SGU Episode 969

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SGU Episode 969
February 3rd 2024
969 Earhart Sonar.jpg

A deep-sea exploration company has captured a sonar image of an anomaly on the ocean floor that resembles an aircraft. The team believes the object could be Amelia Earhart's Lockheed 10-E Electra that went missing nearly 87 years ago. Credit: Deep Sea Vision/PR Newswire [1]

SGU 968                      SGU 970

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein


DB: Dustin Bates, American rockstar

Quote of the Week

If you really want to rediscover wonder, you need to step outside of that tiny, terrified space of rightness and look around at each other and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe and be able to say, "Wow, I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong."

Kathryn Schulz, American journalist

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, time whiplash[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, January 31st, 2024, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Cara Santa Maria...

C: Howdy.

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: ...and Evan Bernstein.

E: Good evening, everyone.

S: You know, whenever I say the year when I'm introing the show, it gives me such like a time whiplash. You know what I mean. Like we've been doing this for so long. And we started out saying in 2005. Now it's like we're in the future. It's 2024.

E: Yes.

S: It's crazy.

C: I feel so old.

E: It wasn't that long ago. I think we've talked about this recently. The 2000s were just not that long ago, but in a way they were that long ago.

C: There are all these memes that stress me out on like Instagram and stuff where it'll be like, if you recognize any of this, it's time to get a colonoscopy.

B: Wow, that's awesome.

C: Yeah, it's all just like stuff I grew up with. I'm like, oh no.

E: Yeah, when you can tie it to a fad or a device or a fashion or something. I don't know. It leaves an indelible mark sort of in your mind and then you're moving away from that constantly and you just realize, oh my god, I'm so far away from that.

C: Yeah, because it doesn't seem that long ago when you anchor it to something like – I think the last one I saw was like Lip Smackers, which is like the chapstick that we all use, the different flavored ones. Kaboodles, See-Through Phones.

E: See-Through Phones?

C: Yeah, and Limited Too, which was like a store that all people my age shopped in when they were young.

S: Yeah, Limited, yeah.

C: Limited too is for kids.

E: I always tie SGU I think as far as products go to iPhone because we came out before the first iPhone.

S: Just before pretty much.

C: Wow. That's nuts.

B: That's not a bad way to do it.

E: Yeah, a seminal piece of technology like that. That's a good way to measure it and a good way to feel old.

S: Do you think that was the most disruptive piece of technology in our lifetime?

J: What?

S: The iPhone. The smartphone.

E: The iPhone? Maybe.

C: For individuals, maybe.

B: Yeah, it's up there, man.

C: It's hard to point to like a single thing.

S: But there is our life before smartphones and after smartphones.

J: I wouldn't say smartphones. I'd say the internet.

C: I'd say the internet in your pocket.

S: That too, that too.

B: For me, the web, like 92, around that time, the web is definitely a huge demarcation.

C: It is, but I also think that our lifestyles changed more because early in the web, I don't think we had really figured out how to use it. It was still kind of novel and there were different things. We were in that era that you always talk about, Steve, where when there's a new technology, we try to figure out how to just replicate old technology with new technology. So I think about going on to MapQuest and printing the driving directions and then still putting them on paper in the car. Whereas once you had a smartphone in your pocket and you could actually afford to be on the internet, because most of us couldn't at the beginning.

E: True.

C: And you could just navigate where you were going. That was game-changing.

S: Yeah, I agree.

C: I think for a lot of people.

B: Oh, yeah. It was huge. Absolutely.

S: Change in lifestyle was more abrupt and I think more profound with the smartphone. The internet, it was the World Wide Web was more of a slow burn. And you're right. It didn't really change how we were doing things. It just gave us sort of another resource. Eventually, it did. But it took a long time.

C: It took a while. Yeah. Because it was slow. It was expensive. It was clunky. It wasn't very user-friendly, all that kind of stuff.

S: Yeah. That's a really good example, too, like printing directions off MacQuest.

E: Printing directions.

S: Versus just having GPS in your phone.

E: There was an intermediary there, Garmin.

S: Garmin.

E: And those devices were the step bridging the two devices, a cellular phone and what ultimately became a smartphone with your –

C: Were those technically online? I know they were using GPS, but did they relay through the internet. They had to, right.

S: Not necessarily.

E: No, you had a Garmin device.

C: I had a Garmin device. Or like a TomTom.

