There are regulations. People realized that there is a problem, and at some point, there is a breaking point. Now, I don't know anything about the political science of when that happens. I don't know what that is. But there are mechanisms to do that if that's important enough. I mean, self-control on an individual level would be great, but that doesn't really work. I think we realize that there are greater forces at work when we have a whole bunch of people all behaving in what seems to be their desires in the near term. But we also get together and decide, hey, let's change something as a collective regulation.

S: Yeah. Right. Yeah, again, one of my other worries is that we lose the ability to do that, to act collectively, because the system breaks down to the point where it's just not functioning at that level anymore.

CH: So you're meaning just like... What do you mean?

S: I mean, even right today...

CH: American politics?

S: In America, there are issues where 60%, 70% of the people want the government to do something, and they can't do it. There's an extreme disconnect between the public will and the political will. That's a system that's broken, right? The politics should reflect the public will. When it doesn't, it's because something went wrong. And I think we're not going to go off on that tangent as to why that's a separate point.

E: That's huge.

J: If we did, we'd need drinks.

S: But I am concerned about that, and I do think that social media and technology was one piece of that puzzle that made that happen. But anyway, there you go.

CH: I didn't prepare for that lecture.

S: None of us prepared for that.

Recent Mission to the Moon (54:43)[edit]

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S: Evan, get us updated on the lunar landing stuff.

E: Yeah. So a couple things happening on the moon. I got two quick things here.

S: More stuff?

E: Let's see. So, yes, India. Their mission to the moon, very successful, albeit a short-lived mission, but successful in that they made the launch, they got the lander to land successfully, and the rover has been roving, and the rover's been doing its thing.

S: The lander landed, and the rover's roving.

E: Yeah, that's right. And hey, that's a win. Chandrayaan-3 is the name of the mission. It's located near the south pole of the moon. The rover, it's named the Praigan, P-R-A-Y-G-A-N. And it has detected the element sulphur on the moon. Now, we knew there was sulphur on the moon before. But basically what it's done now, it's the first confirmation of sulphur-

S: In the regulith?

E: Well, on the moon itself. It's not like we brought samples back and stuck it under our microscopes and meters and stuff. So it actually did it right there.

J: That's awesome.

S: In situ.

E: In situ, thank you. It used a laser to zap the soil particles into a plume of plasma. It was detected using the wavelengths that sulphur definitely emits.

S: Spectroscopy.

E: Yep. Also, it detected aluminium, calcium, chromium, iron, manganese, oxygen.

J: Yeah, we knew that.

E: Oxygen on the moon. Silicon and titanium.

J: All completely useful stuff.

E: Well, that's the point.

B: No vibranium?

E: It's all the stuff that we're going to need eventually to have some sort of sustained presence on the moon. You know what? It has not picked up yet that we need.

S: Water?

E: Not yet, right. They think it will definitely find the water. So even more basic than that, hydrogen. Yeah, it has not yet detected hydrogen. So I'm not exactly sure how critical it is that you have to have hydrogen or if it can be broken down, if the other elements can be broken down and you get hydrogen out of it, I imagine you can't.

S: No. If they're detecting elements and there's no hydrogen, there's no hydrogen.

E: Then there's no hydrogen. So far.

B: Unless this transmutation.

S: I'm assuming that when they plasmified it, it broke it down to its elemental constituents, right? It's not like you have a chemical that could break down into hydrogen and something else. It's like there was no elemental hydrogen in the sample.

E: Right. There was no elemental hydrogen in that sample.

B: If you want protons or neutrons, yeah, you can grab them from anywhere.

J: That's a hell of a list of available material. When we finally get nuanced and are able to extract that from the soil, that's awesome.

CH: You should list them in some kind of table, I feel.

B: But how would you arrange that? To make sense. I don't know.

E: Columns. No, so that was—

S: We do it periodically.

E: —the great mission. The mission is only expected to last 14 days which is what?

J: Two weeks.

S: Fortnight.

E: One lunar day is what they call it.

S: 28 days.

E: Is one lunar day 28?

S: I guess the day part is.

E: The day part of it, yeah. So still have a little more time. But yeah, so it's—we're still looking for the water though. It hasn't found that yet. So I suppose as soon as it does that, it'll be more like that.

B: Well, I mean, one place to find it would be in those deep, permanently shadowed craters, right? Have they even gone there? If they're not there, I wouldn't expect they'd find it.

S: Because the regolith that they looked at was on the surface, wasn't it, a deep crater?

E: Yes, yeah. No, it only got on the surface.

B: But on the surface, didn't they find water embedded in these weird crystals? Remember that news item we covered? So it's another kind of source for water.

S: Maybe it stays a little bit deeper than that.

J: Is that rover a robot, or are they controlling it?

E: Oh yeah.

J: They are steering it?

E: Yeah, and it's solar powered, too.

CH: They don't do the missions on their own, to my knowledge, it's a lot of autonomy that they would trust in the thing. They typically will give... I mean, unless it's on the dark side of the moon or something like that.

E: No, right now it's not.

CH: Okay, okay.

E: It's on the sunny side. Now here's the second news item related to this. This is interesting. The fella's name is Rupesh Messan. He has purchased land on the moon.

B: What?

E: Yeah.

B: From who?

E: Exactly. Some guy also sold him a bridge in Brooklyn, right? The lunar property was purchased from the Lunar Registry of New York, officially certified on August 25th. And you read...

S: Certified by who?

E: Yeah, well, let me get to that. He is from India, okay? And he's a big entrepreneur, tech guy a billionaire kind of person.

S: He's the Elon Musk of India?

E: Sort of, yeah, yeah. So he went ahead and put his paperwork in, and now he has his certificate. If you go to their website, they show you all the stuff that you get for doing this. It cost, in American dollars, $29.07 per acre. I don't know how many acres exactly he purchased. He says that it is a plot on the Lachius Felicitatis, which basically means what? The...

CH: Location, location, location.

E: Yeah, right. Which is, what, the Sea of Rains or the Bay of Rainbows some kind of pleasant sounding place.

J: So let's say that... This is patently ridiculous, of course.

E: Well...

S: It's illegal by international law.

E: Well, yeah, right, that's the point, is that there are treaties that basically say, and there have been these treaties in place since the Apollo missions, essentially, when it was becoming inevitable, like, okay, we're going to get to the moon, like, okay, what about ownership of this thing?

S: No one's going to honour that. No one gets to say, hey, I own the moon.

B: I suspect that in the fine print it says that if you don't occupy it for at least a week over the next decade, you lose it.

J: Yes!

E: Well, that could be, Bob.

B: Easy.

E: Yeah, it could be.

CH: Now, do they all use the same excuse of, like, it doesn't explicitly say in the treaties that an individual can't own a part of the moon. That's a lot of loopholes a lot of these scammers like to do. They say, oh, it doesn't explicitly say this thing, but any lawyer would say that doesn't matter.

E: Here's what the organization that sold it to them says. This is their quote, "Under the terms of this contract, the property claims on the moon may be offered to private entities as a means to finance the exploration settlement and development of the moon and its resources. It works in compliance with government agencies around the world for these purchases. Purchases via the Lunar Society are granted proxy rights and protections in compliance with the Lunar Settlement Initiative", which they say is recognized by countries. "We work with international organizations and space law experts to be sure that our property owners will be entitled to legally possess their land in compliance with established international agreements."

