SGU Episode 962

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SGU Episode 962
December 16th 2023
962 Moon NASA Apollo Concept.jpg

"The moon is in a new epoch, researchers have said: the lunar Anthropocene." [1]

SGU 961                      SGU 963

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Guest

Jessica McCabe,
American YouTube personality

Quote of the Week

I'd rather live in a world where I get to love the moon than in one where I don't, even if the moon won't return the feeling.

Alex London, American writer

Links
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, Evan's bicep recovery[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 Wednesday, December 13th, 2023, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Hello, everyone.

S: So, Evan, how is your left bicep?

E: Oh, thank you for remembering that it was my left arm, and thank you also for remembering that it was my bicep.

S: You're welcome.

E: That means you were paying attention to when I spoke about it. I'm getting weepy. I am eight days removed from the surgery, and I went back for my first post-op visit to the surgeon yesterday, and he said everything seems normal.

S: Good.

E: So, that's what I'm basing it on. If he says things are okay, I'm okay. When he took x-rays of my arm, I was able to see the hardware that now resides in my forearm.

S: Cool.

E: Yep. They call it a button, which is, I don't know, like a...

S: Button?

E: Well, yeah, but not a circular button that you sew on to clothes. It's kind of, it's almost long, like almost a little piece of candy, but has two holes in it. That's where they pull in the tendons through, and on the other side, they fasten it with, I know there's a plastic screw involved, and I think there's one other piece of plastic in there that kind of tightens everything down.

S: Yeah, that makes sense.

J: Does your arm feel weird?

E: It anchors it.

S: It's got to fit through the hole and then open up, so it can't be a circle. That doesn't make any sense.

J: Does it feel weird?

E: It only feels weird in the sense that it's very tender at the points of the two incisions that were made in my arm, so where the operation is, and I'm also, now my bicep is starting to, it's very sore from all of this, I don't know, trauma, and you consider it? Is it considered trauma?

J: Yeah, hell yeah.

E: I'm not supposed to be doing anything to ignite or fire the motion of the bicep actively. Passively, I can do it, meaning I can take my other hand and lift my hand up into a position, but I can't just do my left arm and lift it up on my own. That would be actively doing it. I guess until I start my physical therapy, which will be later next week, after they take the stitches out, and I'll be in physical therapy for, they estimate, five weeks, two to three times a week.

S: And when are you back to 100%, like you don't have to restrict your activity at all?

E: Three months will be around the time.

S: That's not bad.

E: It could be as long as four. Right? Yeah, not as bad as some other injuries that, six months, nine months, whatever.

B: Or is it 105%?

J: So Ev, is it safe to say that next time you're at a concert, if someone's falling, you're just going to let them hit the deck? (laughter)

S: Sorry, buddy, you're on your own.

E: Learned my lesson a long time ago. How can you not think twice about it, Jay, in all seriousness? I will need to be more protective, certainly, of that arm going forward. And I'll probably start to limit my participation in these concerts. You know, Rachel's also getting older, and she can kind of handle herself now.

B: So Evan, you were out last week, because Steve and I had a quick fun back and forth about the effect of attaching the bicep at a different point on the forearm. I said that you would get stronger the further up the arm the attachment point is. Steve said that evolution would have optimized the attachment of the bicep, implying to me that you really wouldn't get stronger. Is that a fair representation, Steve?

S: I said it wouldn't necessarily make the arm stronger. I said when your surgeon said it would make it stronger, he was talking about the connection, not the strength of the bicep.

B: But I did some research to go down just a couple of onion layers, and it was fascinating. And I think we were both kind of right. So bicep attachment for the forearm is optimized. Yes, it is optimized, but not for strength. It's optimized for a balance between strength and range of motion. Think about it. If you move the attachment up the arm, you would get stronger, but your range of motion decreases. Right?

E: Oh, gosh, yeah.

B: Now, this is because this is an attribute of a third-class lever, which is what the bicep is part of. So it's fascinating. One disadvantage of such a lever is that in this case, the bicep is employing a force far greater than the weight. Get this. If you lift a 40-pound dumbbell, your bicep could actually be using 360 pounds of force to move that 40-pound dumbbell, which surprised the hell out of me because I thought that it would almost be reversed in a sense. But it's true. For this kind of lever, that's one of the disadvantages, that the power, whatever is employing the force is using a lot of force to move a much, much smaller weight. But the benefit here, though, is that the bicep contracts a little, and the weight moves a relatively large distance. That's one of the key things about the third-class lever bicep is that the bicep doesn't have to move much. So what? So it's using a lot of force, but so what? It's still a little distance, and it just contracts a little bit, and it moves your arm a lot, which is key. So that was really interesting to do a little bit of a deep dive into that.

S: Also, Bob, you know that the bicep is not the strongest flexor of the elbow. It's the brachialis muscle, which is a deeper and stronger muscle.

J: Deeper.

B: So where is that? I mean, I've seen, is this to the side of the conventional biceps, or is it buried within?

S: It's deeper. It's deeper, yeah. So the bicep mainly stabilizes everything so that the brachialis can do the heavy lifting.

B: That's cool. That's fascinating.

E: Like an outer shell?

S: That's why Evan didn't lose that much of his flexion when his bicep detaches, because the brachialis was still doing the heavy lifting.

E: Thank goodness. What if I had a burst brachialis?

S: That would be worse, probably.

E: That would sound a lot worse.

C: Would your arm just be hanging at your side

E: I don't know. I probably wouldn't have been able to move it the way I was able to before the surgery.

S: Yeah. It's really impairing. If your bicep's not working, if your arm flexion isn't working, then you can't bring your hand to your face. Think about that. That's very impairing.

B: That's messed up. And some descriptions I read said that some people opt to not have the surgery. And I'm like, what?

E: Yeah.

B: But there are certain cases, especially if you're really elderly and you really can't go into the knife or whatever.

S: Not a surgical risk. Yeah.

B: That's nasty, man. Wow.

E: Yeah. There was never a question that I was going to want this repaired as fast as possible.

B: Yeah. If you wait too long, I think you really couldn't do the surgery because it will—

E: It becomes more complicated. There are more complications arise as a result. So that's why they—what was the term they used? A stat, right, Steve?

B: Yes.

S: Right away.

B: Much schnell.

Coyote follow-up (6:46)[edit]

S: So I have a quick follow-up from last week. I mentioned that I saw a broad daylight coyote sighting in my backyard last week. And since then, we've seen him again. So this, we're probably in his range, he wasn't just passing through.

E: Photographs? Do you have photographs?

S: We have photos, they're not good because they're like from inside, trying to like creep out onto the deck to get a good picture of him and he runs off. Adequate photographic evidence that you could make a positive identification that it is absolutely a coyote. Now a couple of people wrote in to say that was probably a "coy wolf", which is a coyote-wolf hybrid. But, which is true, but for clarification, it's the technical term actually, the preferred scientific term is Eastern coyote. And although it is also called the coy wolf, but that's more of a colloquial term. So it's still accurate to call it a coyote, it's an Eastern coyote. Now what we think of as a coyote is actually a Western coyote. And where on the East Coast, farming and everything, we killed off all the wolves, right? And so that created a predator vacuum along the Eastern seaboard of the United States. And so that was gradually filled in by the Western coyote migrating eastward. And when it did, it along the way it interbred extensively with both wolves and domesticated dogs. So now we have essentially a population of a different breed of Eastern coyote that have substantial dog and wolf genetic material.

E: Ooh, genetically robust.

S: So, and if you look at the pictures side by side, and definitely what we saw was 100% an Eastern coyote. I mean, it was really no mistaking it. It has bigger back legs, shorter ears, a bigger jaw. So it looks more like a wolf than a Western coyote does. But that's basically the coyotes we have in Connecticut, is the Eastern coyote, which it has a lot of wolf blood in it.

C: Are they just not that common to see on the East coast? Like, are their numbers lower or are they-

S: No, their numbers are huge and increasing. So like everything, like all the wild predators, they're surging and they're very adaptable. You know, they're adaptable to urban, suburban, rural environments. But I just think they are more corpuscular and nocturnal in here, so-

C: And they probably don't have to be as urbanized. Like our coyotes in LA are so urbanized, it's not good for them. But like, I mean, if I look out my window right now, I feel like there's a 10% chance I'll see a coyote walking by. Like they're so common here and they're walking around apartment complexes and stuff.

B: They're not that common here in terms of like visually seeing them.

E: What's their food source?

S: So they eat a lot of rodents, which is probably why-

C: Chihuahuas.

S: They're sniffing around.

E: Well, I'm just gonna say cats and things.

S: Yeah, it's small animals, rabbits, rodents, small birds, you know.

C: Which is why they're really susceptible to rodenticide poisoning. So if you poison, it's really dangerous to poison rats on your property. If you put out rat poison, you are feeding everything up the food chain and rodenticide concentrates. So the animal that eats the animal that was poisoned gets a higher dose. It's like that much more dangerous.

B: Yeah, so you're killing other animals, birds, I mean, just don't-

C: Yeah, you're killing a lot of things and it's a pretty brutal death.

E: I've never used it in my life.

C: Yeah, it's a common way for mountain lions out here to die, sadly. Like mountain lions, and they get this horrible case of mange and like all of these, they get organ failure. They stay alive for quite a while after they've been poisoned.

E: Painful?

C: Yeah, it's not okay.

B: Don't poison rats and don't use the damn sticky paper. That's cruel as hell.

C: Yeah, trap them.

E: Like everything else, you just pour things into the ground, it winds up in the water system.

B: Break their neck instantly or do one of those bucket collection things.

S: And we're having a year with very low squirrel population this year, which I don't know if that's related at all to the coyote surge, but usually it has to do with the acorn yield. You know what I mean? How wet the previous season was and how many acorns there were, but coyotes may be going farther and farther afield of the normal territory, looking for things to eat.

B: So wolves, coyotes, and dogs are so genetically similar that they can produce-

S: Yep, they're the same species.

B: They can reproduce. They can produce young that is fertile.

C: Yeah, I mean, they're definitely the same genus. They're all canis, right?

S: Yes.

C: And then there's like lupus, but then it's like lupus domestica. Yeah, it's complicated the way they're specied out.

S: But they can interbreed. Yeah, absolutely.

J: Wolfie. (laughter)

Special Discussion: Phone scams follow-up (11:30)[edit]

S: All right, let me ask you guys a question. So I got a call today, tell me what you guys think about this. And it calls from my bank. You know, they say, hi, is this so-and-so?

J: That's not your bank.

S: Hang on. We have some suspicious activity on your account. We'd like to double check with you. So they say, did you make a deposit of this amount in the name of this person? Never heard of it. I said, nope. One was like for $900. There's also a $1,500 withdrawal from some other person. Like, nope, that wasn't me either. And then they said, and somebody used your phone number in order to make a new bank account.

B: Oh.

S: And did you do that? I said, no. They said, okay, easy enough. We can cancel that bank account. Give me your phone. But the two withdrawals were made with Zelle. Do any of you guys use Zelle?

C: Yeah.

J: I don't use it.

E: Have I used Zelle?

S: It's a peer-to-peer bank-to-bank kind of money transfer thing, right?

C: My banking app, yeah, has Zelle already integrated into it. So I use it when I need to. But I also use Venmo and PayPal.

S: Yeah, so it's convenient. Yeah, I don't use it to buy stuff, but I use it to transfer money to people I know, you know? So anyways, okay, well, we have to cancel these two withdrawals. So I'm gonna transfer you now to a Zelle representative, and they will walk you through the process of getting reimbursed for these two withdrawals.

J: I still don't believe any of this.