J: That was talking, of course, but that had to be talking to the satellites.

C: I know it was talking to the satellites, but was the way that the sort of map continuously updating, did that use any intermediary. Like did it go through the internet. I guess not because you weren't – well, you were paying for a subscription.

B: You need Wi-Fi, right. But then you'd be driving and hopping from Wi-Fi connection to connection.

C: Yeah, and cars didn't have Wi-Fi back then.

S: I think you would have to like –

C: Straight to the satellite.

S: You would have to update it deliberately. It wasn't just like auto-update connected.

E: Wi-Fi.

C: Oh, right.

B: Some of the cars that had it integrated, you had to have a CD with the maps on the CD.

E: Correct. Yeah, almost. You had to install it.

S: Remember installing software from CDs.

C: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

B: How about floppies, dude.

E: Oh, here we go. Oh, boy.

C: Do you remember saving those for a long time even after you never needed them before. Once drivers and software was online, there was that weird intermediate period where we're like, well, we can't get rid of the OS, the CD of the OS.

S: File and cam it full of backup CDs.

C: Exactly.

S: Now, I don't care.

E: I still tease Steve a little bit when you told me you got your first jazz drive.

S: That was cool, the jazz drive.

B: They were big, man. I mean, that's... That was huge.

E: It was huge, and at the same time, it wasn't huge. Right?

C: Yeah, I never had one of those. I don't remember that at all.

E: And how long was it really a thing. Maybe a year or two. It was almost like a bridge device.

S: It was.

C: So the jazz drive was like the laser disk of computer drives. Okay. It just didn't really ever fully catch on.

S: It was also having a zip drive. Remember the zip drive.

B: Sure.

C: Our zip drives were big.

J: I still have my files. I still have my zip.

E: You do?

C: No.

E: Oh my gosh.

J: Just in case I can read them someday because I need to have stuff on there.

S: I don't even know what's on there.

E: I only recently threw out the last of my, what were they. Three and a half inch floppies.

C: What?

E: Or the three and a quarter. What were they. Three and a half. Those hard shell discs.

S: The hard ones, yeah.

C: We called them disquettes.

B: Disquettes.

C: Yeah, the little ones where you would slide the metal piece to be able to overwrite them.

E: Yeah, with what, 1.4 megs of information you can store on there.

B: 1.44.

C: That's the thing I mentioned the other day where I saw a video on Instagram or TikTok or something where the guy showed his kid a diskette. And the kid was like, oh, you 3D printed the save icon.

B: Yeah, yeah.

S: You said that before.

C: Yeah.

S: I had no idea what the origin of that was.

B: Wow.

C: Yep. That's a really good litmus test for like what somebody's generation is, is asking them, how do you pantomime that you're on the phone. Because you see a huge break. Like we still do the thing where it's like the hang loose symbol and we hold it up to our heads. But kids don't do that anymore. They either do a flat phone or they like they're holding an iPhone.

S: Right. Exactly.

B: Oh, my God. Yeah, that's awesome.

E: Put a dial phone in front of a bunch of kids and say, okay, here, make it work. Oh, what. Yeah.

S: Or Monty Burns, who has like the daffodil phone, right. You have the two things. Ahoy, ahoy.

B: Ahoy, ahoy.

E: Is this Bensonhurst 4215. Party lines. Oh, gosh, forget it. Forget it. You can go all the way back to the telegraph playing this game.

News Items[edit]

Neuralink Implants Chip in Human (7:51)[edit]

S: All right, Bob, tell us about Neuralink's announcement. What's going on there.

B: Yeah, Neuralink has been all over the news a lot the past few days. Elon Musk said on January 29th in an ex-post or a tweet, if you want to be retro, I guess.

E: I remember those, yeah.