S: I don't buy it.

E: However, yeah. It's a problem.

S: However.

E: So there are treaties right back in 1967. Let's have a quick look here. The Treaty on Principles of Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, that's the title of it, including the moon and other celestial bodies. It's called, for short, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The relevant part is Article 2, which states that outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means. So that pretty much kind of puts an end to it. So yeah, there could be some kind of, in a sense, legal fight in the future if this thing ever really does become relevant. But this treaty is going to override this company selling plots on the moon. And they're basically using it as like an advertisement, hey, they're using the India success on the moon right now in order to sort of say, hey, by the way, hey, for $29, you too, everybody in here, give me your $29, you'll own an acre on the moon. So it's kind of a big advertising campaign.

CH: Does it buy a star all over again?

E: Yeah, that's right. Yes. You're right, the star registry stuff, which you can't have.

J: When I was young, I bought into the star registry thing, I totally believed it. And I had a star named after one of my girlfriends, and I thought, oh, this is so cool. And then I found out it's a total scam.

S: It's a complete BS.

J: Yeah. It was a cool gift. But anyway.

S: Because it could have been real. The thing is, before we were skeptics, whatever, thinking about it, it's not totally insane. Because there are literally billions of stars out there. And there could be some astronomical association that funds itself by saying, yeah, you could name one of the billion stars, who cares? But it just turned out not to be real.

J: Yeah.

E: Right.

S: And then the more you think about it, the more silly it is. But it's not a crazy idea if you don't know anything about it.

J: I mean, look, if there's even a remote chance that that guy actually bought an acre on the moon.

S: There isn't.

E: There isn't. When you own property, and they explained it pretty well in this one article, when you or I purchase a piece of land or a house, real property is how it's described, here on the earth. The reason we are able to do that is because there is a, and this is established law, because there's a country, basically, that is in existence. You can't purchase, that's why you can't buy land in Antarctica, right? You cannot do it.

S: Yeah. It's like, why Antarctica to sell? Who is it to sell? There isn't anybody who has the right to sell the moon.

E: Right. And it has to be established. And that treaty specifically says that countries cannot own the moon. So the whole thing basically falls apart at that level. But that doesn't stop this particular company from saying, hey, come buy some parts of the moon.

J: I mean, it's only 29 bucks. I thought you were going to say the guy spent hundreds of thousands of dollars.

E: I don't know how many acres he bought.

S: He could have bought a thousand acres.

J: I know.

Different Types of Mass (1:04:23)[edit]

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S: All right. Let me ask my colleagues, my esteemed colleagues on the panel here. How many different kinds of mass are there?

E: Two.

J: Well, there was three Mass Effect games, correct?

S: Yeah.

E: Oh, there were.

CH: Andromeda, sure.

S: That's a serious question now.

E: How many types of mass?

S: Yeah.

E: Types of mass.

J: I don't know.

B: Solid mass and mass made out of energy?

S: No. Mass is a physical construct.

CH: I mean, I assume there's baryonic matter and that's all I can think of.

S: Not different kinds of matter.

CH: Okay.

S: Different kinds of mass.

CH: I'm missing the question.

S: I know. It's weird. Right?

E: It's a bit of a thought exercise.

S: There's three. It'll make sense when I explain it. One type of mass is inertial mass, right? It's resistance to acceleration and it's operationally defined, right? You put this amount of force on a mass, it has this amount of acceleration. That's how much mass it has. F equals ma, right? That's inertial mass.

B: If something's floating in space, you think, oh, it's weightless. I can move it. No.

S: Weightless.

B: It's still going to take...

S: It's not massless.

B: It's going to take, because of the mass, it's going to take effort, work to move it.

S: There's inertial mass, right? There's also gravitational mass.

B: I used to know all of this and I just kind of forgot.

S: And there's actually two different types of gravitational mass. That's where you get three different types of mass. So the gravitational mass is how matter responds to gravity. So there's the active gravitational mass, which is the gravitational field generated by that mass, right? And then there's the reactive, which is how does that mass respond to an external gravitational field? So there's three kinds of mass. Active gravitational, passive gravitational, two types of gravitational. Now you would think, since matter is matter and mass is kind of a physical property, that they would all be the same. And you'd be right. And that's the principle of equivalency, that all three types of mass should be exactly the same.

B: So there's one type of mass, then?

S: No, no, but I mean, what's the correct one? In other words, there's three different ways of measuring how much mass is there.

B: Right, they're equivalent.

S: And we're assuming that they're all equivalent, because it makes sense that they should be. And if Einstein and Newton are both correct, they have to be the same, right?

J: Are they?

S: Well, that's the question. So theoretically, they're the same.

B: Maybe at higher energies, they break out like electromagnetism.

S: But as far as general relativity is concerned, they should be the same, right? So no, theoretically. But we like to empirically confirm even solid theories.

B: Yeah, you get new physics, right, when you find these references.

S: What if when we measure those different types of mass, they're not the same? That would be either that's a problem with our measurement, or it's a problem with the theory. So we've been, physicists have been measuring these different kinds of mass to higher and higher precision, just to make sure that the equivalency principle of the different types of mass holds up.

B: Big news if it wasn't.

S: Big news if it weren't, right? So recently, astronomers or physicists have published the results of a many year study. We've been, as you know, we actually went to the moon and landed on the moon, right?

E: Not us.

J: And we bought property there, put up a nice little house.

S: One of the things that we did, and one of the ways that we know that we sent stuff to the moon is we put mirrors on the moon, and we put them there specifically so that we could bounce lasers off of them, because that gives us a very precise way to measure the orbit of the moon, the distance of the orbit of the moon, to incredible levels of precision.

E: And the Indians did that as well. They put a reflector on the moon.

S: Of course.

E: Why wouldn't you?

S: So we've been measuring the orbit of the moon for many years, using these reflective lasers bouncing off the moon.

E: That's how we know it's moving away.

S: If, however, let's say that the two different types of gravitational mass were different, and that would actually change the orbit of the moon, and this is why. Because you have, there's iron at the core of the moon, and there's aluminium dominant in the crust of the moon, right, so they're different masses, and they have a gravitational effect on each other. But if the active and reactive the passive and active masses were different, that would create a little force that would tweak the orbit of the moon. Not by much, but enough that we could measure it with those lasers.

B: Measure it, especially after many decades.

S: Yeah, especially after many decades. So-

E: It's been decades.

S: It's been decades.

E: So here we are.

S: And they exactly match.

E: Okay, good. Phew.

S: Now, two, guess what, of course, it's always two.

B: How many decimal points?

J: I hate that I was worried. I don't even know what the hell you're talking about.

S: I love that you were worried.

J: I'm just saying I've been worried the whole time.

S: You should have been worried.

B: To nine decimal places.

S: So I love that you were worried. That means I did my job, right, as a science communicator.

B: I was hopeful that they wouldn't match, but I knew I would have heard about it if they didn't. And so I knew what was going to happen.