B: Ding, ding, ding.

E: What? Yeah, there it is. They lost you there.

S: I didn't believe it from the get-go.

B: Oh, yeah, you got in the skeptical.

E: You just wanted to see how far they were gonna take you on the ride.

S: I just wanted to go on the ride and see exactly where was the scam. Meanwhile, I go up to my computer and pull up my account, right?

E: Yeah, you wanna make sure that.

S: So the guy, again, goes through the whole thing. He gave me a case number, right? So I write down the case number. Then I go to the Zelle guy, give him the case number. And then he's like, okay he tells me about the two transactions. So I'm gonna tell you how, he said because the transactions have already gone through, but they're being evaluated, right? They're being reviewed. So we have time, we can just cancel them. But of course, once they get approved, then it's done, and you may not get the money back. So we have to do, we have to see if we can cancel this right now.

B: A sense of urgency.

S: Yeah, so he-

B: Ding, ding.

S: He asked me to open up the Zelle app, which I did, and.

B: Oh, okay, you have it on your website?

S: I opened it up on my computer and on my smartphone. And then he said, you can look at the activity, which I did, there was nothing there. I said, well, there's no activity. That's because it's under review. It's like, okay. Then I looked at my bank account, and there was no pending transactions.

B: No pending, yep.

S: Which he said, well, that's because it's under review, which is not true.

B: That's bullshit, yeah.

S: When they're pending, they're still shown there as pending. So again, I knew it was BS, but I was just gathering data at this point. So I'm just trying to figure out, okay, at what point is he gonna ask me to do something I shouldn't do?

E: Or reveal the information.

J: What was it? He wanted you to.

E: He has to get some piece of information out of you.

S: No, he was not looking for information, and in fact, he said multiple times, which is part of the scam, I'm not gonna ask you for any personal or identifying information, no information about your account or anything.

J: He's gonna want you to send money somewhere.

S: Exactly. So, but listen to this.

E: That's old school.

S: I know, yeah, but listen. So he said, all right. So you need to send a request to have those payments stopped. So open up the, so now go into the main page of your application, and you'll see three buttons there, like send, request, and split. Hit the send button, and then, right? So I'm gonna hit the send button to send him a request to stop payment on the withdrawal, but the send button is to send money, right? It says, send money, you know? And then what he was gonna do is have me hit the send button and then enter in the case number.

C: Oh no!

S: Right? And then they were gonna use that.

C: How long was the case number?

S: So then they could use that. Somehow, they could either connect to my bank through Zelle, and now they could just drain it out or whatever.

C: Or the case number is like thousands of dollars.

E: Yeah, what's the case number like?

C: Like how many digits?

E: Like one, two, zero, zero, zero, zero.

S: No, no, no, it was a very long number. It's not an amount, but it's, it definitely was a hack, right? So I start talking, I say, well, first of all, I'm not gonna do that. I'm not gonna hit the send button because it says send money. The guy's like trying to explain it to me, and I'm just wondering, how long am I gonna string this guy along?

E: How much time do you have? You're a busy man. Basically pulling a Monty Python routine on him at this point in time.

B: Also, Steve, while you're messing with him, he's not messing with anybody else.

S: Yeah, right.

B: That's always a good argument.

S: Right, and he's like, I understand people, for the first time, they think it's weird. I understand why you're skeptical, blah, blah. First of all, he's being way too reasonable and way too accommodating. If this was an actual person trying to walk me through this, and I was being this obstructionist, plus I started getting increasingly asshole-ish along the way, you know what I mean? He had way too much patience for the whole thing. He wanted to keep me there as long as possible to see if he could talk me through this thing. Then he was gonna transfer me back to the other guys if that would solve anything. So I said, listen, I'm just gonna call Zelle customer service. And they're like, well, you didn't want that to happen, right, because.

E: No, don't do that.

S: But eventually I just had to hang up on them. I think he transferred me back, and then I just hung up on him at that point. Yeah, but so I looked it up.

B: How do they sleep at night, man, jeez.

S: I know, they're scumbags. Con artists are total scumbags. I looked up just Zelle fraud and Zelle scams, and they're actually increasing significantly because Zelle is becoming the number one platform for bank-to-bank transfer of money, so of course then it gets targeted. And there's a lot of different scams you really gotta keep an eye out for. But this was a tricky one. I mean, again, I knew right away that this was a scam. So the bottom line is, if anybody contacts you, just, whatever, it's okay, if they give you information, you can take down that information. But then you're done, that's it. Do not do anything they tell you to do. Do not click any link. Do not give them any information.

J: Don't call back a number they give you.

S: Don't call back a number they give you, right. Nothing comes of their contact to you. You have to hang up with them, and then you look up the number for customer service for your bank or for whatever, and you call them.

B: Yeah.

E: You initiate.

S: You have to initiate a verified call, a verified number.

E: Same with IRS.

S: Same with the IRS.

B: Yeah, so to keep it simple, if you get a call, that's a huge red flag.

S: It's a scam, it's a scam.

B: Assume it's a scam.

S: 100% you assume it's a scam, right.

B: No matter what, no matter how legit it sounds, if they call you, that's it. Your shield should be up.

C: Yeah, I had this really weird situation the other day, and I applied for health insurance through Covered California. And I think that they thought that I was applying for like Medi-Cal. So the department of like whatever health and human service, I don't know what it's called, but the California version of like whoever runs Medi-Cal had been like calling me multiple times. I just talked to a woman today and it was fine. Like she called and asked me your application says this. And I'm like, no, I don't want that. She's like, oh, okay. But she had called previously. It was the same or maybe it was the accent was similar. And literally was like, okay, I just need to confirm what's your social. And I was like, I'm not saying that on it. Like you called me.

E: Oh my God.

C: And she was like, oh, like she, and she seemed confused. And it was really strange because I don't think it was a scam. I actually think that because she was like, okay, fine. I'll just skip that. And she continued and she was looking at my application when she called me. But I'm like, how do you not know that you can't call somebody and ask them for their social security number? Like that's crazy, right?

S: Yeah.

E: It doesn't get more basic than that.

S: They should never ask you for any information like that. Any personal information if they initiate the call to you.

C: Nuts.

S: Again, no matter what they say, like you get called. Now I just hang up on everybody, to be honest.

C: Yeah, I do too. I almost never answer the phone.

S: Yeah, if you get called, like if I if it says possible scam, I just close it down. But sometimes you get, I have to answer the phone. If it's, it could be legitimate because I get on call all the time. So I answer it. First of all, if there's like a three second pause, I hang up.

B: Done, hang up, yep.

S: You missed your window. I'm sorry, you're a computer.

C: Yeah, it's doing that weird call relay.

B: If you hear that boop, that boop, that's another one. I hear that and it's all yours.

S: But then someone comes up and is like, hi, this is the whatever, the fireman's thing or whatever. I say, sorry, I don't have time. And I just hang up right away. But previously when I spoke to them, it's like they want you to give them your credit card information over the phone. It's like, no, dude, you called me. I'm not giving you, I'm just, it's not happening. I'm not giving you, just email me the thing and I'll, but then, of course, they don't want to do that because they know that your chances of you following through are minimal. But too bad, that's your problem. I'm not giving you any information over the phone. So, and then, of course half of them are scams. So you have to be careful about that. But even the ones that are legitimate, like.

C: They're not really because they're still soliciting.

S: Yeah, they're still soliciting. They may be legitimate solicitors, but even then, they're kind of scammy because they keep a lot of money for themselves and everything, but.

C: Yeah, the telemarketing, like, world is shady.

S: Just don't, just find your charities and give directly to them. Just, unfortunately, in this world, you just cannot respond if you are solicited, if you are called.

J: Even worse than that, Steve. If you get a phone call, it could be fake and it could be someone that you know.

C: Oh, right, because of AI?

J: Yes, yeah, because of AI programs, they do it, you know. We've talked about this before, but you gotta, like, start hardening yourself to that fact. Like, you need to.

E: And they're recording you, by the way. So they're taking your voice.

J: Yes, that's the other thing. Yeah, I know, but what can you do about that?

E: Well, not answer. That's the only, that winds up being the only answer.

J: I have a phone in my office that is our voiceover IP phone that we get for free at this point. I don't even know the phone number. It's just, it would be for, like, an emergency call out if, like, our cell phones didn't work or something like that, right? If anybody calls that number, I know it's a scam. So whenever that phone makes a list.

S: Right, there's no legitimate calls on that number.

J: I'm in my office, the phone rings, and I take them for the longest ride I possibly can. And it's so entertaining, because I know it's a scam from the word go, and I start off with a weird character, and I just.

E: Oh, you go jerky for a while.

J: Oh, I totally. They can get one of 20 different people.

E: It's good to have a cast.

J: And it is a lot of fun, because especially when you get really weird on them, and then they figure it out, and they get pissed. Like, they actually get pissed and start yelling at you. Like, ever have them yell at you?

E: How dare you waste my time scamming me?

J: Oh, they immediately start swearing at you.

E: That's a way to close a sale.

J: Yeah, it is crazy, though. Like this world has been, a percentage of people out there are making their living off of scamming people, and that number is going up as the years go by.

News Items[edit]

Human Brain Supercomputer (22:47)[edit]

S: All right, Jay, you're actually gonna start us off telling us about a human brain supercomputer. What's this about?

J: Something really cool is going on, and I'm surprised that I didn't hear anything about it until I stumbled on this post about the fact that researchers at the International Center for Neuromorphic Systems, ICNS, they're at Western Sydney University, they've announced the development of the world's first supercomputer named DeepSouth that's capable of simulating neural networks at the scale of the human brain. The system uses a neuromorphic approach to mimic biological processes. So a neuromorphic system, the goal is to replicate the way that biological brains process information. So unlike computers that we're all used to interacting with, like, their architectures are very linear and sequential in approach, a neuromorphic computer is inspired by the human brain's parallel processing. You know, it's highly interconnected structure of neurons and synapses in the brain. So this concept is applied to both the hardware and the software aspects of their system. There's something called spiking neurons. I'm sure Steve knows all about this, but let me tell you how I understand it. So in neuromorphic computing, artificial neurons are designed to emulate the way that a human brain's neurons have this spiking behavior. So this means that they communicate through what they're calling discrete bursts, and these are the spikes, right, of electrical activity. They have synaptic operations. These are similar to how synapses in the brain strengthen or weaken over time, right? What would you call that, Steve? The plasticity of the brain?

S: I mean, so yeah, it's learning, it's memory. That's just how the brain works.

J: So the neuromorphic system can adapt, and this ability is crucial for some of its tasks, such as like pattern recognition, of course, just straight-up learning, and eventually decision-making. It's very energy-efficient, and this is one of the aspects of this system that really I find really fascinating. So a human brain is very energy-efficient, and it has evolved to be that way. It can process vast amounts of information at the same time. A neuromorphic computing system, what they're trying to do is replicate this efficiency by allowing for high computational power with much lower energy consumption compared to traditional computers. I couldn't get much more details on that, but they're saying that its energy efficiency is extreme and somewhat mimicking the way that a human brain works. They have parallel processing and adaptability. So the neuromorphic system is designed to process information in a parallel distributed manner, this enhances their capability to handle complex and unstructured data, which you could kind of think of like complex and unstructured data could be like just perceiving the world around you. It's unpredictable, it's unstructured, it's just random things that we happen to see, hear, feel, touch, all that stuff. Our brain handles that really well, and they're trying to get their system to work the same way. Now, this approach also makes them more adaptable to changing inputs and conditions, similar to the way that our brains work. It efficiently emulates large networks of spiking neurons found in the human brain. Now, check this out, and this is something I think Bob will be interested in. So the human brain can do 228, approximately 228 trillion synaptic operations per second, and their system is doing something that is very similar to that, that quantity of operations per second, right? We're comparing apples to oranges here. We are comparing a true biological system with a mimicked biological system. But when they make the comparison, they're saying that it is operating at the power of a human brain. That is unbelievable.