B: He said – The first human received an implant from Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well. Initial results show promising neuron spike detection. And that's it. That's all we know. Next news item. There's not a hell of a lot more than that except the backstory, which everybody really knows what's been leading up to this. So yeah, it's been like right now, this is like what, Wednesday night, 31st, and it's 48 hours since that tweet and there's really not a lot new in terms of that specific thing. But if you haven't heard of Neuralink, it's a tech startup, right, founded by Elon Musk in 2016 to create brain computer interfaces, BCIs or BMIs, brain machine interfaces, which I guess that initialism is a little bit more common. So these are devices connected to the brain to allow people to interface with computers just by thinking. Neuralink's specific device is coin-sized. It's like a coin-sized chip designed to be implanted under the skull so that its myriad of tiny wires could be inserted a little bit into the brain to read the nearby brain cell activity. So now having the chip under the skull and the wires in the brain, it's certainly invasive and more risky, right. But it allows for a much cleaner, easier to interpret signal than, say, the classic electrodes on the scalp scenario. Now Musk has said in the past that ultimately his computer's technology could allow people to form a sort of symbiosis with AI. That's kind of like to help avoid or to help deal with the transition with artificial intelligence and artificial general intelligence and all that stuff. But they've already run trials in pigs and monkeys and just recently. apparently human trials have begun just very recently on a quadriplegic volunteer. Now, details about – as I said, the details are very sparse about this person and the operation and what happened. Even Neuralink hasn't had an official announcement yet. What we do know though comes from subsequent posts to that previous post about the chip. The chip that was implanted is called telepathy and Steve understandably isn't sure how he feels about that. But I kind of like it. I like that. it takes an iconic bullshit paranormal ability, telepathy and shoves it into a completely scientific corner. It's like just making it about science and technology and not about something that's paranormal. So from that angle, I kind of like it, I think.

E: It's also a spell in Dungeons & Dragons.

B: Nice. So Musk also posted about telepathy. He said that it enables control of your phone or computer and through them almost any device just by thinking. Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs. Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal. So that's what he posted specifically about telepathy. Cara, that brought back memories of you relating once on a show a while back about actually meeting Hawking and describing how time-consuming it was for him to put together even simple sentences, right. It was an ordeal. It took serious effort and time. So yeah, if this did come to fruition, then for anyone like Stephen Hawking who has really just can't really type – or interface with a computer in any realistic, normal way, this could be amazing. Now, of course, the whole Musk angle to this just really just muddies the water. He's totally polarizing, obviously. Most, though, I think would agree that at the very least, he is a hype machine. Among other things of course. But the bottom line, right. The bottom line here though is this. I'm not going to dwell on Musk himself on this. I want to see what is this technology and what do we know about it at this point. The bottom line I think though with this is where is Neuralink and the telepathy chip on the spectrum that has on one side the Tesla reusable rockets, right. And on the other end of the spectrum, Hyperloop, right. Where is it on that spectrum. And of course, we can't really answer that yet. The fact that this wireless chip has been implanted in someone's brain is not really especially noteworthy in and of itself. It's more of like, all right, big deal kind of in terms of this is not breaking any new ground. The proof of the pudding in this case is in the tasting as they say or not too many people say that whole expression. The next days or weeks are going to be the real answer here. It's going to answer the critical questions like how well does it function. How long is it going to last. Those are the things that are going to really be of interest. I mean there's other companies that are considered more cutting edge than Neuralink for sure. One example is BlackRock Neurotech. They've implanted more than 50 brain computer interface chips, more than 50 already. I think a lot of people consider that. They probably will have the first commercial device, right, Steve. Is that a fair statement.

S: They seem to be at the head of the pack right now.

B: Yeah, yeah. So the contribution that this telepathy chip and Neuralink in general will make to the whole BMI industry, it remains to be seen of course. But I'm hopeful a little bit if for no other reason that this is – it's focusing attention on this technology and perhaps even intensifying competition and accelerating research to a certain extent. So from that point of view, I think this is a good thing. But then of course the other side of that coin is there could potentially be a backlash of sorts caused by incessant overhyping, right. I mean we've seen that with other products. Even we've seen it with artificial intelligence through the decades. It goes through a period of just overhyping. People invest money and then the results aren't there that were anticipated and then it goes into what they call it for AI like a winter, a dark winter or something where it's just like you don't hear about it for a while and then of course there's another big innovation like and then people are talking about it again, especially with AI, with ChatGPT. That was one of the big, big, huge developments that really has everyone still speaking about it all over. It's all over the place. So regardless, I think BMIs, brain machine interfaces, they're – in my opinion, a no-brainer future technology, so to speak. Like that one, Evan.

E: Yes.

B: Like fusion, it's just a matter of time. I think we'll have commercial products with this before we have working fusion for sure. The BMI research of the past couple of decades has been incredibly encouraging, as Steve says quite often. If we've learned anything, it's that thanks to neuroplasticity, the human brain is eminently hackable. Even Dr. McCoy in the 23rd century didn't have the tech that we have now.

S: I know.