S: So if these things were pulling and tugging on each other and there was a lack of equivalency, it would have caused a little perturbation. So we now know that the equivalency principle between the two types of gravitational mass is true to within four trillionths of a percent.

B: Nice.

S: That's pretty good. Four trillionths of a percent. So we could all relax.

E: I was going to say.

CH: So on this point, I've... Go on. I'm sorry, Bob.

B: Twelve decimal points. Sorry. I'm taking a decimal point.

CH: Yeah. Four to the minus ten of the minus twelve. I have it written down here.

B: You're right. You're right.

CH: Thank you. I try.

B: Real scientist over here.

CH: So the premises, I imagine that you have their I's crossed and T's dotted or whatever at this point. But on the concept, the thing that's interesting to me is that not only are you differentiating between inertial mass and this gravitational mass, that there's this additional sub breakdown. So basically, the active is like, I weigh a certain, I have a certain mass. And the active is I'm spitting off some gravitational field that's going to affect some gentleman over there. That's the active. And the passive is their effect back on me.

S: Or your, whatever, your reaction to a gravitational field, your reaction to being in the earth.

CH: But presumably, mass generates or whatever the Higgs folks say these days is generating this thing. And so, and our first thinking is like, well, why is there not this hypothesis about the other major forces? You got gravitational, strong, weak, nuclear force, and I guess it's the electroweak and the strong.

B: Yeah. Strong, electroweak.

CH: What's that? Electromagnetic. That's what I'm thinking about.

B: Well, electroweak is the union of electromagnetic and the weak force together at a higher energy.

CH: So why is there not one of these things for the strong nuclear force, for instance? The only thing I can imagine is because that the gravitational one is different is because it specifically reacts to mass. Because these other forces you're talking about, when I push on a coffee cup, that's the electromagnetic force that's pushing that away. Or the thing holding together is a strong nuclear force. So I'm guessing that's why there's a distinction between general inertials, which are not mass-based, as opposed to the gravitational ones, which are inherently mass-based.

B: Gravity is the anomaly. Of all the forces, gravity is like the redheaded stepchild. What's happening? Because it's completely different. There's no attenuation. The strong force drops off. They all drop off. Gravity doesn't. Gravity is long-acting. But amazingly weak.

S: Well, it drops off really slow.

B: Yeah.

S: It never goes away entirely.

B: It impacts the entire, it impacts the evolution of the universe. So the strong forces, the other forces, do drop off very, very fast.

CH: Very quickly.

B: And it's also amazingly weak. It's far weaker than all the other forces to an extraordinary degree. It's an anomaly compared to the other forces, right?

S: You want, the quantum gravity.

B: Sorry about it.

CH: No, no, no. It's fine.

S: The investigation of general relativity and quantum mechanics.

CH: Who doesn't want that? But that's not what I'm asking. What I'm more, you're right in terms of the drop-off. What I'm getting at is trying to tease apart the premises here for how they come up with these three forces. Because that wouldn't have been...

S: I think it's all just, that's what they can measure.

CH: That's what they can measure? Okay. Because then it's not, well, then doesn't this violate the whole premise of like, well, we're just assuming these other things, there's only three types. There are these other types we can't measure, but then we build large colliders and all of a sudden we measure things that we couldn't measure before.

S: If there was another way that, I guess, mass interacted with the universe, you might come up with another definition for it based upon how you could measure it according to that interaction. But I think these are the three that theoretically and empirically are known to do the calculation.

CH: I'm getting at the theoretical one. Basically, I'm trying to say, this is why they care about inertial mass and these two gravitational masses. And it's for those reasons. There's a theoretical reason why they wouldn't care about the strong nuclear force mass. And that's why I was trying to reason out. Maybe I didn't do a good job, but I was trying, because the way you posited the question was really interesting. And so good job. And so the other aspect of this is sort of like this, what is that, the scotch egg of the moon, right? You have like the the egg wrapped in like in meat, which is the different, this is how I'm analogizing these tasty elements, right? And so that creates some kind of small effect, the fact that they are wrapped in each other and then orbiting the earth. Is this like the equivalent of a gravitational mass tidal effect? Is that what we're talking about?

S: I don't know if it's tidal again, it's there's the lay description of what they did, which that's as deep as I can go. You read the technical article, it's like their description is math and I don't understand.

CH: I got it.

J: Guys, I have a question.

S: Yeah.

J:' Where are we going to dinner tonight? (laughter)

[talking over each other]

Stop talking about shit I don't understand. Let's get angry again about something.

S: We're going to get there. We're going to get angry about something in a second.

CH: Well, thank you for the digression.

S: Yeah. It goes super fast. And that's something that gets frustrating. It's like, ah, I'm kind of got went as far as I went and now I either need somebody who's good at explaining it to me or I need to take 12 dimensional different calculations.

J: You need someone to explain it to you. I need you to explain it to me. Well, yeah, that's my job. I'm in the middle. I don't know the math.

E: They're supposed to be communicating.

S: When you get to this astrophysics kind of stuff, at some point it's math. That's what it is. Everything else is a metaphor.

J: I want to thank the two scientists in the room. I want to thank both of you guys.

S: You're welcome.

J: For doing what you're doing. No, it's important because I fully admit and I'm totally fine with the fact that I don't have the intellectual capacity to really wrap my mind around a lot of things.

Star May Become a Magnetar (1:15:11)[edit]

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S: What do you think about magnetars?

J: That's a great band.

S: All right. Bob's going to tell us about that.

B: I'll use less jargon, Jay.

J: Thanks, Bob.

B: All right. All right. So researchers claim to have found or discovered a new class of star, a brand new type of star potentially, which is pretty big. When you find a new type of star, that's really cool. So it has to do with, now this new type of star may be the progenitor of magnetars. So magnetars, this whole news item is an excuse to talk about magnetars because I love magnetars. They are the coolest extreme object in the universe, in my opinion. It's the densest stable form of matter in the universe that we're aware of. So a magnetar, it's a neutron star, just a neutron star. It's born, it's the corpse of a star that is born out of a supernova. You either have a neutron star left over or you've got a black hole. Black holes are great, but they're just so weird that-

S: They could have a white dwarf, then a neutron star.

B: White dwarf? Oh, yeah. No, supernova. I'm talking supernova. The end result of a supernova is either a neutron star or-

S: Can it blow enough of its mass away that it doesn't even get down to a neutron star?

B: Sometimes a core collapse supernova blows itself into nothingness and there's nothing left. There's nothing left. I've never heard of one leaving a white dwarf though.

S: Okay.

J: Bob, what is the matter? What is that matter?

B: It's essentially a neutron, a ball of neutronium, I don't know if you'd call it neutronium, but the protons and electrons merge to form neutrons, so you've just got neutrons, lots of neutrons.

J: There's a huge sphere of neutrons.