B: That's the power.

J: There will be commercial availability, right? They wanna leverage what they've developed, their hardware and software. They're basically saying that they're gonna be doing continual improvements that will be independent of the team's own development efforts, which I find to be really interesting, right? So this system will be making improvements of its own as it functions. And again, now this is that black box thing that we talked about, the way that AI functions. There is a doing it on its own thing here, and I don't know if they could even put a person in the loop with the way that this thing is functioning. So this project, so the operational timeline here, Skynet, I mean, Deep South, it's called Deep South. It's scheduled to be operational by April 2024. We are talking about months. It's months away from them turning it on and it's supposed to be working where they want it to be. Some practical applications. Deep South, I'm sorry, that's the name if you haven't figured it out. They call it Deep South. Expected to revolutionize smart devices. It's gonna be making advancements in mobile phone technology, sensors, manufacturing and agriculture, large-scale AI applications that are both smarter and less power-hungry, biomedical, robotics, space exploration, like it's a huge list. It'll also enhance our understanding of both a healthy and a diseased human brain because they would be able to simulate a human brain inside of their system and then they can test against it, which we really, it's hard to do these types of things with a real human brain. You know how you can't cut into a human brain and see how it functions? Well, they would be able to apparently see how their brain functions, right? So if they set it up to work like a human brain, it might reveal things about the way our brains work, which is fascinating.

B: But it says here in this one article that 228 trillion synaptic operations per second they say it will be capable of that. That's not, that's no great shakes in terms of like pure operations per second. 228 trillion is really your phone is much worse than that. I don't know, a lot of it seems to be, this is what it will do. I want to know, what is it doing now? I mean, what is it done that they can say, look what it can do? You know, when it's all like, this is what it will do. It's like, yeah, okay.

S: Got to take it with a grain of salt. But I think the idea here, the overarching idea is focusing on computer designs that are not just getting more and more powerful, but that are getting more and more efficient, which is very important because a lot of energy is going into running our growing, massively growing computer infrastructure. And if we could like model the computer function over the efficiency of the human brain, over what evolution produced in order to get the same level of computing but with a dramatically reduced energy cost, that's a huge benefit.

J: You're totally right, Steve. I mean, ChatGPT, I was reading about its energy consumption, it's massive.

S: It's massive.

B: Yeah, I mean, as you go beyond exascale into like, say, zetascale supercomputing, the heat generated and the power consumption, it's like you need to run, you could run a small town or a bigger town on what that would consume. So that's really like, it's like a deal breaker. Like, oh, we can't make this because it would just melt. And it would just be way too much power.

S: And don't talk to me about crypto. Crypto is like crazy using, power hungry.

E: Oh my gosh, yeah. Mining.

Mini Announcement (30:32)[edit]

S: All right, we got a very tech-heavy show today. By the way, this is the last regular episode of the year that we're going to record.

B: Ah!

E: Oh my gosh, can't believ this.

S: Next week's show that is airing is one we recorded during NOTACON and we'll be recording the year-end review show. Remember to send us your picks for favorite news item, favorite segment, interview jackets of the year, skeptical hero of the year.

B: Please, please help us.

S: All of those things. But yeah, so let's move on to the next news item.

Sodium Ion Batteries (31:03)[edit]

S: What do you guys know about sodium ion batteries?

J: Not much.

E: Oh, sodium ion, not lithium ion.

S: Not lithium ion.

E: Sodium ion. Well, they're saltier.

J: Yes, more salt.

B: They've got hypertension?

J: They taste delicious.

S: If you look, if you imagine the periodic table, which I know you can all bring to mind mentally at will, right?

J: I'm seeing it right now.

E: High H and then some other things.

S: So lithium, the big advantage of lithium is that it's only three protons, right? So it's the lightest metal. What's right below lithium on the periodic table? Sodium. Yeah, so it's the next lightest in that group.

E: So alchemy tells us the only one removed and therefore I of newt will turn it in from lithium into sodium.

S: The reason why that's important is because if you're trying to pack a lot of energy with little weight a lot of energy, density and specific energy, you wanna use light elements, right? That's why lithium is probably the best we could do, in terms of energy density. But sodium's right there. So we may be seeing a sodium ion battery revolution coming. So let me tell you, basically using sodium instead of lithium as the charge carrier and the big advantage is that there's a lot more sodium than lithium in the world and mineable. So that's important and it's a lot less expensive. So even though lithium is better, we're running into limits of our lithium supply line and the meanwhile demand for large capacity batteries for cars and grid storage is going through the roof. So China is investing heavily in sodium ion batteries. Other countries and other places are investing in sodium ion battery research. They're already at the point where they're usable. I mean, the technology exists and works. They also don't use nickel and cobalt, which are also very expensive elements that end up getting mined in places like the Congo, which we don't want. And yeah, so freeing ourselves of the nickel cobalt supply constraints also is a good thing. So there's a huge advantage there. There was a recent study, and this is what prompted me to talk about it this week, looking at the resource efficiency, the climate efficiency of sodium ion batteries versus lithium ion batteries. Basically, the analysis they did was how much CO2 gets released in developing a certain amount of storage capacity with lithium ion versus sodium ion batteries. And they concluded with they're about the same, right? So they're in the ballpark, right? They're about the same. So it's not like it's gonna be any disadvantage for sodium. Now, the sodium ion batteries have one big disadvantage over lithium ion batteries when you do a side-to-side comparison. The lithium ion batteries have greater energy density, right? So the current kind of state of the art for lithium ion batteries that are in, electric vehicles, EVs, is 250 to 280 watt hours per kilogram. And the best sodium ion batteries that are out now are at about 150. So that's significantly less, but 150 is better than the low end of the lithium ion battery market, right? So there's a little bit of overlap. It's better than the low end, but the high end of the lithium ion battery is about 250, whereas the sodium, high end of the sodium is about 150. But sodium ion batteries have a lot of advantages other than the ones I've already talked about in terms of availability of raw materials. They charge faster. They have about three times the charge-discharge cycle lifespan.

B: Whoa.

S: They are operational over a, and stable over a longer range of temperatures.

B: Longer or wider?

S: Yeah, wider range of temperatures. And they have decreased, partly for that reason, they have a decreased tendency to catch fire. So they're safer.

B: Okay.

S: Right, so there's a lot of advantages there. So there's two ways, basically, I think that sodium ion batteries are going to get into the EV market. One, I think is obvious, for the basically small vehicle, moderate range end of the market. So if you want like a four-door small sedan for commuting to work, and you only need like a 200 mile range EV, you might as well use a sodium ion battery. You don't need a battery pack with a lithium ion. You can get by entirely with the sodium ion batteries. It's cheaper. I don't know if I mentioned that one before, right? It's cheaper, longer lifespan, safer, longer temperature range.

B: Faster discharge.

S: Faster recharge. So it's a better battery as long as you don't need that much range, or the vehicle itself is not that big. But there's another way that sodium ion batteries can be used in EVs. Can you guys guess what that is? It's really clever.

C: Oh, to charge your house?

S: No.

C: What do you mean?

S: In EVs, in battery electric vehicles.

C: No, I know, but EVs can be like backup chargers for your whole house.

B: Swappable, easier to be swapped.

S: No, not an interesting idea, but no. As a hybrid.

J: All right.

S: It's a hybrid. So think about this. Let's say you have one battery pack, and this is already being made. You have one battery pack with 20, 30% of its capacity is sodium ion batteries, and the other is lithium ion batteries. So that means for your day-to-day commute, 50 miles or less, 95% of your driving, you can entirely use the sodium ion battery part of the battery pack. So that's, again, the longer lifespan, faster charging, safer battery. But then you have the 200, 300 miles in a lithium ion part of the pack that you dip into whenever you take a long trip. So you use it much less, and therefore you extend the lifespan of the lithium ion battery pack.

B: Cool.

S: So you get the best of both worlds. It's really clever.

B: But it would be more expensive.

S: No, it's less expensive because the sodium ion part of it is cheaper than the lithium ion battery part of it.

B: Yeah, but you said the lithium ion would have a 200 to 300 mile range, which is kind of getting standard now, right?

S: Well, I'm saying for the same range, it's cheaper.

B: Okay.

S: For the same range, it'll be cheaper, have a longer lifespan, and have better performance, right? And you could also, for the same money, you can get a longer range, right? But you're only dipping into that range 5% of your drive time or whatever. Like certainly for my driving habits, we have an electric vehicle. Like our day-to-day use of that vehicle is less than like 50 miles, 60 miles a day, right? It's very little. And then maybe four times a year, we take it on a longer trip. And then there's some in-between stuff, if we're doing local trips, but beyond commuting. But most of the time, if we have like a 50, 60 mile range lithium-ion hybrid component to it, that would be 90% or more of our driving would be in that, would be using just that part of the battery, would rarely be dipping into the lithium-ion part of the battery. It's interesting. So I think we're gonna be seeing that for all of those reasons. It's cheaper, and you end up saving 20, 30% of the lithium that would otherwise go into that car. So that's a huge decrease. Yeah, that's big. That's a huge decrease on the demand for lithium, which we are, again, struggling to keep up with. Now, but I do wonder what will happen, because remember we talked earlier in the year about the Amprius battery system. Now, remember the Amprius battery has a 500 watt hour per kilogram. That's twice the energy density and specific energy of the current standard lithium-ion batteries. Because it uses the-

B: Yeah, but if you use it once, then it explodes.

S: No, it uses the silicon instead of the graphite, I believe anode, and it's more stable and everything, all that stuff. And they probably will be able to get even more energy density out of that. We probably won't see them in EVs for a couple of years, 2026, I think is the earliest. I don't know if that's gonna eclipse what I'm talking about here, or if we're gonna see hybrids with the silicon-

B: Triple hybrids.

S: Anode lithium-ion batteries with the sodium-ion battery. That's probably, that might be where things are headed. It's interesting. But either way, like we have so many options. The battery technology is taking off so wonderfully. It's really like by 2030, it's gonna be a different world in terms of EVs which is good news.

B: My next car will be electric.

Lab Grown Coffee (41:04)[edit]

S: All right, Bob, tell us about lab-grown coffee.

B: Guys, the sustainability of coffee cultivation, it's in a surprising amount of danger in the coming decades. Surprising to me anyway. But biotechnology and cellular agriculture could be just the jolt that coffee needs to keep everyone coffee-nated and caffeinated for as long as we want. Sorry, I went there.

E: Keep going, Bob. You mean as venti as they want.