B: Roddenberry totally failed on that one. We are far beyond, in 2024, we're far beyond Pike's goofy yes-no beeps from his wheelchair.

E: Right?

B: It's just like ridiculous.

E: They have nacelles and antimatter chambers and other things, but they have a yes-no beep machine.

B: Right?

E: There's a disconnect there.

B: It's so funny. I mean I guess in the 60s, even a forward thinker like Roddenberry was like, yeah, no, we're not going to get – how do you hack into the brain. It's such a black box and it was of course much more of a black box back then than it is now. And if you want to learn more about brain-computer interfaces in the future, check out Chapter 6 from The Skeptic's Guide to the Future. I just reread that for this talk, and this is such a good chapter.

E: Cool.

B: Yeah, I'm done with this.

S: So I actually think, though, Bob, that the most promising technology for the medium term for now, is the stentrode.

B: Yeah, that one's fascinating as well. Yeah. Yeah, that one is interesting.

E: Is that a portmanteau?

S: Because it is because it's a stent that's an electrode, stentrode. So the idea here is that we want to maximize resolution, right. And that means to get the greatest number of electrodes distributed over the brain with the greatest fidelity. But the problem with that is that it's invasive, right. It's in the skull. It's inside the brain. The stentrode I think is probably the best compromise we have right now because –

B: It's in a blood vessel?

S: Yeah. They put it in your vein. They put it up in the vein inside the brain. So it's inside the skull. It's very close to brain tissue. But it's still invasive. But it's way less invasive than cracking open the skull and putting something next to brain tissue. These probably will have a greater longevity. So they're probably safer and with more longevity than putting electrodes on the brain. And the resolution, I think, is fine. It'll probably be a while before that's like not enough resolution. And the other thing about that –

B: With AI.

S: With AI, yeah with AIW, sacrificing a little bit of resolution for a much safer technology may be the way to go, because it turns out the new AI applications are pretty good at interpreting or learning how to interpret brain signals.

B: That's what they do, man. They take a mass of information, static basically, and like, oh, here are the patterns.

S: So we've kind of taken a little bit of a leap in the software end of BMI because of these large language model AIs, these transformers. And while the hardware is incrementally advancing – so if I were a betting man, like if I had to put my nickel down, I would say we're going to probably – the applications over the next 20, 30 years or so are probably going to be more – I think the stentrode approach has more promise. But then eventually when you really get mature technology where you have soft electrodes that are more biological – interfacing directly with brain tissue becomes a lot more safer, lasts a lot longer, then that technology may eventually take over. Anyway, we'll see what happens. It's been a fascinating story to watch it unfold. The Neuralink is just one little blip on the radar for this whole industry. As you say, Bob, it's not cutting edge. It's not pushing anything forward. It's just... Yeah, I mean it's a good entry into this very small group and hopefully it will push the whole industry forward.

B: Right. Another player in the game.

S: Yeah, just another player in the game. All right. Thanks, Bob.

Love on the Brain (18:39)[edit]

S: Jay, tell us the effects of being in love on the brain.

B: I love this story.

J: Yeah, it's a little weird when you really think about it. Like everything that we are, all of our thoughts and everything, there's so much to do with just chemicals, right. Like we have the wiring in our brain and the ways that our brain communicates to different parts of itself at the same time. That's called parallel processing. But there's a lot of stuff that happens in our brains because of chemical releases and the detection of chemicals by other parts of the brain. So this groundbreaking research that was – this was recently conducted by CU Boulder neuroscientists and the team was led by Zoe Donaldson. They tested the neurobiological underpinnings of how relationships are formed and how they are maintained. So the study was published in the journal Current Biology, and they utilized these prairie voles, right. These are little mouse-like mammals, and they used them to investigate the role of dopamine in intimate relationships. The research studied the biological mechanisms behind our preference for certain individuals over others, right. So a lot of people, we're in a relationship with one person. It's very common. People get married. They fall deeply in love with someone. So there's a lot of stuff going on here. So their research focused on the role of dopamine, which is a key neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure. They pick prairie voles in particular because these mammals have a rare behavior. They're monogamous and similar to human beings, right. So, of course, we want to study what's happening in their brains because there's probably some commonality between their brains and our brains. Voles form long-term partnerships. They cohabitate. They raise their offspring together. There's lots of commonality between them and humans. They also show signs of grief if they lose their partner. And studying voles can give the researchers insights into human bonding and loss and what is happening in the human brain. The study found that dopamine plays a critical role in sustaining love and desire in relationships. That is pretty remarkable because it's not just like the initial feeling of falling in love with someone. It's there throughout the relationship, right. It's a pretty significant find that they came up with. The researchers used advanced neuroimaging technology, of course, to observe real-time brain activity in these voles. And the experiments were designed to mimic relationship dynamics. So this was an interesting part because they're trying to create circumstances where the voles are trying to find their mate or spending time with other voles that aren't their mates or the loss of a mate, right. So the study ran these different scenarios and the voles had to complete a task like pressing a lever or climbing over a barrier to reunite themselves with their partners. So the research showed significant increase in dopamine activity in the nucleus accumbens, right. I'll explain what that is in a second. When the voles were with their partners compared to when they were with strangers. This area of the brain is known to motivate people towards rewarding experiences and it's activated during pleasurable activities. I read up on it. It's actually a lot more complicated than that, but that's a good quick summary of what's happening in that part of the brain. The study found a stark contrast in dopamine responses when the voles interacted with their partners versus some rando