B: Right, but there's also some, we don't know what's in the core. It's very exotic. It could be some weird quark, strange, let's say some unusual stuff, but there's a lot of neutrons in there. Super dense. It's the classic, oh, if I have a teaspoon, it would weigh as much as a mountain type of stuff. Super dense, super dense, super heavy stuff. So a magnetar is a type of neutron star. You can have a pulsar, you can have just a boring neutron star that's not doing much or you could have this magnetar which has this immense magnetic field. So they're small, they're 20 kilometers, 20 kilometers long, but they burn with this one or magnetars have 100 times the sun's luminosity. So imagine you've got Manhattan that's releasing 100 times the sun's luminosity, and if it's a magnetar, all of that energy is x-rays, it's just all x-rays 100 times what the sun is releasing. But the thing is the x-rays are nothing. The x-rays are like who cares because the magnetic field around a magnetar, as its name implies, is the most amazing magnetic field in the known universe. There's nothing that even approaches it. It's the dynamo to end all dynamos. You guys, you heard, everyone hears dynamo. What's a dynamo? A dynamo is kind of simple. It converts a mechanical energy into electrical energy. This earth has its own dynamo that creates our magnetosphere. The sun has its own magnetic field as well. We have generators on earth that have mechanical movement that create magnetic fields, that creates electricity. So we have all these, but this is the ultimate expression. This is the apex of dynamos in a magnetar. And this is caused, inside the magnetar, you've got these, it's a superfluid of charged particles, and that movement of charged particles plus the spin and other things in the magnetar creates this immense magnetic field. So how strong is a magnetic field around a magnetar? Let's see if I can do any justice here. Now you know we've got a magnetic field around the earth. The magnetic field around a magnetar is a trillion to one quadrillion times the earth's magnetic field, immensely huge. Now we can create, with MRIs and other devices, we can create magnetic fields that dwarf anything, the earth. But even a magnetar's magnetic field is a billion times stronger than anything that we could create. So if you're getting the point, it's immensely powerful.

S: It's like a billion Tesla.

J: Bob, could we use them as a power source?

B: I'm sure we could, but you have to probably travel thousands of light years to get to one.

J: You have to live around it to get the power from it.

B: That's a whole different other news item. So here's one more, I'll give you one more example of how much energy we're talking about. Now we've all heard of E=mc², energy is equivalent to mass. But if you look at the equation, a little bit of mass means, because you're multiplying times the speed of light, is a lot of energy. This pen could run the United States for months or years. So there's a lot of energy in a small, a tiny bit of matter. So if you kind of reverse that though, and if you look at the magnetic field of a magnetar and you want to get, if you look at the energy density and you want to convert it to mass, right? So you're not going from mass to energy, we're reversing it. We're going from the energy density to mass. If you look at that magnetic field, it would have 10,000 times the density of lead. Think about that. If you had a huge area that was 10,000 times the density of lead, and you converted that to energy, that's the energy that's in a magnetar's.

E: Would that stop neutrinos?

B: Don't get me started on neutrinos.

E: Too late.

B: Okay. So then the next question is, how deadly, how deadly is this? This thing is so immensely powerful.

S: It would rip you apart.

B: Yeah, of course it would rip you apart, but what's behind that? What's happening? How does it rip you apart? First off...

CH: I'm sorry. I'm doing some math. Go on.

B: So basically in that kind of magnetic field, chemistry does not happen. Chemistry cannot happen because crazy stuff is happening. Some people say that it can melt you from a thousand kilometers away. If you get within a thousand kilometers of a magnetar, you would basically be melted. But you're not really melting. What does that mean? I found out recently what that actually means because imagine an atom near such an intense magnetic field, the orbitals that electrons exist in would get distorted by that magnetic field. So these electrons would be 1% wide compared to its length. The atoms basically turn into needles and molecules can, in that state, if you could get close enough, molecules could not exist in that kind of state. So the actual shape of atoms are distorted. You would basically be disassociated into your component, oddly shaped atoms. That's what happens when you get that close to a magnet. Fascinating stuff, isn't it? It's so cool.

J: That is crazy.

B: But the mystery is, how does this even get created? How do you create something like this magnetar? We're not sure how it gets created. They think it must be a magnetic star, a highly magnetic star, and that's kind of what they found out. They found a star with this beautiful name, HD45166. This is a wolf rayet star, which I wasn't too familiar with these stars. A wolf rayet star, it's essentially a huge star that's really old, and when a star that big gets that old, its outer shell of hydrogen kind of gets expelled away, and you've got a core of helium. So when we see one, that's what we know, oh, this has got to be, this is a wolf rayet star, it's near the end of its life because it's a bare helium core, because they're not detecting any hydrogen when they study it spectroscopically. So they found this star years ago, but it was always very weird. It was low mass, it had a weird ratio of elements, but they said it is a wolf rayet star, but it's very unusual. Well, they took another look at it, a deeper look, they looked at it spectroscopically, and they figured out that what this star did to get into its current state is that it was in a binary pair that was orbiting each other, another wolf rayet star. Imagine two helium cores in orbit, and they were sharing their hydrogen envelope, they were sharing their outer atmosphere, and they merged, the hydrogen atmosphere got expelled, and you're left with this bigger, denser core of helium that was very, very magnetic, and they were actually able to measure the magnetic field around this, and they realized, wow, this star would have been immensely magnetic, the star that they're detecting now was incredibly magnetic. Magnetic enough to be the parent of a magnetar, so they think this could be the type of star that creates a magnetar, which is a pretty big advance, because we had no idea how these magnetars were created, and it was created by these types of stars, probably, so I'm sure they're going to try to find more of these. So it's interesting to find out what is the parent star of something as magnificent as a magnetar, and there it is, I think they found it finally, mystery kind of solved.

CH: Wow.

J: That is crazy.

CH: Yeah, I was, sorry, I was staring intently at your screen, because I was looking at how many Teslas that magnet was, that was, and I happened to work down the street from the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, where they have the world's most powerful magnets, and they hit 45 Tesla nothing to sneeze at, right?

B: That is immense, and I think if they hit 45 Tesla, they must have done it for like, picoseconds.

CH: Yes, there are different records, there are different records, they're apparently very competitive there's the continuous record and the transient record, I think these guys go for the transient record, and there's actually sort of mythology around Tallahassee that the magnetic field deflects hurricanes away from Tallahassee, as a result, and the talks that these guys give is kind of crazy, just to generate that level of magnetic field. Basically they construct this crazy coil out of superconductors, their insulators are copper, which I think is hysterical, like they talk about insulators, they'll give a talk and I'm like trying to follow along, well what's your insulator, copper, I'm like what, it's an insulator to us, and these full hour long talks that they give, they will basically say, here's our design, they will power it up through as much current as they can until it rips apart, and then the entire talk is a giant forensic analysis of why and how it ripped apart, and then we can try again to get a more powerful magnet. Yeah, exactly.

B: Examine the debris.

S: Yeah, cool.

B: Very cool.