B: So this was a study covering this topic was recently published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Steve, you can zone out for this one because you're a tea man. So as I said, coffee has a problem. In many ways, it's actually too awesome for its own good. It's one of the most consumed beverages in the world. Two billion cups of it consumed daily. Not only does coffee production have issues like water use, labor rights, deforestation, it also has a surprisingly huge carbon footprint. Steve, 33 to 126 billion kilograms of CO2 released per year. That's as much as entire countries like Denmark or the Philippines. So yeah, it's not good. Coffee is also one of its worst enemies actually because the climate change that it's helping to bring about is also having an ever-increasing disastrous impact on conventional coffee cultivation itself. This was surprising. One study I saw concluded that 60% of all wild coffee species are threatened with extinction. Some say that fully half of all coffee-growing land will not be arable by 2100. 2100, half, half coffee-growing land will basically be unusable for growing coffee. And it gets worse because while global production of coffee is predicted to be reduced by half in 30 years, many also predict that the demand for coffee will triple by 2050. So that sounds like a recipe for coffee riots to me. Forget about the bell riots, which is a very subtle DS9 reference, coffee riots in the future. So it sounds dire for the future of our beloved coffee in a lot of ways, but biotechnology may be able to come to the rescue by dealing with both problems actually at the same time. It could potentially increase coffee production and reduce its environmental impact at the same time. So how the hell is that gonna work? So the key here is a term that I think we'll be hearing more often if you haven't been hearing about it a lot already, cellular agriculture. You may have heard about that technology in the context of cultured meat, but cellular agriculture can produce plant commodities as well, like coffee. They've done it with tobacco. They've had some success with tobacco and they could do it now with coffee. This was first accomplished with coffee in 2021, but now the VTT Research Center of Finland has released the exact process for growing coffee biomass in bioreactors. So what they describe this in incredible detail in their paper, it's like a recipe in a lot of ways. Everything you need to know, every little tweak in order to make this happen. It was interesting and very complicated. So they described taking a fully developed Coffea arabica leaves and putting them through a very complex chemical process to create the cell cultures. Then they put the cell cultures in a wave bioreactor. Now a bioreactor is just essentially, it's a device essentially that is a super controlled environment that gives cells exactly what they need to create more of the cells basically. Then they then harvested the resulting coffee plant cell biomass, right? In the bioreactor, after a while, you've got this biomass of coffee plant cells, which they then freeze dried and then you can roast it under various conditions that they did in the study. And then this was then turned into coffee. They made it, they roasted it various ways, turned it into coffee, and then they taste tested the coffee against regular coffee using professional taste testers. And apparently the results were very encouraging. The trained professional tasters reported that the cultured coffee had similar levels of bitterness and sourness compared to typical coffee. One scientist said the new brews had more roasted, burned sugar and smoky smells. So it's very encouraging. I think the amount of caffeine, unfortunately, is not at conventional levels, if that is important to you. It's actually, it had much more caffeine than other similar bioreactor-based coffees, but it still was much less than typical for conventional bean-based coffee. So why did they do this? Why did they release all this detailed information, these recipes and the processes that were used? So here's a quote from Dr. Heiko Riescher, principal scientist and head of the plant biotechnology at VTT. They said, our wish is that the publication of this paper, which clearly demonstrates proof of concept for lab-grown coffee, nudges forward the creation of an ecosystem or a collective that has the resources, know-how and drive to pioneer an entirely new type of coffee. It's a huge challenge, but one VTT is prepared to take on with the right partners and experts. So basically they're looking for people, for companies, other experts to join forces with them and create, as they say, this entirely new type of coffee that could hopefully solve a lot of the problems because coffee's future does not look sustainable from so many important angles. So this may be very, very important if we wanna really have coffee available in the coming decades as much as it's available right now. So then what's next? Creating coffee in this way that they're doing it, that's like essentially untethered to the land and weather itself. It's very big, but turning this research into a good cup of Joe for the masses is more than that. You can't just like, okay, here we can create this biomass. We can create this roasted coffee, but it's much more than that. So I'll have another quote here from Dr. Reischer. They said, it's one thing to grow coffee cells in a bioreactor. Making it a commercially viable product is a whole other matter. The raw material derived from different cultivars and species, the soil, elevation, climate, even the year when the particular coffee beans were grown, plus the processes of roasting, fermentation, brewing are all factors that impact the end product. While lab-grown coffee is much more controlled, different approaches to, for example, roasting significantly impact the aroma profile of the coffee, which is the key consideration for the end consumer, the end customer, the consumer. So yeah, once you have this raw material coffee that comes out of the bioreactor, there's lots of other steps, right? I mean, Jay, you know this. There's so many things. If you just have the coffee beans, there's so many different things that you could do to it to impact the final product. So there's lots of other steps that they need to do. And not only do they need to create a good tasting drinkable coffee, they need to do it at scale to make this commercially viable. So that's not a no brainer. And they still say that they have a lot of work ahead of them, but it's encouraging. But this makes me happy, not just because this could be critical to the future sustainability of coffee production, also because in the apocalypse, coffee won't necessarily slowly disappear now as everyone drinks that last little bit that they can get their hands on, right? All you need is a bioreactor, a chemist, and some coffee leaves, and you could be making coffee for generations. So that's why this is really exciting. In the case of an apocalypse, coffee won't necessarily run out.

S: And you think that that bioreactor infrastructure will be more sustainable than just growing coffee?

B: Yes. Because if you're in Connecticut, you're not growing coffee, my friend. You're not growing coffee in Connecticut. But you got a bioreactor in your basement, you'll be growing coffee a lot better than you were growing bananas.

S: What about greenhouse coffee?

B: I know nothing about that, so I shall not comment on it.

S: All right.

E: Well, you can have a nice cup of Sanka, Bob.

B: Sanka.

S: All right, let's go on.

Lunar Anthropocene (49:34)[edit]

S: All right, Evan, tell us about the lunar Anthropocene.

E: Yes, wow, this is new news. How much do you know about the moon? Bob, don't answer that question because we only have 80 minutes on this podcast.

B: Four, four.

E: You guys know a few things about the moon. All right, let me put it to you this way. I assume that you know and I know the moon has phases. There are phases of the moon. And I assume that you know that the moon has sides, right? There's a dark side and a light side.

B: Inside and outside.

S: No, there's not a dark side and a light side. There's a far side and a near side.

B: Yes.

E: It's far side and near side? Those are the proper terms for that?

J: Yeah, it does get light. We just don't see it.

S: Yeah, because every part of the moon gets light and dark at some point.

E: Did you know that the moon has epochs? Did you know that?

C: What are you saying? How are you saying?

B: That don't surprise me.

C: Are you saying E-P-O-C-H?

E: Yes, I am.

C: Historical periods? Because it didn't have water and stuff at some point?

E: Yeah, but I mean, when you think about the moon, you don't think about the epochs of the moon. I mean, that never comes up in a conversation.

B: No, it doesn't. I've never really seen it.

E: Yeah, you're right. Never.

B: Doesn't surprise me, though.

E: In fact, it has periods also. So there are four lunar periods. And that covers the entirety of the moon's 4.46 billion years of existence. We are currently in the Copernican period, which dates from now back to about 1.1 billion years ago.

C: That's long.

E: And there are three other periods before that. Well, one of them, well, we're talking about the Copernican period because right now there are no epochs within the Copernican period. There are listed two epochs for the moon, which took place three periods ago, called the Imbrian period, which was from 3.16 billion years ago to 3.92 billion years ago. And within that, there were two epochs, the early Imbrian epoch and the late Imbrian epoch. Well, here we go. A few days ago, published in Nature Geoscience, researchers suggest a new epoch may have dawned quite recently, 1959, thanks to Luna 2. So again, this was published in Nature Geoscience. The title of the article or the item is called The Case for the Lunar Anthropocene. The authors are Justin Alan Holcomb, Rolf David Mandel, and Carl William Wegman. So Luna 2, on September 12, 1959, the USSR launched Luna 2, which was the second of a series of spacecraft launched in the direction of the moon. And on September 14th, the radio signals from Luna 2 abruptly ended, ceased. That indicated it impacted the moon, making it the first spacecraft to contact another solar system body. And of course, since then, in the following decades, we've had more than 100 other spacecraft that have touched the moon. And of course, the most famous of those were what? The Apollo lunar missions. Absolutely. So what's happening now, so we've had a footprint on the moon for a while now, well, in Earth years, at least a while. But anthropologists and geologists from the University of Kansas, they are saying that it's time to acknowledge that humans have become the dominant force shaping the moon's environment by declaring a new geological epoch for the moon, the lunar Anthropocene. So here's what the lead author, Justin Holcomb says, here's a quote from him. The idea is much the same as the discussion of the Anthropocene on Earth, the exploration of how much humans have impacted our planet. On the moon, we argue the lunar Anthropocene already has commenced, but we want to prevent massive damage or a delay of its recognition until we can measure a significant lunar halo caused by human activities, which would be too late. So they are hoping that this concept would help dispel myths that the moon is this unchanging environment that is barely impacted by humanity. It's only gonna get more extreme going forward, obviously. There are things on the moon, obviously. We've got flags and we've got golf balls and photographs and religious texts and-

B: And vehicles.

E: Yeah, and bags of excretia, as they put it. Scientific equipment and other objects. The authors also wrote that they know the moon does not have an atmosphere or magnetosphere, but it has a delicate exosphere composed of dust and gas, as well as ice inside permanently shadowed areas, and both are susceptible to exhaust gas propagation. Future missions must consider mitigating deleterious effects on lunar environments. So this is a call to attention for the vulnerability of lunar sites also, with historical and anthropological value. And right now, apparently there is no legal or policy protections against the disturbance of those sites. So there's several things going on, essentially, in this blanket of declaring this as a new epoch. I don't think it's unreasonable to take that position at all, right? I mean, this should be a discussion, and frankly, it should be a consideration no matter where we go, including outer space. I mean, obviously Mars is, you could also, I think, make the case that there may be, we started a new epoch on Mars at the same time. Mars may have a new epoch, I think would be the case here.

S: All right, well, thank you, Evan. Jay, it's Who's That Noisy time.

Who's That Noisy? (54:59)[edit]

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

[echo-y hissing, then whirring of a musical/mechanical nature]

E: I think that's an Emerson Lake and Palmer song or something from like 1970.

J: I recognize that a little bit too.

C: At first I thought it was a vacuum cleaner on the ISS, but then I was like, maybe it's a vacuum cleaner on the MIR once that music started playing. That's my guess. Sticking to it.

J: All right. Well, we had a listener named Joe Vanden Enden, and Joe says, "Is that the process of water jet tuning of an organ pipe?" He said he saw it happen manually in Innsbruck and kind of sounded like that. So I looked up water jet tuning of an organ pipe, and I could not find it, but I guess that that is a particular way to tune an organ pipe, and I couldn't find anything on that.

E: You have to look in Innsbruck, Jay.

J: I know. I have to go there.

B: Innsbruck.

J: A listener named Mark Penny wrote in and said, "Hey Jay, this noisy sounds like a drone or multiple drones that are having their rotor RPMs adjusted by a pre-programmed controller to make different musical notes." So that's really interesting. I've been around drones, and I know that the ones that I've heard can make a lot of noise, and some make some high-pitched noises.

E: Did we have a noisy once in which it was a computer fan operating at different speeds and causing a musical effect of some kind? [link needed]

J: Very possible.

E: Something like that.

E: Same idea, I suppose, behind the drone being able to make different noises.

J: Yeah. But that's not correct. Let's go on to the next one. Keely Hill wrote in and said, "Hi Jay, with all the white noise, it could be a reconstruction of some kind. There's no obvious melody, just increasing a scale haphazardly. So taking a wild guess that it's music reconstructed from brain measurements." I think that is also interesting. Some random sounds coming from some source interpreted, like basically data that's interpreted into music. That is also not correct. Listener named Scott Meyer wrote in and said, "Hi Jay, I've been listening to the SGU for over 15 years and have recently started sharing the podcast with my 11-year-old son, Everett. He has a guess for this week's noisy. He thinks that it might be an orchestra of electric toothbrushes. I'm not so sure, but he seems convinced.

C:I love that.

E: That's cool. That'd be a good name for a kid's rock band, the electric toothbrush band.

C: I have a friend whose kid is in a band called Spoiled Milk.

E: Oh, I love that.

C: I know.

E: Is it like a punk band?