random (or random person)

vole. This points strongly to the concept that there is unique chemical imprinting going on left by specific individuals on our brains. Now, that right there, that sentence was the one that really caught my attention. So what they are saying is that the unique feeling or the feeling that you get with a particular person in a particular relationship, it has like a dopamine signature that they are saying you identify, you develop with that person, and it has an imprint. Like your brain wiring changes and the chemistry of that is specific to that person. I find that remarkable. So another interesting part of the research was when they tested an extended separation. Now, this was only for four weeks. But to the lifespan of a mouse, four weeks is much more significant to them than it is to us. So four weeks is a very long time for them to be separated. What happened was the voles dopamine response to their former partner had diminished over that time. This is like they described it as almost erasing the fingerprint of that specific desire, which is for that specific vole or partner. So this suggests a neurological mechanism enabling the formation of new bonds after a loss. So this, I guess, explains why you could develop a new relationship after one ends. I don't know what the parallel time would be, four weeks to a vole, what it would be to a human.

S: Mm-hmm.

J: And I guess some people get over these things quicker than others. But there are people that –

S: There's a lot of human differences.

J: Yeah, without a doubt.

S: There's a huge range.

J: Massive range. There are people that lose their partner and they deliberately never seek out another relationship. And then there are people that turn around and can get back into just a deep relationship as the previous one. So the researchers said that, of course, more research is needed to narrow in on how these results apply to humans. They know not to say that this is a one-for-one, that this is just the beginning of understanding what's going on. The study offers hope for developing new treatments for individuals that struggle with forming close relationships or coping with prolonged grief disorder. The more they understand what healthy bonds look like in the brain, this could lead them to identify therapies for mental illness affecting social interactions. There's a lot to this and there's a lot of good things that can come out of it. A lot of science is done and you might hear about a study and go, why did they do that. And it's somewhat unpredictable a lot of times like how that information or that study or the conclusions that they came to could be used in other studies or push something forward that turns into something that is very effective. I find this to be fascinating, right. Because when you think about the feelings that we have, it's not just love, but all of our feelings are wiring and chemicals. You know, when we feel those feelings, there is a release of chemicals that that do things in the brain. And I just think of course Steve thinks this is so fascinating he became a doctor of neuroscience. But I just like reading about this because it really like it tells you, you know what as mysterious as love might be we are starting to understand what's happening chemically in the brain that makes it happen.

B: I have a question. You mentioned this dopamine signature. So what is the difference between the dopamine signature between two different people that you happen to love. What makes it a signature that's distinct. Even say you love two people very much, but would they still have a different signature?

J: What I gather is that there is – first of all, there's the initial attraction, right. Like they were saying – the researchers were asking questions like why would somebody be attracted to this person and to not that person, right. Like something that we don't have control over. It's there. So there clearly is a hardwired type of preferencing going on in our minds, right.

S: But you can't conclude from that research that you can't say it's hardwired or that you're born with it.

C: Yeah, it could be learned.

S: Yeah. It's there at the time, but you don't know how much of it is learned culturally.

C: It's very likely heavily learned.

J: Yeah, I mean, you're right, Steve. You could be born with it. It could be a mixture of being born with it and exposure and whatever. But you do have that.

C: We know it's a heavily learned experience because different cultures have different versions of what they find beautiful.