Special Report: Global Warming Policy (1:25:14)[edit]

Solar power & the US power grids[edit]

S: As you may have noticed, we talk about global warming a lot, just because there's a lot of science around it, and it's very relevant, there's also a lot of misinformation about it, so it's exactly in our sweet spot of what we do, but recently I've had some questions where we talked about the fact that we lack political will to like really do the things that we should be doing to like aggressively be dealing with global warming, and the feedback I got was basically, well, what can politics really do about it? And I got a lot of skepticism about that on multiple levels, and there are people who say, well, this is really only going to be solved by technology, not by politics, right? If you want people to drive electric cars, they ought to be better than every other kind of car, right? You're not going to force people to buy worse technology because it's good for the environment, and I think there's a certain amount of truth to that, but the idea that like we're politically impotent basically to do anything about global warming was, I took it as a challenge, I have written about this before, but it's like, all right, so what are all the, when we say we need to politically do something about it, what are we actually talking about? It's not enough to just speak in generalities or in vagaries we need, is there anything very specifically that would have an impact? I'll frame it a little bit further by saying that I do think that technology is the ultimate solution basically decarbonizing our transportation sector, decarbonizing our energy infrastructure, and then the hardest bit is decarbonizing the carbon-intensive manufacturing segments like cement and steel making and things like that. And there are technological solutions to all these things, and they are getting better. There are some holes that we need to plug so that these are this requires technological progress. So what role does politics have in all of this? So that's actually a legit question, and we should be able to answer that question if we're going to be advocating for global warming policies. Well, what policies? And again, I don't think it's enough to say just more green energy. It's like, okay, well that's happening. The other thing is, the point I was actually driving towards is what we're really talking about is not making this shift, because the shift is happening. The shift is going to happen. What we're talking about is making it happen faster, right? How could we accelerate the transition to a carbon-free or low-carbon transportation and energy structure, for example? And there are a number of very specific laws, regulations, whatever, that can accelerate it. So I just wanted to throw a few out there. Like, this is the kinds of things that we're talking about, and you guys can tell me if you have any ideas about it or any questions about it as well. So like, one is the regulations regarding solar power, right? So in some states in the United States, and this is also probably true in other countries as well, if you are a residential owner of solar panels, you have solar panels on your roof, when you produce more energy than you use, you give it to the grid, right? Now in some states, they have to give you 100% full credit for that electricity. In other states, they don't. In fact, recently in Florida, they changed the regulations, and the utility companies are lobbying hard not to pay you 100% for the solar power that you generate, all with, in my opinion, bogus arguments. So that one law right there makes solar power either viable or not viable, because if you don't get full credit for the electricity you generate, you're basically buying your electricity twice. Right? You're buying whatever you're getting from the solar panels, no matter what, if you buy the solar panels, you're basically buying 20, 30 years of electricity all at once, right? And then you get that money back as you use your electricity, or you could lease them, or you could just contract with a solar company, which I do, no money down, you just buy the electricity from the solar company. You are contractually obligated to buy 100% of the electricity that those solar panels produce, whether you use it or not. And the only way that works is if you can get full credit for it when you produce more than you need, and then you use that credit to get electricity from the grid, right? So you're not making money off of it, you're just exchanging electricity, right? You're just basically using the grid as a battery. So that's one very specific way in which the government can say, nope, we're going to make the residential solar industry viable by making sure that you get full credit for the electricity you send to the grid, right? And the utility companies have got to suck it up. But they're lobbying hard, they only want to pay pennies on the dollar for the electricity.

B: Do they realize that if they get their way?

J: I mean, when you get to the industry-

S: They don't want the residential solar industry because that's taking money out of their pockets. I'm not buying electricity from them, I'm buying it from myself.

B: How about this, I think people should get 105% back, how about that?

S: Well, that's not going to happen.

E: But how do you finance the infrastructure?

J: We have an inherent problem with the...

B: Would that motivate you to get solar? I think that might be a good impetus for people to actually get solar.

S: My solar power is about 20% cheaper than if I bought it all from an electricity company. That's my incentive. So I have an incentive beyond being a good citizen because it's cheaper.

J: But that's why we need government regulation because for some reason companies, as they get bigger for the most part, become a little evil because it becomes about the acquisition of growth and money. They want to always grow, increase the amount of money that they're making at all costs. That's why government regulation is like this big net that can save a lot of people.

S: Well, there's another way... If you want to look at it from a more neutral perspective, you could say that different segments of society have different motivations, right? So residential people have a different motivation than the power company. And are we going to let the people with the money just decide what's in their favour? Or are we going to have some kind of arbitration where we decide what's fair and what's best for society? That's kind of the government level where it has to happen. Where the government has got to say, no, if you look at all the... The utility companies say, it costs us more to have residential solar because we have to accommodate their lives, but actually that's not true. That's demonstrably not true, especially with the more and more modern solar panels. They actually help regulate the grid. They're actually doing you a favour. They're not increasing your cost. So their argument is just straight up bogus.

B: So they lie and they're stupid.

S: I mean, yeah, they make a lawyer's case for their position, right? But again, we have to sort through all of that and decide what's actually true and what's actually fair. Another thing, Evan, you mentioned infrastructure. So that's a huge thing, right? So one of the main limiting factors right now on green energy is the grid. Who's going to build the grid? It's the government that has to fund the grid, and there is money for that in the infrastructure bill, which is a government legislation. And not only that, but in the US, if you want to connect your wind farm in one region to a city that needs that power in another region so you can shut down that coal fire plant, you have to connect the two, right? So you have to lay power lines from the source to where it's used, and you may be passing through multiple jurisdictions in order to lay that line, both state, federal, local, city. And it takes years just to navigate the bureaucracy and the paperwork, because there's no government agency that has the authority to just approve the whole project.

E: Unless they're eminent domain.

S: But you're right. The eminent domain should make it easy, but you need a federal agency to do that, to make the eminent domain case, right? When you're going through multiple states, which is usually the case. If it's just all within one state, then the state can do it. So that's a stroke of a pen kind of regulation thing. If they just say, OK, we're going to create a federal agency of the power grid, or put it under whatever, one of the current agencies. And their job is to streamline the bureaucracy of laying new power lines. That's it. Just get out of the way, really. Just getting the government out of the way by getting the bureaucracy, by making the bureaucracy more efficient and streamlined. That's it. A lot of other industries have this. If you're laying a water pipe or whatever, they have that for that, but just not for power lines.

CH: So in this case, you're talking about stroke of the pen. I'm looking at the political blowback of this, because there are three grids, right? East, West, and Texas. So I imagine folks in Texas love being nationalized with their power grid. So I think that now I imagine...

S: But even we could still keep the three power grid design, but Texas could still have their own power grid. But the thing is, even within a grid, if you want to make a connection, you need to navigate this ridiculous bureaucracy. So that's clearly something that we could do just by streamlining regulation. The streamlining regulation also applies to closed-loop hydro. We want to make a grid backup by making a closed-loop hydro battery grid storage. And it's great. The physics are awesome in terms of long-term, lots of power. It works. Yes, there are environmental issues. Yes, there are legitimate... You have to make sure that you're not going to destroy some local environment, but it's actually pretty good. But it could take 10 years to get approval for a project, from soup to nuts. And there needs to be a way to streamline. And you say, well, we need this grid backup like today, not 10 years or 20 years from now. I mean, we still will need it 20 years from now, but it'd be really nice if we can get it going now. Same thing is true of nuclear. It takes 20 years from soup to nuts to get a nuclear power plant contributing electricity to the grid. That's mostly regulation time. So my favorite analogy now is Operation Warp Speed with the vaccine. They made the vaccine in like two weeks. That's how long it took them to make the vaccine. The mRNA technology was there, like Moderna's been around for 10 years.