C: It's like a punk band. They do like a...

E: I want it.

C: Yeah.

E: I want it. I want to buy their cassette tapes.

C: School of Rock. They're really cool.

J: So Everett, that was a good guess. One of my favorites of this week. Keep on guessing. Keep on listening. But we have a winner, and I believe that this person was the only person who guessed correctly. This is Teja Huthoff, and they say, "Hey Jay, the noisy sounds like the melody some of our trains here in Berlin recently started playing when leaving the station. It seems like a noise in these kinds of trains is unavoidable. It has something to do with electrical currents, though can be arranged in a way to play a melody or octave." So let me tell you what this is. So congratulations, Teja, for doing that. Fred Sandoval, who wrote this in, said he's from Toronto, Canada. He's been a weekly listener since 2008 and a current patron. Thank you so much, Fred. He said, it's an Austrian tourist train locomotive. It's somewhat known to Austrians and European rail fans to play distinct musical sounding notes when accelerating from a stop. These sounds are caused by the AC motor traction converters in the wheels, which step up the electrical frequency when providing traction power to the wheels, kind of like gearing up in a car. In this specific instance, the train is starting on snowy rails, and so each motor on each wheel axle is responding independently to the wheel slippage to provide maximum traction, resulting in the different notes being played at the same time. So that's a very good explanation, and I think it's really neat that they designed it so the trains would make these nice sounds as they're leaving the station. So thank you for that.

New Noisy (59:33)[edit]

J: I have a new noisy for you guys this week, and this noisy was sent in by a listener named Steve Yerby. Yerby, Yerby. And here it is.

[mechanical squeaking]

J: All right, guys, so if you think you know what this week's Noisy is or you heard something cool, email me at WTN@theskepticsguide.org.

Announcements (1:00:05)[edit]

J: Guys, we have a few things going on. So we started a weekly SGU mailing, which is essentially a list of all the content that we've created in the previous week. This includes the show itself. It includes any YouTube videos that we made and blogs that Steve wrote and any information that we want to pass along, events and stuff like that. So if you're interested, you can go to the SGU homepage and you can click our mailing list button if you're interested in getting that email. We've had two of them go out so far, and people are emailing us for the most part saying that they appreciate it. And we have a couple of shows coming up. We're going to be in Dallas in April, and we're going to be doing a private show, and we're going to be doing an extravaganza. These are two different shows. So the dates are April 6th is the extravaganza. That'll be at night on April 7th on Sunday, sometime in the afternoon, we'll be doing the private show. This is a private show plus, so instead of it just being a live recording of the podcast, we will be spending more time and doing some other things with the audience. These are a lot of fun. So if you're interested, just go to the SGU homepage. We'll have two buttons on there for you so you can find out more details on those.

S: Thank you, Jay.

Questions/Emails/Corrections/Follow-ups (1:01:25)[edit]

Follow-up #1: Nazi synthetic fuel[edit]

S: One quick email today. Last week, I talked about the movie The Formula, about a Nazi formula for making synthetic gasoline, and a couple of people wrote in to say the Nazis did have a formula for making synthetic gasoline, which I knew about. Do you guys remember? Our father used to talk about this all the time. For some reason, he was fascinated with the fact that the Nazis could make gasoline from coal. You guys remember that? He talked about the gasification of coal all the time.

B: A little bit.

S: Yeah. They did develop that, and they did use that in World War II, because they ran out of gasoline to run their war machine. They were trying to—that's why they were trying to capture Soviet oil fields.

E: The Russian oil fields.

S: Yeah. Because they needed the oil. They didn't get that. So out of desperation—Germany has a lot of coal, and they were using a process to turn that coal into synthetic liquid fuels, but they couldn't produce nearly as much as they needed to keep things going. But yeah, they did do it. But this actually reinforces my point, the idea that—I thought the plot of the movie was dumb, because the premise was that if we could make synthetic gasoline, it would tank the fossil fuel industry. It's like, well, no, what do you think they're making it out of? What would the economics of that be, et cetera? The idea—the technology for making liquid fuels, like methane, gasoline, and diesel out of coal, has been known since then, right? And in fact, it was done extensively by South Africa, because they have a lot of coal and no gasoline, and under apartheid, there was restrictions on selling oil to South Africa. So they said, well, we'll make our own. But they make a small amount, and it's expensive. So I was interested in just seeing what the state of this technology is today. Very quickly, the basic technology is either they treat the coal in order to make hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas, syngas, and then they use an enzyme to turn that gas into these liquid fuels. Either that, or they can crush the coal, heat it, combine it directly with hydrogen, and make the synthetic fuel directly that way. And there is a multibillion-dollar synthetic gasoline, coal-to-liquid industry in the world, just because some countries have more coal than gasoline. And the process is getting more efficient to the point where—I think from my reading, it seems like we're at the point that if gasoline prices spike really high, then the synthetic gasoline might be cost-competitive. But when gasoline prices are low, it isn't. The gasoline is cheaper. But the other thing is, you think about the—what about the carbon intensity of it? So the synthetic gasoline, the coal-to-liquid gasoline, wheel-to-wheel, releases about twice the CO2 as is gasoline. But of course, the companies that are selling it will say, with carbon capture, it's more efficient. But that's disputed. And even by some analyses, it's still more carbon-intensive, even when you do carbon capture and sequestration, although some analyses say, yeah, maybe it's 10% less carbon-intensive if you do really good carbon capture. Of course, there's no guarantee that any of these companies are going to do really good carbon capture. So that's still a little controversial. But anyway, there's no reason for it, really. It's not environmentally sustainable. You're still releasing a ton of CO2. It does use a lot of energy. It uses a lot of water, which is not good, like 10 gallons of water for every gallon of gasoline that you produce. So it's not a very environmentally sustainable method. There's really no reason for it. And really, I think it's just being done because in some countries, sometimes, it may make economic sense. But it's no threat to the fossil fuel industry, obviously.

Potent Quotables (1:05:34)[edit]

S: Anyway, Evan, you have – is this a new segment? Have you done this before?

E: This is a new take on an old segment. I decided – yeah. So we've done little quizzes before for you guys in which I pull a quote and then I ask you, well, who said this quote or who wrote that quote? I did a little twist on it this time though. What I did is I went back to episodes earlier this year. I'm starting to gear up for the year-end episode, our year-end review. You start going back and checking notes and looking at things. What I did is I pulled five quotes from us, from episodes earlier this year. I'm going to read to you a quote and I'm going to give you a multiple choice, A, B and C, and you're going to guess who said this particular line in one of our episodes. I'm even going to go a step further than that. I'm going to tell you the episode number and the date in which the episode was released because I am a benevolent game show host. You're welcome.

B: That's going to make it way too easy.

E: Oh, well, we will see about that. This will be an interesting experiment. Let's start with the first one. Episode 916 released on January 14th, 2023. Here's the quote. "They didn't know that there were nanoparticles in the concrete that were self-healing." Who said that? Was it:

A. Bob

B. Steve

C. Jay

I'm going to ask you for your answer in order and Cara, we're going to start with you. Bob, Steve or Jay?

C: They didn't know there were nanoparticles in the concrete that was self-sealing.

E: That were self-healing.

C: Self-healing. I feel like that was Bob's news item.

E: So you're going to say Bob?

C: No, I think Jay said it.

E: Okay. So you're going to say Jay said it. All right. Next is Bob. Who do you think said that?

B: Yeah, I'm too obvious for that. I think Jay did say that one.

E: Okay. Steve, who do you think said that?

S: Yeah, that was my memory too. I'm trying to remember who did that news item. Of course, I don't know if that's somebody asking a question.

C: Exactly.

S: Based on somebody else's news item. I'll just say Jay. I thought it was Jay.

E: All right. And Jay, who do you think said that?

J: I believe that was me.

E: We have a unanimous choice that that was Jay and that was in fact C. Jay.

C: Yay!

E: Jay said that. That was his news item.

C: Oh, it was his news item.

E: Yes, it was.

S: I thought so. I thought so.

E: Yep, it was. But that's a good memory. Good memory by all of you there. So everyone gets a point. Moving on. Number two. This was from episode 924, released March 25th, 2023. "We know that two of the most famous samples that people have actually studied and were really interested in weren't actually his hair. So, whoops." Was that:

A. Cara

B. Evan

C. Jay

And this time we're going to start with Bob. Bob, was that Cara, Evan, or Jay?

B: So, whoops. I'll say Cara. I have no idea.

E: Okay. Steve, who said that?

S: I think that news item was about Beethoven, and I think that was Cara's news item.

E: So you're going to say it was Cara?

S: Yeah.

E: Okay. Jay, who do you think that was?

J: For some reason, I thought we were talking about Einstein, and I think that is Cara.

E: All right, Cara, who do you think that was?

C: It's so funny because when Steve said it was the Beethoven news item, I was like, oh yeah, I remember that. I was like, maybe this is some sort of forensic thing. But the reason I think it was me is because I think that's how I talk. So, I'm going to say it was Cara.

E: This was the Beethoven news item, and yes, it was Cara who said that.

S: Yeah.

C: Actually.

E: Actually. So, whoops.

C: Whoops.

E: Yeah, that was a fun one. Third one. Here we go. So, everyone's batting 1,000. I'm very impressed. Here we go. Episode 939, August 7th, 2023. "Now, you're flying around in this vehicle that looks something, I don't know, like not quite a TIE fighter from Star Wars, but it has sort of a similar vibe to it." I'll say it again. "Now, you're flying around in this vehicle that looks something, I don't know, like not quite a TIE fighter from Star Wars, but it has a sort of similar vibe to it." Was that:

A. Evan

B. Bob

C. Jay

And Jay, we're going to start with you. Was that Evan, Bob, or Jay?

J: I think it was you.

E: You think it was Evan. Okay. Cara.

C: The reason, okay, I think it was Evan, and I think it's because Bob or Jay wouldn't say from Star Wars after saying TIE fighter.

E: Oh, interesting. So, you're calling me more specific than-

C: Yes. I don't know. I feel like you would have said that maybe for my benefit.

E: Oh, that's interesting. Okay, Bob, who said that? Me, you, or Jay?

B: Yeah, I'll go with you, Evan.

E: And Steve, which of us said that?

S: Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the flying car news item, the one that flips on its side, and my memory is that that was your news item.

E: Good memory, Steve, because that was my news item, and that was me.

S: Yeah.

C: Wow.

E: Nice.

S: I edit the show.

E: I am impressed.

C: Oh, right. So, you hear it multiple times.

S: I hear it multiple times.

E: You do. You do. You may have a bit of an advantage here over the other day.

S: Of course, I'm setting myself up for a fall now.

E: All right. It is neck and neck and neck and neck. Here's the fourth one. Episode 951, September 30th, 2023. It was not that long ago, folks. You should remember this. "There is no shield against gravity. That's the way gravity is." Was that said by:

A. Cara

B. Steve

C. Bob

And we're going to start with Steve. Who said that?

S: Bob.

E: Okay. You seem very sure of yourself. Jay, who said that? Cara, Steve, or Bob?

J: It was Bob.

E: Cara, who said that?

C: Oh, I thought it was Steve or Bob. Can you say it again?

E: Sure. "There's no shield against gravity. That's the way gravity is."

C: That's the way gravity is. It could honestly be either of them, but I'm going to have to say Bob because Steve edits the show.

E: And Bob, who do you think said that?

B: It sounds like something I would absolutely say. (laughter)

E: You know yourself too well, Bob, that you did say that. I love that little sentence. It was almost like a throwaway sentence, but it was kind of funny and cool. There's no shield against gravity. That's the way gravity is. It's like that's how it rolls.