J: But it's there, right. We have a preference, right. Like you could talk to – ask yourself the question like what kinds of people am I attracted to. Is there a pattern there. I certainly have one. So anyway, so that's in play. And then you find somebody. You have like this, oh, okay, I'm attracted to this person, right. That's going on. And then from there, you develop – a relationship with them. And from what I gather, your brain is basically strengthening whatever pathways are firing and however the dopamine is being released, it becomes stronger. And then if there's absence and you're away from that person for a long enough time, it could actually diminish and start to go away, kind of like when you use it or lose it. kind of idea, right.

S: Yeah, not the first research to do that, but this is just adding one piece to the puzzle. There is research in humans where they look – they have the subject looking at photos of people and like their spouse is thrown in the mix. And you can absolutely measure differences in the response to people when they look at a picture of somebody that they're in love with. But the particular research that I'm thinking of, people fell into one of two categories. I think they called them doves and swans. where some people, even if they've been married for 30 years, still have the in-love dose of, I think it was oxytocin is what they were measuring, whereas other people don't. They just lose that after a couple of years or a few years.

C: But it would also be really interesting to compare amorous love to the love of your children and see if the differences are really all that different. I don't know if we have that level of resolution yet.

S: Yeah, so it's interesting, but it's also interesting how different people are, right. There is no one answer. Like all people don't react the same way. It's probably the same as probably true of voles. Why would they all be the same. All right. Thank you, Jay.

J: You're welcome.

Amelia Earhart Plane May Be Discovered (28:54)[edit]

S: So, guys, we finally found Amelia Earhart's plane.

J: Did we really, though?

C: Or did we?

B: We definitely maybe did.

S: You guys are skeptical. I mean, come on.

B: Definitely maybe.

E: We have the fuselage and the wings and the tail.

S: This has been obviously a big missing person aviation mystery for decades since 1937, I think, when her plane went missing. Amelia Earhart was a beloved and famous explorer, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. And the whole world was sort of rooting for her as she was trying to make a solo flight around the world. She was the solo pilot. She also had a navigator, so Noonan was his name. He was on the plane as well. But on essentially the last leg of the trip, of her journey, the plane disappeared. And it was a really emotional thing, I think, for the world, and it's been a mystery ever since. And every now and then somebody claims that they have some clue that about what her fate was. Right. Often it involves her having survived a crash landing and she's like taken captive by the Japanese. or she was on this island or that island. But the evidence always evaporates when you get too close to it. And there have been several massive attempts to scour the ocean floor looking for the remains of her American Lockheed 10E Electra plane. And no one's ever found it. So now we have another effort to do that. And they're claiming that they have found a potential sonar signature that could be her downed plane. So this is the researcher here is Tony Romero, and he has been fascinated with the Amelia Earhart story for a while. And he's looking for something exciting to do in his sort of retirement phase of his life. He bought a $9 million underwater drone from a Norwegian company called the Hugen 6000, 6000 referring to its range down to 6,000 meters, 19,700 feet.

B: Nice.

S: Yeah, nice. He took a 16-person crew on a 100-day search mission from September 2023 to December 2023. They scanned 5,200 square miles of sea floor. And then at the time, while they were on the mission getting the data, they didn't notice anything. But in December, when they were going over all of the data, they found a sonar signature. So it was found about 100 miles away from the Howland Island. That was the island she was trying to find when she ran out of fuel, probably, and crashed into the ocean. So that's a pretty good location. So that location, I think, gives some credibility to the find. Now, have you guys seen the picture of the sonar image?

J: Yeah, I did.

E: Yes.

S: It's pretty not impressive, right.

E: It's blobsquatch.

S: Yeah, I mean, so is it in a plane-like configuration. Sure. There's like a central fuselage, and there's two symmetrical wings, and there's something on the back.

J: Something on the back.

S: So could that be a plane. Sure. But the details aren't a good match for a couple of reasons. One is it's missing the engines, right. There's no signature on that radar signal that would be the twin engines of the plane. And two, the Lockheed that she was flying had straight wings, and this one appears to have swept back wings.

B: Absolutely.

S: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the image has – the wings appear swept back in the image unequivocally. But does that mean it's not her plane, case closed? No, they say, well, because we don't know what damage the plane took in the crash and on the way down. The wings could have been broken off and then been pulled back as it went down through the water. And we also – the sonar is fuzzy and it distorts the image and it could be distorting it in just that way. So it's not definitive. We could say, number one, it could be a plane but it's not necessarily even a plane. Two, if it is a plane, it's not necessarily Amelia Earhart's plane, and we're not seeing specific signatures that would make us think that it is specifically her plane, except for the location. That's like the big thing, is that the location's pretty good for where her plane probably went down.