E: When you say making mean approved?

S: It took them two days to get the code, to get the genome from the coronavirus. Then they said they plugged it in. It's like, there we go. We got a vaccine. The rest of the time was all regulation. It was all testing.

B: It took a little while, though. Don't forget to get to put the trackers in the vaccine so that it takes a few hours.

S: To get those chips really small.

CH: Bill Gates improves every single one of those.

S: That's also the bottleneck. But seriously, but they showed they took a four or five year process and turned it into a nine month process by just saying, we're going to streamline the bureaucracy. And we had the will to do it, and it happened. It's like the best example now in modern times of the role of political will in making things happen. And again, it wasn't a technology or a science problem. It was getting out of the way. It was just making government function efficiently so that a four or five year process could take nine months because we were in the middle of a pandemic.

J: Historically, when 9-11 happened, the government worked together really well. And now we have an example with the pandemic happened, and luckily, the will was there to do this, and it happened, right? Those two scenarios are both tragedies, you know what I mean?

S: But the thing is, those are-

CH: Acute, scary things in the near term.

S: Yeah, but the conditions are present for global warming. It's just slightly longer term than it's happening this year. The question is, why don't we have the same kind of political will for global warming that we had for the pandemic or 9-11? We made a whole new department of government after 9-11, right?

B: We should have a climate change department.

J: I couldn't agree more.

S: So that's why when we say, know where your politicians stand with respect to global warming issues and support politicians who prioritize global warming, wherever they otherwise fall on the political spectrum, because it does make a difference, because if we prioritize it as voters, we basically force politicians to prioritize it. And there's lots of low-hanging fruit that they can do to really accelerate this transition. Then there's some maybe politically more challenging things. If you talk to environmentalists and economists, they say there's one clear strategy that will work really well in terms of accelerating green energy, and that's tax carbon. But it's also the thing that's not going to happen, because politically, it's impossible. That's why.

J: So corporations are going to have the money to push back?

S: Yeah. I mean, it's a complicated situation, but from my understanding, it's a non-starter. Even though the experts all say, that's really what we need to do, that's going to work the best. Basically, they're externalizing their cost of carbon by dumping it into the environment. We just attach a cost to that, and that would be a huge motivation. So it's a carrot and stick thing. That's the stick.

B: What would that do to the oil industry? If you put all external costs, it would immediately become too expensive.

"Carrot" vs. "stick" incentives[edit]

S: Right. That would be a huge motivation to zero carbon energy. But another thing is, so I talked about the carrot and the stick, the stick is the carbon tax. Again, everyone thinks that will work, but we can't do it. So Biden, with the Inflation Reduction Act, which is really a climate bill, went with the carrot. And the carrot was, all right, companies, if you invest in green energy, we're going to guarantee your loans, and you will get some tax breaks and whatnot. To the tune of billions of dollars.

J: Fine.

S: And what happened? They bought it, and it worked better than anyone projected. And companies are tripping over themselves to build green energy and to shut down coal fire plants. It worked really, really well.

J: So lean into that.

S: We need to lean into that. That was the carrot approach. We'll give them money to do the right thing. We'll guarantee, again, they're just basically saying, so companies worry about risk, right? They're risk averse. This is all a new technology. They want to know, if I get a loan to do this, am I going to bankrupt my company? And if the government just says, all right, we're just going to reduce the risk for you by guaranteeing the loans, that's all it took. They were all in. It worked remarkably well, better than anyone projected. So we need to, again, lean into that. And that was politically doable, because it was a pure carrot approach. There was none of the carbon tax stick to go along with it.

CH: To build on the stick side of this thing, I think we've seen all the different ways that once there is a stick, then a special interest can suddenly make that the scariest thing imaginable. Remember when paper straws were a thing? And then they became like, there are people who would shame people, like, oh, look at the straw, it doesn't work. And it's like, oh, it doesn't need to last till next week. It's the last thing at the end of this beverage, right? Like any, literally, I think we've seen in the skeptical community, literally anything can become demonized.

S: You could spin anything either way.

CH: Spin radius is infinite for any of this stuff. And so, I mean, it's sad that that's a constraint that we have to work with. But the stick, once there's a carrot, then you don't have to deal with the spin radius in the same way, right?

Electric vehicles[edit]

S: And then we get to talk about electric vehicles, right, which I'm a big fan of. And, of course, it has to work hand in hand with the decarbonizing our electricity grid. But I always like the whole, on the spin thing, when people say, oh, there's all these problems with electric vehicles. Like, yeah, there's also all kinds of problems with gasoline vehicles, too. You're just trading one set of problems for another. And it's like, imagine if 100 years ago, 120 years ago, electric vehicles took over before gasoline.

B: They could have.

S: And they could have.

B: It was possible.

S: And then we were trying to introduce gasoline vehicles now. You mean to tell me that we're going to be driving around with gallons of explosive chemicals in a big tank? Imagine how easy it would be to fear monger about driving around with the-

B: Imagine the pollution that they put out.

S: It's loud, it's noisy, it's going to be cranking out pollution into the city. Imagine how polluted the cities are going to be. It's like, yeah, that's our reality now. But we take it for granted because we've been living it for the last 100 years. But the other point I was going to make is that, so what policies affect electric vehicles? I'm actually not a fan of the subsidies because I don't think they work. What happened was the moment the government said, we're going to give you $7,500 to buy-

CH: The company's made $7,500.

S: And there's also concern that it's like, OK, well, you're basically giving a kickback to, well, the rich early adopters. And then I'm also reading like people, economists brought up the point that actually most electric vehicle sales are going to be in the secondary market and you're giving no kickback for that. You should be giving people money for buying used electric vehicles because that's the down market. That's the people who are going to be spending $20,000 on electric vehicles. But even so, I think far better than that, again, like when the technology gets to the point that it's better, people will do it. And I think we're there. But the main reason, the number one reason that people give for like being hesitant about buying EVs is range anxiety. How can we deal with range anxiety? Build recharging stations. This is just an infrastructure investment. We invest in recharging stations and that effectively deals with the range anxiety. People don't want to get stuck somewhere without a place to recharge. That's the bottom line. And they hear nightmare stories about that happening. Not if you want to Tesla.

J: Just a matter of time.

S: Yeah.

J: That problem will be solved.

S: Yes, but what was my premise? It's all a matter of time, but we want to make it happen faster. If we want to make it happen faster, build those fricking recharge. That will make it happen a lot faster. All right. There's tons of other things too. Relaying the most obvious things. When I say there are political solutions, that's what we're talking about. There are common sense, effective, public policies that will accelerate our transition to a green, low carbon economy. And we just have to vote for people who will do it. Yep. Right?


S: Yeah. All right.

J: I love everything that you just talked about. I love that. I love that angle. It's like gaming the system almost. You know what I mean?

S: We were asked. That's the answer. All right. Let's move on with Science or Fiction.