S: That is something Bob says. Bob's the only one who would say that specific thing, and I've heard him say it multiple times.

B: Yeah, and I could give you more details, but I'll leave it at that.

E: Wow. So it's actually a Bobism in a way. All right. Well, you'll have to say it more for me, Bob. All right, last one.

B: I said it last week. You missed it. This could be the tiebreaker. This could be the tiebreaker. November 15th, 2023. Barely a month ago. "I should come up with a number at the end of all my talks, how much this news item helps with lightsabers potentially. Give it a rating, like a C minus." Who said that? Was that:

A. Bob

B. Jay

C. Steve

And we're going to start with Cara.

C: No, don't start with me.

E: I have to start with you. I have this all planned out.

C: It's Jay or Steve. So, but now I have to, I think it's Jay or Steve. I should come up with that. I think it's Steve again. No, did we do Steve yet?

S: Not yet.

C: I don't even know. And I don't think we did Jay yet. I think it was Steve.

E: Bob, who said that?

B: Yeah, I'll go with Steve.

E: Jay, who said that?

J: Evan, I believe it was Steve.

E: And Steve, who said that? You have to think about it now. I love it. I love it.

S: I do, but no, that was me.

B: Yeah, right? I got nervous.

S: No, but Jay asked the question, and I think that was my follow-up to Jay's question.

C: Yeah, I feel like it could have been Jay or you, but.

E: It was Bob.

J: Great job.

E: Yep. I love it.

B: Say that again.

E: I should come up with a number at the end of all my talks, how much this news item helps with lightsabers, potentially. Put a rating, like a C-.

B: Oh, shit. I do remember that now.

E: How interesting. You guys had all the same answers for all of them. The first four, dead on, spot on. The oldest ones, and the most recent one, all in incorrect memory.

C: That's hilarious.

E: It's interesting. I'm going to turn this into a scientific study and release a paper on a non-peer-reviewed journal. Then I'll have to retract it. This is cool. All right. Hey, thanks for playing, guys. This was fun.

J: That was fun Evan.

S: Thank you Evan.

B: Yeah, that was cool.

[top]                        

Interview with Jessica McCabe (1:15:41)[edit]

S: All right. We have a great interview coming up with Jessica McCabe from HowToADHD. So let's go to that interview now. We are joined now by Jessica McCabe. Jessica, welcome to The Skeptic's Guide.

JMC: Hi. Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.

S: So Jessica, you are a YouTuber. Did you ever think that that would be your career title when you were growing up?

JMC: No. Growing up, YouTube was not a thing. We barely had computers by the time I was in high school. So no, I did not know that this was a viable career. I did not intend for it to be my career in any way, shape, or form. This was a complete surprise to me.

S: So your YouTube channel is HowToADHD, and you are an excellent science communicator. And so we're happy to talk to you about this. So how did you get involved with being basically a science communicator about ADHD?

JMC: Accidentally. I'm a community college dropout. When I started talking about ADHD on the internet, I was pretty sure that this was not okay. Somebody who actually knew what they were doing was going to find out what I was doing and tell me to shut it down. I don't have a degree in this. I'm not a scientist researcher. I'm not a coach. I'm not a doctor. I have no business talking about this except for the fact that I have ADHD. And I was struggling so badly that I got to the point where I needed to understand why I was struggling and what the hell to do about it. So I decided to try and learn what to do about it and learn about my ADHD because I'd been diagnosed at that point for 20 years. And all I knew was that I get distracted, I have trouble paying attention, and there's this medication that helps me focus. And everything else in the world was my fault. But every once in a while I'd come across an article here or there saying something about ADHD and some struggle or whatever and suggesting some strategy. And that helped me for a second until I lost it, forgot about it, whatever. And so I decided to look into this a little bit deeper, collect all the information that I learned, and put it somewhere I could actually find it again, which was YouTube. And that's all I knew. So I actually didn't know I was a science communicator until I saw Cara at a talk talking about science communication. And I was like, oh, my God, I think that's what I do.

S: Yeah.

J: So just so you know, I have ADHD as well. And I've been struggling with it my whole life. I was a kid in the 70s. Literally, it went totally undiagnosed. It just didn't exist. Jessica, how does yours present?

JMC: So mine was more of a stereotypical female presentation of ADHD. I was the kid who was good and got straight A's in elementary school and sat with her hands in her lap but stared dreamily out the window and brought a book with me everywhere because I didn't know how to socialize. I didn't know how to pay attention while other people were talking. But I could pay attention to the things that were interesting to me. Anything that wasn't interesting, trying to focus on that was like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

J: Yeah. Tell me about it.

JMC: But I internalized my symptoms. I wasn't the stereotypical Bart Simpson-type boy running around the classroom getting into trouble. I was a really good kid. And I internalized a lot. And I think now, in retrospect, part of that was I'm pretty sure my dad had undiagnosed ADHD. And he was more of an externalizer. He would rage. He would turn outward. And if he was emotionally dysregulated, he would take it out on the people around him. And so I learned from a really early age, don't make dad angry. Right? So don't be inconvenient. Don't have emotions. Don't take up space. So like a lot of girls with ADHD, I turned all my symptoms inward. I internalized. And that happened until middle school when the demands on my executive function increased. I was suddenly responsible for bringing my own books to class. I had to remember a locker combination. I had to get myself to class on time. I had to be responsible for doing my own homework. And suddenly what used to be really invisible and internal started to come out. And I also we went through some big changes. My mom got into a car accident with a drunk driver. There was some trauma. And I did not handle it well. I didn't have the support systems that I had anymore. Also, puberty was happening. It was just kind of this perfect storm. And suddenly everybody could see that something was really wrong.

S: The demands of your life just exceeded your capacity at that point.

JMC: That's exactly what it is. And that's usually what happens. People get diagnosed when the demands on their executive function or their emotion regulation or whatever it be outweigh their ability to cope. So for a long time, I had coping strategies. My mom did a lot for me. We had a launch pad by the door. My school did a lot for me. We had sticker charts. I loved stickers. So I worked really hard for those stickers. I liked pizza. So I worked really hard for pizza. Do you guys remember Book It, the program? If you read a book, you got a sticker. And if you got five stickers, you get a personal pizza. That was the best. I read so many books. So there were a lot of structures and supports in place for me. And I was a kid. Nobody was expecting me to manage my own time yet. So when those supports were taken away and all these extra demands came up, then I just completely fell apart.

S: So when did you get diagnosed?

JMC: I got diagnosed at 12. And that was pretty young back then. This was the early 90s. And so ADHD was known that it was a thing then, but it wasn't really a thing that they thought girls had. And my first doctor told my mom that I was too smart to have it. So thankfully, yeah, he was like, well, my mom said she's struggling. Like her GPA has dropped. She's really struggling in school. She's all these symptoms. And the doctor asked how I had done in elementary school. And my mom said she got straight A's. She was a gifted student. And the doctor said she's too smart. She can't have it. She can't have ADHD. We now understand that even gifted kids can have ADHD. And there's actually a term for that, which is twice exceptional. If you're gifted and you have some sort of challenge like that, those things can happen at the same time. But my primary care didn't know that. So thankfully, my mom said, thanks for your opinion. I'd like to see a specialist. And I was diagnosed.

J: Well, you're lucky. I'm really happy that you got the diagnosis earlier in your life because I think a lot of people, even today, they have ADHD. Of course, it's on a spectrum. Some people have it worse than others and it presents differently. But a lot of people go around. They don't even know that they have something that's holding them back. And in fact, when we were filling out, my wife and I were filling out an online survey about my son because we were testing him for ADHD. When I filled that form out, that's when I realized I had it. And this is only like four years ago. I didn't know I had it until I was in my 50s.

JMC: Right. And this is a really common story. And part of it is because it wasn't caught when we were kids. But part of it is because ADHD is genetic. It's real genetic. And so if you had family members that were like that, too, it's like, oh, he's just like his uncle, Brian. It's just he's quirky, too. There are these explanations. And we don't really think twice about it. Or sometimes a parent's like, there's nothing wrong with my kid. Like, that's completely normal. Cool. You have ADHD, too, is what is what happened. And that's actually how I ended up getting diagnosed, too. My cousin, who was that very stereotypical, externalized kid getting into trouble all the time, bouncing off the walls, he was diagnosed. And that's when my aunt was diagnosed, too. And then my mom looked at me and said, you're a lot like your aunt. Let's get you to the doctor, shall we? So that's the only reason I was diagnosed, too. I just it was I was lucky that it happened a little bit earlier than it does for most people. But I had a very unique experience of being diagnosed for 20 years without having any idea what the heck that meant. So when I was learning about ADHD in my 30s, I still sat there reading research papers with tears streaming down my cheeks because I had been diagnosed with this thing for 20 years and nobody ever told me that this was part of it. Nobody had ever explained this to me. And admittedly, some of the research was newer. So we maybe just didn't know that yet. But all my doctors told me was, hey you have ADHD. You get distracted. Are your meds working? Yeah. Any side effects? No. Cool. Here's a prescription. We'll see you next month. Yeah. They never asked me if my life was working out. I've been like, oh, no, not at all. Like, my credit's terrible. I've had you know, I've gotten divorced. I'm living at home with my mom. I was supposed to accomplish all these things. I had so much potential. I was this gifted kid. And like, yeah, none of that panned out. Like, I was a hot mess. I really was.

S: So how old were you when you went on medication?

JMC: I was 12. I was 12. And that medication, that's part of it. It worked so well that it was kind of like problem solved, right? My GPA went up a full point without me doing anything differently. It worked really well for me. I was one of the lucky ones where the first medication I tried right off the bat was effective for me. And it did. It helped. It boosted my self-esteem. I felt more happy, more engaged, more productive. I still had a lot of the same struggles because pills don't teach skills, it turns out. But I didn't know that those struggles were related to my ADHD. So I just thought I needed to try harder.

S: And no cognitive therapy?

JMC: Oh, no. No, no, no. I didn't even know that was a thing.

S: So you had really basically a half treatment.

JMC: I had a half treatment. That's exactly what it is. Because we know from the MTA study that multimodal treatment is what's needed for ADHD, for long-term positive outcomes. I was a really good, if anybody wants to do one, I was a really good case study on what happens when you give a kid medication and nothing else, right? It was very effective day to day. I could take my meds. I could get out of bed. I could go to school. I could focus. But the meds didn't tell me what to focus on or, like, when things were due or how to plan or prioritize or sustain effort toward long-term goals. So what ended up happening was I was suddenly doing a ton because my meds let me do that. But it was all kind of really scattered and in the wrong direction a lot of the time. So I would have, two jobs at the same time or two boyfriends at the same time sometimes, which I don't recommend. But I was just very ambitious. And now my meds let me focus and do all the things I felt productive, but I didn't always know what to focus on. And I didn't have the support and guidance or accommodations that I needed to be successful.

J: Speaking about accommodations, what a stark difference between the way that schools are today versus the way they were when I was a kid. Because, the school will allow him to pull out a snack. If he wants to eat at school, he can eat at any time. This is what the school says. He is allowed to pull out a snack whenever he wants. And I just think that's awesome.

JMC: That's incredible. I was sneaking snacks because I had the same problem. I wouldn't be able to eat a lot at lunch. And so I would get hungry in the afternoon. But the bigger thing that ended up helping me was I would use these snacks as, like, a fidget. So I would be eating, like, really quietly in the back of the classroom. But it helped me focus. It gave me something else to kind of pin down my floating attention so that my brain didn't go off in search of something more interesting. So it was funny because a lot of the things that teachers think are distracting to ADHD students because, well, they're doing them, and look how distracted they are. It's actually we're so distracted that we're doing these things to try and help us focus.