E: I wish they had a test case. In other words, a ship that they found that has been verified as a sunken ship. And let's see what that looks like on a sonar image like this, right. As sort of like a test or a baseline. Because what we're looking at here with the single image of the supposed possible aircraft, there's nothing to reference.

S: Well, you could find pictures, Evan, of like sonar images of the ocean floor where you see a smudge and it turns out it was a ship. So, I mean, that's not unusual. And some are better than others. Sometimes you could say like, oh, yeah, that's kind of a ship outline. Sometimes it's like there are features that are pretty specific where you could say, oh, yeah, this was definitely a ship. And other times it's like, I don't know what the hell that is. But okay, is that a ship. Okay. The thing is you can't say one way or the other, no matter how good the sonar image looks, until you have some either what we call forensic evidence or basically close-up pictures. So this is really – this is like a preliminary study. It's not a confirmatory study. It doesn't tell you it is a plane or it is her plane. It just tells you, oh, this is where you want to look, right. And so the next step will be to send down an uncrewed drone with cameras on it, right. Like they did with the Titanic, yeah. And then you want to basically close up well-lit video of whatever is down there. It's possible. I mean, some of the experts are saying, hey, that could be a geological formation for all we know. The thing is, keep in mind, I told you the size of the area they were looking at. They were looking at tons of sonar images looking for something that looks like a plane. The fact that they found something is not that surprising. This is like – this could be the Bigfoot on Mars thing, right. If you look for – if you're looking through a lot of images looking for something, you will find it. Although in this case, they're not looking for anything unusual. They're looking for specifically a plane. But the planeness of that image is – it's enough to say, yeah, it could be a plane, but it's not a home run.

E: You have to understand they're invested in finding it as well. So that plays into this.

S: But still, whatever. They did what they did, right. They got the best information they were ever going to get from this mission with sonar. And so this is just – they found a potential target. It wouldn't surprise me if it's nothing. It's like a face on Mars kind of illusion. Wouldn't surprise me. Wouldn't surprise me if it's just some other plane. A lot of planes go down in the ocean. You'd be surprised.

E: They do. But what materials were – whatever the material was made out of in 1937, whatever alloy – And what we're talking, 80, what, 90 years later almost.

C: Also, every plane that has ever gone down should be accounted for.

S: But they're not.

C: There should be documentation.

S: They're not all accounted for.

E: Well, they're listed as missing and unaccounted for.

C: Exactly. No, but that's what I'm saying. There shouldn't be a plane that was in the air that wasn't accounted for.

S: Yeah, but during World War II, Cara, a lot of stuff went down that we didn't necessarily specifically track. Secret missions and stuff like that.

C: That's rough.

S: Evan, to answer your question, they specifically said that at this depth in this location, the water is cold with a very low oxygen level. And so the plane could be very well preserved because of the conditions. So if there is a plane down there, it could be – there could be like the call letters on it. There could be definitive information. That's the forensic information like that. Yep, that's not only a plane. That's her plane. So at this point, I would say everything is on the table. Anything is possible and plausible. But we don't know anything until we send a camera down there and take a direct look and see what it is.

B: When is that going to happen?

S: They're planning it. So I don't know, year or two. I don't know. Something like that.

E: You mean we don't have anything called Google Ocean yet? They've sent a bunch of ships down there to take pictures.

B: They do, but it just shows the surface.

S: So then the question is, here's one final thing. Let's say they send a sub down there with cameras and it's her plane. It is her Lockheed plane. What do you do with it? So he's talking about maybe we could raise it and put it in a museum, right. And that would certainly be interesting.

B: What would that cost?

S: It would cost probably a couple of hundred million dollars to do that.

J: It's not worth it.

E: Whoa.

B: Map it in fine detail and then 3D print it.

S: But international standard, though, is to leave it in place.

E: Right. It's arresting. It's a burial site, technically.

S: Not only for that, Evan. That aside, just scientifically, there's information that you could get from it being in situ, right. In place. And if you move it, you will destroy archaeological information.

E: That is true. Absolutely true.