Science or Fiction (1:43:23)[edit]

Theme: Fan conventions Item #1: The largest fan convention in the world is the Comiket, held in Tokyo, Japan, and primarily dedicated to the sale of self-published manga, with a total of 750,000 attendees in 2019.[5]
Item #2: The first event considered to be a fan convention was held in 1862 in London, celebrating the works of Charles Dickens, including attendees dressing as their favorite Dickens character.[6]
Item #3: The longest running convention in the world is PhilCon, the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference, held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.** [7]

** per Wikipedia: "Philcon is claimed to be the world's first science fiction convention"; whether it is the longest running convention of any kind requires additional consideration.

Answer Item
Fiction First con, Dickens celebration
Science Largest con, 750K attendees
Longest con, Cherry Hill, NJ
Host Result
Steve sweep
Rogue Guess
Largest con, 750K attendees
Largest con, 750K attendees
Largest con, 750K attendees
Largest con, 750K attendees
First con, Dickens celebration

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

S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts, two real and one fake, and then I challenge my panel of experts on which one is the fake. We have a theme this week. So we are recording this at DragonCon. In past years, I've had, at DragonCon, for Science or Fiction, I've had Dragons as a theme; I've had Atlanta as a theme; I've had Georgia as a theme[link needed]. The theme for this show—

E: —The universe!

S: No.

S: —is conventions (Rogues approve)... specifically fan conventions.

B: Makes sense.

J: Let's do it.

S: All right. Here we go. The largest fan convention in the world is the Comiket, that's C-O-M-I-K-E-T, held in Japan and is primarily dedicated to self-published manga with a total of 750,000 attendees in 2019.

B: Wow.

S: Item number two.

CH: That's a lot of manga.

S: The first event considered to be a fan convention was held in 1862 in London, celebrating the works of Charles Dickens, including attendees dressing as their favorite Dickens character.

J: I'd like to think that's true.

S: Item number three. The longest-running convention in the world is PhilCon, the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, even though it's the PhilCon. I didn't say what year that was founded. That was founded in 1936, except for back, I'll tell you.

CH: For that fictional item, yes.

B: PhilCon?

S: 1936. PhilCon. Continuously running fan convention. I'm going to start with you this time, Christian. They are there for your reference.

Christan's Response[edit]

CH: Well, I have to admit, when I was on a podcast some time back in science fiction, it was a robot-themed one, and I got it wrong, and I was fired, so a little update on that.

E: I think we all got it wrong.

CH: Yeah, but you're still employed by this.

J: Most people don't know Christian moved into my basement.

CH: Yeah.

J: It's a little awkward.

CH: That's right.

E: You love the robot on two legs. It's doing great.

CH: Number one, so we have this largest fan convention in the world in Tokyo, Japan. I believe everything about Japan in the science fiction ones. That's probably true. The first fan event about Charles Dickens, I mean, that just seems so plausible, and you have that devilish look in your eyes, Steve.

S: Don't try to read me.

B: He's unreadable, so he's not consistent with any of those tests.

CH: The PhilCon being held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, I'm trying to think, where is the angle where something could be a fiction on this? You could have the attendees in Japan being 700, being more or fewer. I'm going to go with the Japan one being false, on the guess that you somehow fudged the attendees by a factor of 10 somehow.

S: All right, Bob?

Bob's Response[edit]

B: Yeah, 750. I remember looking up years ago, biggest conventions, and my memory's not going anywhere near three quarters of a million. That's just such a gargantuan number. What's DragonCon? Numbers I've heard, 100,000, but more than 100,000. I mean, seven times that. How many people can even fit in Tokyo? You can't even fit a million?

CH: Yeah, I'm reconsidering my answer.

B: An influx of 750,000 people? What you're reconsidering it?

CH: I have no idea. Go on. Don't let me influence you, Bob.

B: Too late. Dickens, I just want to believe that, and maybe that's your angle all along. You know we're going to want to believe that one. That one's just too awesome. PhilCon, I don't know. I think I'm going to go with Christian on Tokyo, and 750 seems just too high. I'm thinking 400, 300. Not 750.

S: OK, Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: That's too fucking high. That's a quote from a movie. Anybody names that quote.

S: That's too fucking high.

E: Do I count? Because I know the movie.

J: No, I know you know.

S: Anyone?

J: Kurt Russell movie.

S: He says the lines. Or early 80s.

E: It was a 1980 movie.

B: Which one?

J: It's called Used Cars.

S: Used Cars.

B: Oh my God. Used Cars. Wow.

J: All right. I mean, look.

E: Nobody knows.

J: The obvious thing here, I'm looking at these three, and I only see this number, 750,000 people. I don't possibly understand how any city could handle that, the influx. It'd have to be a city to have that many people.

E: It says Tokyo.

J: Yeah, right? So I just can't imagine that unless everybody that lives in Tokyo already is like, yeah, we're doing this. I don't know. The Charles Dickens one. Oh my God. How wonderful is that? It's got to be true. I absolutely adore the idea that they were dressing up back then by cosplay back in the late 1800s. How cool is that? A science fiction conference that I've never heard of. I'm doubting whether PhilCon even exists because I've never heard of it. How could I not? It's in New Jersey. I'm like a state away. You know what I mean? How could I not know about PhilCon? I'm going to go with the boys because I think that 750,000 number, it just can't be.

CH: The only alternative hypothesis I could think is that it's not Charles Dickens. It's like Edgar Allan Poe, and they all dress as ravens. It's like a different author or something like that. What you got, Evan?

B: Which would be cool.

S: Evan?

Evan's Response[edit]

J: You got to go with this.

B: Join us.

E: I'll stay with the team.

B: Join us.

CH: All right.

S: We're going to do the audience.

Audience's Response[edit]

S: We're going to do the single clap when I get here.

E: We didn't get it before.

S: That's all right. If you think that the Comiket, 750,000 people, is the fiction clap. (few claps) If you think that Charles Dickens is the fiction clap. (a lot of claps)

B: Aaaa!

S: If you think that the longest running convention in the world is Phil Conn is the fiction clap. (a lot of claps)

E: What do they know? They didn't even know what Used Cars was.

S: Two, three, one is what I'm hearing. Majority for two, then three, then one. You guys all went with one. We'll take them in reverse order. We'll start with three.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: The longest running convention in the world is PhilCon, the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I threw in that that was founded in 1936. The panel all thinks this one is science. Maybe, what, half the audience thinks this one is science.

B: Yeah, a little less.

S: A little bit less. And this one is?

B: Say it.

S: Science. This is science.

J: Has anyone ever been? See? None of us heard of it.

S: Well, I don't know why it's held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and not Philadelphia.

CH: It's just some guy's basement and he's like, he calls it a con.

J: It's Phil's team.

S: Phil, yeah.

(audience member) They have to change venues at some point.

S: I'm sure there's an interesting historical reason for why that's happening. I didn't have time to figure out. But yeah, so this was started as a science fiction, like literature convention and gives awards for science fiction, et cetera. And like all conventions, they tend to the scope expands over time. But this is still pretty much a dedicated science fiction convention.

J: Cool.

S: Yeah, pretty cool. All right. Let's go back to number two.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: The first event considered to be a fan convention was held in 1862 in London celebrating the works of Charles Dickens, including attendees dressing as their favorite Dickens character. The majority of the audience think this one is the fiction. The entire panel thinks this one is science. And this one is the fiction. (applause) Good job, audience. It does sound too good to be true. It is awesome.