J: Yeah, I totally agree. Yeah, fidget toys are something that I think most kids with ADHD absolutely have to use. And in general, what's funny is they allow fidget toys in my son's school. Most of the kids in the class will have a fidget toy. And the vast majority of them don't have ADHD. It's just I think in general it could help a little bit.

JMC: Yeah, it can help with not just focus but anxiety. And, I mean, we know that a ton of kids are dealing with anxiety, heightened anxiety lately between the pandemic and different parenting styles that don't allow as much room for kids to develop on their own and develop resilience and be comfortable on their own. We know that anxiety is increasing in these kids, too. So, yeah, fidgets can help with anxiety as well as focus. So I'm sure it's helping a lot of people. And I'm actually a really big fan of universal design for that reason. There are a lot of things that are really crucial for somebody with ADHD that are beneficial for everybody. And universal design also makes it easier on teachers. If there's a basket of fidgets that's available to all of the kids, then that makes it easier because then the teacher doesn't have to remember which kids are allowed to use the fidgets and make sure that they're provided the fidgets and explain to the other kids why they can't use the fidgets, right? If just anybody who needs one can use one, that not only helps the kids who are neurotypical, but it also helps the kids with ADHD that is undiagnosed.

J: Yeah, I agree.

S: Did you at any point feel like you were going down the wrong path or like there was sources that you were dealing with that were not scientific? And is that something you struggled with early on?

JMC: Early on, it was more I didn't know where to find the information, but I like to Google things and I like to read a lot. I have a very high verbal comprehension. And so I would devour everything. And I was also I was also terrified of getting it wrong. I knew that I knew that bad information was worse than no information because then people feel like they're informed when they're not. And so I was very careful about what I said to the extent that I was able to. So at first it was I would Google things, but I would read everything that I could on a subject and I would find the experts and make sure that they agreed with each other. And I would only talk about stuff that all of the experts I found seemed to agree on. So I'm like, this is probably right. But then I started realizing, sometimes there's a flaw in that plan, which is all of the experts are referencing the same maybe flawed study. So somebody introduced me to Google Scholar and taught me how to start to read research papers. Then I discovered PubMed. Then I had a researcher reach out to me and say, hey, do you want some help? I you know, what you're doing is disseminating scientific information. Is that something you'd like some help with? And I was like, oh, God, please, because I didn't really know what I was doing. But I but I wanted to. And there was something that I just I fell in love with the way that research papers are written, because every you know, all the articles, blogs, whatever, there was bias, right? There was bias in them. People had their opinions or sometimes they overly simplified things. And I'm like, OK, but why? Like, I wanted to know the why. But what is that called? But why? You know, I didn't want the I didn't want the metaphors. I wanted the facts. And what I loved about reading research papers is it was facts like they can be really dry, but they are accurate. And I loved that. And so I would I would sometimes read this stuff that was in very cold and clinical language. But it felt so incredible to me to have this kind of hard data that explained something that to me had felt very, I don't know, like not real. I had grown up thinking like my struggles weren't that big a deal or weren't actually a real thing or it was all in my head or it just it gets so downplayed that that having these hard statistics and and these seeing these patterns and seeing everything in data was really, really reassuring in a way because it meant that it was real. And if it was a real issue, then there must be real solutions to.

S: Yeah, that's really interesting story. It sounds like you just independently discovered a lot of the core principles of science communication, understand what the experts are saying, especially if they agree with each other. Yeah, those are those are pretty important principles.

JMC: There was a lot of that. But also, I was really lucky to to meet Kara at a talk and hear about science communication. And that was a thing. And I was like, I think that's what I'm doing. And so I wanted to learn more. And at the time, you guys had this scicom camp. So I got to go to scicom camp and meet these other people who were who were doing it. And I got to hear a lot of the principles and a lot of the here's how you do it right. Here's how you don't do it. And I learned so much from that. And I picked up a copy of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, which is I have I have ported this thing with me through several moves now. And I have to tell you, I even credit it with nobody knows this. But I ended up getting a divorce from my husband who used to out debate me on everything and reading Skeptics Guide to the Universe. I got to read about all of the logical fallacies. And I started to recognize them when he used them. And I started to name them. I know. I know. But I started to name them. And he was so angry. He was so angry that I could.

S: That is a good way to make somebody angry is to name them.

J: Steve, you have firsthand experience with that, don't you?

S: Right. Oh, yeah. It's fun. But yeah, it really pisses people off.

JMC: It's not it's not a good way to to maintain or improve a relationship. But it was really good for me because I had this chronic kind of self doubt. I always assumed I was wrong. And I think that's what made me a decent science communicator from the beginning is I am. I assume I'm wrong.

S: Humility.

JMC: Yeah, it's the humility. I assume I'm wrong. And I assume that other people are are going to say things that might be wrong, too. And so I would go in really trying to understand what what is the consensus here.

S: So basically, we broke up your marriage.

JMC: You helped so much. No, I needed to be out of that relationship because it was not a healthy one for me. And that's all I think I am legally allowed to say about that. But but I just I you know, I just want to say like this. This information is so helpful to people, for people to understand how bias works and how our brains work and how we learn and how other people learn. It's it's so valuable.

S: Well, that's great.

JMC: So I'm just super excited to be on this podcast. If you can't tell.

S: I'm very curious about one other thing, because I've started lecturing about ADHD in the 90s. And you started communicating about it in the teens. So one thing I'm not seeing on your website, I haven't heard from you. And I'm curious if this is part of your experiences. Have you encountered a lot of people or a lot of pushback against the idea of ADHD itself? Basically, have you encountered people who deny that ADHD exists?

JMC: You know, when I first started, yes. There was still there were still people saying it wasn't real. It wasn't a real thing that I that I was making up. There were people who told me that maybe ADHD was a thing, but I didn't have it because I didn't fit the stereotype. It's not as much anymore because we do have so much research on it. And the general understanding has trickled down. But it does happen now and again. And it's been really interesting because a lot of times the comments that I get like that are from people who it turns out had ADHD. Like, this isn't a real thing. This is normal. Everybody struggles with this. And then they come back and they're like, uh, so it turns out I have ADHD. If it seems normal, maybe there's a reason for that. But then sometimes people are just not ready to accept it. So I had one person on my channel explain how I was wrong. And this was nonsense. And maybe she wasn't real and just said some really nasty things to me. And that same person came back a couple of years later and went, you know what? I'm so sorry that I did that. I'm sorry that I said that I had been diagnosed and I didn't want to accept it. But your videos helped. Yeah. It was a really, really cool thing.

S: Yeah. There's a there's a few categories of people who would deny ADHD. I think part of it is the information deficit problem. Like, the public just isn't aware of it. And it sounds like bad parenting which is always the go-to reason why for anything psychological in kids. But there's also a group of dedicated mental health deniers. So and they they're either Scientologists or they're the Sazians. I don't know if you've encountered that.

JMC: Oh, yeah. I got some Scientologists. I put out a video. It was in response to another woman who had put out a really inflammatory video. That was just her thing. That was her brand. She would put out really inflammatory videos and she just berated parents who drug their children. And this is a narrative that we would hear a lot. You're drugging your child. You're drugging childhood. This is normal child behavior. And you're just drugging your child into complacence. And so I learned really early on not to feed the trolls. So I did not feed the trolls. I did not bring attention to this person's video. But I did write a letter to my mom. I sat down and wrote a letter called to my mom who, "drugged me". And then to so that it would hopefully reach the people who were on this side of like we're drugging childhood. I wanted to reach those people. And so I made the thumbnail like really dark and foreboding. And I put like giant letters ADHD labeled across my forehead. And then the video was me saying, thank you. Thank you for doing what you could to treat a condition that that I was really struggling with. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for taking me to the doctor every month and going through all these hoops and and facing all the judgement that you faced because it did help. And was it enough? No, like I needed other tools. But you did what you could. You do what you did what you knew to do. And I thanked her. And and somebody put a picture of me on the Internet and just wrote evil across my forehead. And I got a lot of hate for promoting drugs. And it turns out like a lot of the people were Scientologists. So, yeah, I've encountered that.

S: That means you're doing your job. I got a picture of me eating a baby.

JMC: Oh, my God.

S: That was a good one.

JMC: Wow.

J: Yeah. Scientologists, they don't believe in therapy and medication psych meds.

S: But even outside the Scientology, there definitely is an anti-drug and especially anti-drug and kids segment out there. There's that bias is out there. I've had people say, oh, we aren't just putting a Band-Aid on. I'm like, we've got something. It's Band-Aids. I mean you had a cut. Don't you put a Band-Aid on it? But, yeah, there's just a lot of, I think, misinformation. That's sort of, again, this anti-medication bias out there. And ADHD, in my experience, has been one of the main focuses of that, because, as you say, it's like you're drugging kids. But it just happens to work really well.

JMC: Yeah. Yeah. There's a lot of vitriol, but there's also a lot of misunderstanding. There's a lot of people who are like, you're giving your kid meth. It does. And thankfully, it's changing. It's really remarkable. When I first started, I didn't know much about ADHD. And the people in my community were like, what? This is a thing? They were really surprised. And now I talk about something, and my community informs me of things that I didn't know. And I would go to a restaurant, and I'll hear people talking openly about their partner's ADHD and what they're doing to support and accommodate them. And it's so cool to me how far we've come in the seven, eight years since I started my channel. It's really remarkable. I haven't really seen anything like it.

S: Yeah, I agree. My experience now and in the 90s and aughts is very, very different. I think part of it – you could tell me what you think is the cause of this, but I think part of that is the neurodiversity movement, which I think has resonated. And I think people are sort of getting – it goes beyond that, beyond ADHD to autism and other things as well. It's like, yeah, it's like people have different brains, and it's okay. And we could be tolerant of that and work with that. Do you feel that that's part of it?

JMC: I think it's definitely part of it, yeah. And I work with disability experts and autistic advocates. And there's been a lot of ripples in a lot of different communities that are kind of converging right now to create these waves of significant change. And it's really beautiful.

J: So who is your ultimate target audience?

JMC: I wanted to reach me. I wanted to reach the person who had – I set out originally to reach the person who had been diagnosed with ADHD, had no idea what it meant, and was struggling. And what ended up happening is I reached a lot more people than that. I reached people who, it turns out, had not even had an ADHD diagnosis, but the YouTube algorithm was like, you might be interested in this content. And they're like, why does YouTube think I would be interested in this ADHD content? Oh. And they start binge-watching the channel. They're like, oh, my God, this sounds familiar. And then they go and end up getting diagnosed, right? So it's reaching people like that. It's reaching people in countries all over the world, which is super cool. I hear from parents saying they're sitting down with their 9-year-olds at night and showing them the videos and then talking about it with them afterward. And that's so cool. There are psychiatrists referring their patients to my videos. It's really, really neat.

J: That's great.

JMC: It's definitely reached a lot more people than I intended to. But I'm very grateful for that because, again, this was a personal project for me or for people in my situation. And I'm really grateful that it's ended up helping so many other people as well.

S: Well, it sounds like you're just a natural, good science communicator. And there is such a need for that, like even the experts, because being an expert is not the same thing as being a good science communicator. There needs to be people to bridge that gap.

JMC: Yeah. And it's been really neat because I've been able to talk to a lot of scientists and researchers that say, like, we have really good information, but we don't know how to get it out there. And we are not rewarded for getting it out there either. It's very publish or perish. What you're doing has to be in these academic circles and you have to be impressing these people and at these conferences. But that's not going to reach the general population.

S: Definitely. Right.

JMC: And so they rely on journalists, reporters, whatever, to kind of communicate their findings. But if these journalists don't understand science or don't have experience with it, then the findings get misinterpreted and it becomes problematic. It doesn't reach the people who actually need the help. I was so excited to find that the information I needed was there. It was just not in a very accessible place for me or a lot of other people. And I was so thrilled to be the one to say, hey, guys, look, I found treasure. Look at all of the things that we know about ADHD that would have been really helpful to know. Here you go. It kind of feels like being Santa Claus a little bit.

S: That's awesome. Well, Jessica McCabe, How to ADHD. Check out her YouTube channel. And you have a book by the same name, right?

JMC: I do. It's called How to ADHD, An Insider's Guide to Working With Your Brain, Not Against It.

S: Good general advice. Thank you so much for joining us. It's been a lot of fun.

JMC: This has been great. I'm so honoured. And I will probably take you up on the offer if I'm struggling with an ADHD child. I'll be like, hi, so remember how I thought I had this? I don't got this. Help.

S: All right. Take care.

JMC: Thank you. Bye.

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Science or Fiction (1:41:33)[edit]

Theme: Milestones in 2023

Item #1: Vinyl record sales topped CD record sales for the first time since 1987.[5]
Item #2: Over 10,000 journal articles were retracted in 2023, more than twice as many as any previous year.[6]
Item #3: More than 10% of people in Japan, the oldest country in the world, are over 90 years old.[7]

Answer Item
Fiction 10% of Japanese >90yo
Science Vinyl sales > CD sales
Science
>10,000 articles retracted
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
Evan
>10,000 articles retracted
Bob
>10,000 articles retracted
Cara
10% of Japanese >90yo
Jay
10% of Japanese >90yo

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

S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts, two real and one fake. And then I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fake. We have a theme this week for our last regular science or fiction of the year. The theme is 2023. These are all things that happened in 2023 or milestones that we crossed in 2023. Okay. Are you ready?

J: Yes.

S: All right. Item number one, vinyl record sales topped CD record sales for the first time since 1987. Item number two, over 10,000 journal articles were retracted in 2023. More than twice as many as any previous year. Item number three, more than 10% of people in Japan, the oldest country in the world, are over 90 years old. When I say the oldest country, I mean the country with the oldest population. I guess that's how I should have said it. Evan, go first.

Evan's Response[edit]

E: Well, vinyl record sales are a serious thing these days. It is totally back. I mean every artist that my daughter Rachel goes and sees, there are – that's it. I mean if you want a copy of the album, you're more likely to get it buying their vinyl than their CD. So I have a feeling that this one is true. The only reason I think this could be false is if it's understated, like topped – maybe it topped – didn't top this year. Maybe it topped in like 2021 or something as opposed to 2023. ut I don't think that's the case. I have a feeling that one is science. The second one, 10,000 – over 10,000 journal articles retracted in 2023, more than twice as many as any previous year. That one seems – oh boy. I mean only 10,000? That's my first reaction here. I thought it would be a higher number than that. Journal articles, journal – so these are – and journal articles obviously are either peer-reviewed, non-peer-reviewed. Doesn't matter anything considered – that calls itself a journal or is it a recognized kind of journal?

S: Recognized, like registered.

E: OK. Registered. Registered journal articles. There's been big efforts lately to go – for accuracy and spotting errors and other things that would cause retractions. Where 10,000 of them retracted, more than twice as many as any previous year. So that effort is definitely happening. Did it result in twice as many? That's the only question. Not sure. I'll come back to that. The last one, about 10% of people in Japan, the oldest by age country in the world, 10% of them are over 90 years old. More than 10%. Well that certainly kind of fits with basic media attention to these kinds of stories that come out. You hear about the populations on these islands of Japan. They live to be 129 years old or whatever. So it's either this one or the journal ones. I guess I'll have to say that I think it's going to be the journal articles, one retracted – something wrong with that number. It's either half that many or four times that many. The multiplier there I think is off somehow. So I'll say that one's the fiction.

S: OK, Bob.

Bob's Response[edit]

B: For this first one, the vinyl records, I mean are they – the only thing that really surprises me is that are they still selling CDs? I mean, geez.

E: Right? You ever think you'd be saying that?

B: So I could believe – yeah, vinyls. I mean I don't track it, but I know they're exploding. So I'll buy that one. The Japan one, 10% seems – that's a lot. But I just – I'm trying to think what would be more acceptable. But then the 10,000 journal – the journal one, I have no idea. But I think that's – it's too easy for that just to be either too high or too low. I'll just – I guess I'll just go with that one as the fiction as well.

E: The journals?

B: Yeah.

E: OK.

S: OK, Cara.

Cara's Response[edit]

C: Well, I think I agree on the records mostly just because CDs – obviously everybody's digital now and there's nothing like interesting sounding about a CD. But records are – they have a quality to them. I think we're seeing like a resurgence of tape sales too, like cassette tapes. Yeah, I know. That's true. That's like a retro thing to have like a tape player.

E: Oh, my gosh.

C: But I would agree that vinyl sales probably top CD sales. The one I disagree about though is the – I think 10,000, I mean I don't know. Maybe it's higher than that, but it feels like a reasonable number for journal retractions. There are just so many articles published now. And I don't know. Following Retraction Watch, I feel like there are just so many articles retracted.

E: Oh, yeah. That's a great website. Great website.

C: Yeah, they're great. And 10 percent of people over 90 feels high to me. Ninety is very old. So even if Japan is the oldest country in the world, 10 – I don't know. I would think that would be more like 5 percent or 1 percent. Like 90, that's very old. So I think that one has to be the fiction.

S: OK, and Jay.

Jay's Response[edit]

J: The one about vinyl records, absolutely that one is science. Vinyl records are super in. There has been a huge resurgence in vinyl record sales. I don't think – God, imagine how many people are buying CDs today. It's got to be so low because we could just stream pretty much anything off of any device.

E: It's like buying DVDs almost, right?

J: But vinyl is a hip thing, man. It's hip. My wife and I have a record player and we love playing our vinyl records. There's something about it. Next one. 10,000 journal articles that were retracted in 2023, I absolutely believe is science, and that is largely because of fruad. They're fraudulent.

E: That's a very old, very old joke.

J: That was from Perry.

E: That was the Perry years.

S: We were using a reader, something that turns text into audio speech.

E: Right, like in 2004.

S: It was a typo and it's reading through it and it said fruad. That's how it read the typo.

E: I love it.

S: And then stuck Perry and I have said that to each other ever since.

E: That's great.

J: So yeah, the problem with these journals is that they're getting a huge number of submissions and a lot of people are using ChatGPT, these large language models to come up with fake journals, bad references, huge amounts of false data. And the retractions, I think, are coming mostly from the journal itself saying, whoops, this is bullshit. We've got to take it out. And that leaves the third one to be science. I agree with Cara. I don't think that that one is truthful. I think that the numbers are wrong somehow.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: All right. So you guys are split, but you all agree on the first one, vinyl record sales, top CD record sales for the first time since 1987. You all think that one is science. And that one is science. That one is science. But the reason you all say that, although I do have to say, looking back over the numbers here, that milestone was actually crossed in 2022. I'm going to give it to all of you guys because it was reported in 2023. That's when the statistics became available, the stories from 2023. But actually it crossed the line in 2022. 41 million vinyl units were sold compared to 33 million CDs. But there were still 33 million CDs sold in 2022. But you're right. If you're going to go physical, why do a CD go all the way analog vinyl, right? I mean, go all the way if you're going to go physical. Absolutely. But yeah, it is a weird retro kind of phenomenon that we're experiencing. We'll just keep going in order, I guess.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: Over 10,000 journal articles were retracted in 2023, more than twice as many as any previous year. Evan and Bob, you think this one is the fiction. Jay and Cara, you think this one is science. And this one is science. This one is science. Yeah, there's a big jump. It was more than twice last year. And it's been going steadily up.

J: Because of fraud.

S: Because of fraud. Because of the proliferation of journals. There's just a lot more journals out there. And there's a lot of pressure to publish a lot of articles. There's a lot of pay to publish. There's a lot of that kind of thing.

E: So they'd rather let a bunch of crap get through and take it back later? That's the new policy in a way?

C: I don't think it's a policy.

S: It just happens.

C: Most people who review do it on a volunteer basis. It's just really hard. And there's a fire hose of information.

E: Well, publish less, I suppose.

C: Yeah, I think that's the problem. Definitely there's an issue. And I think it's hard for any scientist to say, hey, I want to hold back new information. Simply because we don't have the bandwidth to be as careful as we'd like to be. So it's a difficult thing, right? Because you also don't want something published three years after it's relevant.

S: It's a huge problem. Partly because the results get reported. And then nobody notices that the paper was retracted. And the likelihood of a paper getting retracted is greater if it was newsworthy. So the ones that are getting reported are the ones that are more at risk for getting retracted. And a lot of papers continue to be cited even after they were retracted. There are these zombie papers where they persist. They have a life after death. They persist even post-retraction through citations. And so it's a real problem for the literature. And it is something that publishers need to figure out. Because that is out of control. It really is out of control.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: All right, all this means that more than 10% of people in Japan, the oldest country in the world, are over 90 years old is the fiction because more than 10% of people are over 80 years old. It's still old, but it's not 90. You're right, that's way too old.

C: Do you know what percent is over 90?

S: The article didn't say that. They just gave the figure for 80.

C: They might not even have that as a distinction.

E: Technically, it could still be 10%.

C: There's nobody in Japan between the ages of 80 and 90.

E: I would say the science of fiction is inconclusive.

S: I mean there is a sharp drop-off between 80 and 90. Let me just tell you that. But it's probably something like 2% or 1% looking at the graph that I'm looking at right now. But essentially you could see they sort of project the population curve and you could see it ageing. You could see the population ageing over time. So it's a combination of longevity but also really low birth rate in Japan. So people are just getting older, but they're not being replaced by younger people. So it's a demographic problem for any society. You need young people to replace things. What happens when everyone is retired? I guess that's when the robots run everything, right?

E: Someone has to figure out which switches to turn.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:53:18)[edit]

I'd rather live in a world where I get to love the moon than in one where I don't, even if the moon won't return the feeling.

 – Alex London, American writer 

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

E: "I'd rather live in a world where I get to love the moon than in one where I don't, even if the moon won't return the feeling." Alex London, American writer. I like this sentiment a lot because when I look at the moon, I have a sense of gratefulness that we have a moon. Not all planets have moons. Yeah, it would be great to have even more than one, but having at least one. Could you imagine not having the moon? I mean how different would things be? That's an interesting thought.

J: Yeah, I mean the earth would be very different. The ocean would be very different.

B: I mean life might not have even evolved.

E: Right, right. Would there be life as we know it?

S: Well, the moon protects us from asteroids. There would still be tides because there's solar tides. The sun produces a tide, just not quite as strong as the moon. Early on, the tides from the moon were responsible for bringing a lot of minerals into the oceans, which was important for life.

B: Because the tides were like 10,000 feet tall, they would scour hundreds of miles inland.

Signoff/Announcements (1:54:36)[edit]

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

E: Thank you, Steve.

C: Thanks, Steve.

J: You got it Steve.

S: Again, so next week's show will be a pre-recorded show from NOTACON, and then we have the Year in Review show, which we're going to be recording next week. So you have a couple of days when you're listening to this, if you're listening to it over the weekend, to get us your votes for the best segments of the year, best news item, all that good stuff. So send those in, and we'll talk about all of it on the Year in Review show.

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

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

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Today I Learned[edit]

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[8]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description

References[edit]

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