B: Is it the date?

S: The first start, so the first convention was PhilCon. It was actually the first recognized fan convention. There were no fan conventions before that. They just didn't do that sort of thing. And I was trying to figure out how I was going to make the fiction. And I came up with this idea. I'll just make a fake convention like in the 1800s or something. So my first choice was actually H.G. Wells.

CH: Smart move. It's too close to the time.

S: A little too close. It was like 1890. It would have been like close to 1900, early 1900s. I thought it was a little too close. But that would have made sense. Prolific writer, science fiction writer. So then what would Charles Dickens? And there's actually, it's a very plausible sounding kind of fiction. I don't know how much you know about Charles Dickens, but he was fabulously popular in his own lifetime. It's not just looking back like always a classic literary. He was a popular writer. And in fact, he serialized his novels. He would publish them one chapter at a time. And they would spread throughout the world, like the latest episode of Star Wars or whatever.

B: Game of Thrones.

S: It was a huge event when another chapter came out. And there was a whole secondary market of selling those chapters, et cetera.

J: That's cool.

S: And when the boat was coming over from England into New York Harbor, people would be shouting at the people on the boat, did this character die in the next chapter? This is the things that happened.

B: Wow. Cool.

S: And in fact, he would, Dickens listened to the feedback.

B: And adjusted his story?

S: His story. This character's a little bit too unlikable. I overdid it. I got to pull him back a little bit and make it a little bit more likeable.

B: Interesting.

S: He would tweak, so he used crowdsourcing to tweak his stories.

J: But now you made us depressed that that didn't happen.

S: So that's why I think Charles Darwin was a very plausible person to make it. Charles Dickens was a very plausible...

CH: People dressed as Dodos for the Darwin convention.

S: Charles Dickens was a very plausible person to make this fiction out.

J: Look, I know you swept us, you don't have to rub it in.

S: Yes, I do. Remember, I don't rub it in enough.

CH: I'm glad I got to experience a whole cloth fabrication science or fiction. That's great.

S: All right.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: So the largest fan convention in the world is the Comiket held in Tokyo, Japan. It was primarily dedicated to self-published manga.

B: I still don't believe it.

S: A total of 750,000 attendees in 2019 is science. That is real.

B: That's nuts.

S: Now, I had to do a lot of research on this because a lot of sources had different answers. They just had different lists. You know what I mean? It kind of depends on what your definition of a con is. But this was definitely a consensus. I guess this is definitely a fan con. Even though this was primarily about self-published manga, I think the thing you're missing is that's a huge market in Japan. There is a huge market for self-published manga.

B: I believe it but 750?

S: Because how else are you going to get them? You've got to go to the con and buy it from the author because they're not going to be in a bookstore. Right?

B: Download it.

S: I mean, I guess they'd say it online, but they want the physical thing. That's part of the culture.

J: Did you dig deep enough to answer this question? How many people are coming from outside of Tokyo going into the city?

S: Oh, it's a huge Japan-wide event. And people do come in costumes. Again, it is turned into a much broader kind of Dragon Con-like event. But the core and the reason why it attracts so many people, people are there to trade manga. And that's like a trade convention as much as anything else.

(audience member) How long is the line to get in the vendor?

S: Oh, yeah, I get it. You see the pictures of it.

B: You've got to wait four days.

S: The statistic is from 2019 because of the pandemic.

E: You're right. Pandemic.

S: That was the peak. It plummeted after the pandemic and hasn't recovered yet. It will. It'll get there.

B: It's only half a million now.

J: At least we crashed and burned together, guys.

S: You did.

B: Well, that's the point.

S: So for those of you who thought this was the fiction, why did you think it was the fiction?

(audience member) Too perfect.

S: It was too perfect.

(audience member) The costumes was the detail that did it.

S: Yeah, I had to throw that in. I had to throw that in just to I usually try to make sure there's something in there that is your clue that this is.

(audience member) Never heard of it before.

S: Yeah, right. Just maybe.

B: He never puts clues in.

S: I always give you something.

B: Oh, no, you don't.

(audience member) I thought it would have been Arthur Conan Doyle.

S: Yeah, it could have been Arthur Conan Doyle. I would have been going back a little bit too far. But I guess they could have had a Shakespeare convention later, not in real time.

(audience member) Not while he was alive.

S: Yeah, not while he was alive, but like in the 1890s or 1880s.

J: See how he's extending the whole thing here?

S: This is my thought process about how I make up the...

CH: The classic literature convention cinematic universe is what we're building.

S: Yes, that's right.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:55:50)[edit]

The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking – it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before.

 – Carl Sagan (1934-1996), American astronomer 

S: Okay, Evan, bring us out with a quote.

J: The quote is, Jesus, Steve, you beat us all. Evan Bernstein.

E: This is one of these quotes that is it's decades old, but it's for all times. "The dangers of not thinking critically are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking. It's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it never was before." Carl Sagan. (applause)

J: Yeah.

B: Wow.

S: And it is a timeless quote. But part of the reason why it's timeless is because credulous thinking is always dangerous. And I think it's always going to be getting worse in terms of the stakes are always going to get higher as technology and everything advances. We live in an increasingly information driven society. And I made this point on one of my panels, the most important skill to have today is critical thinking. It's the ability to sort through this avalanche of information that we're all trying to dig out from under and make some kind of common sense decisions about what's likely to be true and what's likely to be bullshit. And the stakes are getting higher. It's not just about whether or not you believe in ghosts or not. Who cares? But it's about you're making life decisions. We're making societal decisions based upon what information you trust, what information you don't trust. And in 30 years, we'll look back and they'll think, the quotes we're saying today.

E: More relevant in 30 years.

S:Yeah, it'll be even more relevant in 30 years.

J: We're going to look back in 30 years and think that these were simple times.

S: These were the gold ages.

B: We're going to look back in 30 years and we'll be dead. What are you talking about, 30?

E: Yeah, but Bob's life will be recorded entirely. We'll look back at what Bob was doing.

Robotics in 30 years, Signoff (1:57:36)[edit]

J: Real quick, Christian, first thing that comes to mind, where will robotics be in 30 years? What will be the coolest robot that we have?

E: The President.

CH: I think that hopefully by then we've worked more robots into, at the very least, like walking around in factories and stuff like that. Not to make this really, I'm going to make this really quick thing slightly long. That the trick is going to be getting robots out of where things are well controlled to where things are less well controlled. They're in factories because they're super well controlled. Hopefully we get, before we get robots everywhere, we get autonomous cars. Why? Because there's at least rules to driving. There aren't rules to bumping around in your kitchen with your things. I would hope that the robots we see are autonomous cars, but it's a challenging one, so I hope we get those.

S: Roads are like a semi-controlled.

CH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. About 50-50.

B: Maybe in the future a robot would have gotten us our water instead of Jay.

(audience member) Maybe Jay's a robot.

J: I'm an Android.

S: Well, Christian, thank you so much.

CH: Thank you very much for having me. (applause)

S: And thanks to our live audience for joining us.

E: Yes, thank you.

B: Thanks, everybody. (applause) I've had a good time.

S: Thanks, as always, to my panel.

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

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[8]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description


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