S: And who knows what future technology might have that we could use. And so what you should do is document it as best as you can in place and leave it there. That is the standard. But so then the question is, well, who gets to decide who owns the plane. And there's controversy about that. Yet Tony Romeo, he thinks that the Smithsonian owns it. However, Purdue University-

C: Why?

S: - I think because they funded something or whatever. But I think he wants them to because then he'll be able to go get it. But Purdue University says that they bought the plane for Amelia Earhart and she was always going to return it to them when she got back. And so they own it.

E: Yeah, the plane has a title of some kind.

S: They probably have the best claim to it.

B: That sounds like a good claim.

S: They're probably going to want to leave it there.

C: Does anybody have claim to that portion of the ocean?

S: No, it's international waters.

J: So wait, Steve, if I went and I somehow retrieved that, I'd have to give it to them?

S: Well, the question is you wouldn't really even have the rights to retrieve it.

E: It's not yours. It's not salvaged, right. It's archaeological find.

C: Right. That's like going and just like digging up an old burial site and being like, I just did it because it was there. Like you didn't have permission to do that.

S: I was there. I found it. It's mine. Yeah. And I'm sure you all know the governments are getting really picky about that sort of thing and recognizing the rights of indigenous people to their own artifacts. You know, museums are like returning all the stuff they've stolen over the last couple of hundred years and taking down displays of burial remains that they didn't have permission to put on display.

Hiding Sickness (41:43)[edit]

'S:. All right, Cara, let me ask you a question. If you're sick, do you ever go to work and like pretend you're not sick.

C: This is an important question. And apparently, according to some new research, of their very large sample, over 70% of people do that.

S: Yeah.

B: Whoa.

C: Yeah.

E: For a lot of different reasons, I would imagine.

C: For different reasons, mostly social in nature. Surprisingly, yes, some of them have to do with like institutional pressure and stigma, but not as many. So there's this new study, I guess I should cite it first, called When and Why People Conceal Infectious Disease. I love psych papers. They have the most straightforward titles.

E: Right.

C: So this was published by a PhD candidate who was interested in this very topic from the Department of Psychology in Ann Arbor at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, along with some colleagues. And they were curious, like, when and why do people conceal infectious disease. And they looked at the literature to try and paint a picture of what we already know about this. And then they did 10 different studies of and those 10 different studies looked at different things. We won't go through all of them. We'll kind of summarize them. But across the board, their sample size was 4,110, mostly university students, as is typical with psych departments. But they also looked at healthcare employees, and then they also crowdsourced different people with jobs online. And all of this is self-report. So we have to sort of, I don't want to say we have to take it with a grain of salt, but we have to know that's sort of an important context for how we talk about this. Everything that I'm going to say has to do with is self-reported. So what they found will do the big top lines first is that 75% of participants on average admitted to hiding or considering hiding an infectious illness. More than 61 percent of health care workers confess to concealing their illness. My assumption is that when you see these numbers, they're either accurate or low. They're probably not high. I don't think people are going to say, yeah, I've lied about that when they haven't.

S: Yeah, right.

C: But I do think people are going to say, no, I've never done that when they absolutely have.

S: Much more likely, yeah.

C: So when we say 61% of healthcare workers confessing to this, it may be more than that. And then also, there does seem to be a difference between when people are well, and they are estimating how they would act once they're sick, versus the way that people say they. So in one of the studies, they didn't just interview people and say, hypothetically, what would you do. And they didn't just interview people and say, in the past, what did you do. They found sick people and said, what are you doing right now. And they found something really interesting in those different study paradigms that when people are well, they think that they are going to be less likely to conceal their illness. They also found that there is a continuum. They are more likely to conceal mild illness and they think they're less likely to conceal severe illness. But these studies showed that people who are sick are just more likely to conceal their illness across the board. There's no discernible difference between mild or severe illness. And so there's something kind of interesting happening here. And I love talking about this phenomenon. And I don't know if there is an actual like coined construct for it. But I know we've talked about this on the show before, how like it's really hard to empathize with yourself when you feel a different way. Like it's very hard to empathize with your depression when you're not actively in a depressive episode. Or it's very hard to empathize with what you felt like when you were sick. Like you can kind of remember it, but it's really hard to go there in your mind. And so I think this shows that in some ways that people are like, oh, if I'm sick, I definitely wouldn't want to go to work. And then as soon as they're sick, they're like, I got to go to work. I go to work. So the other big takeaways from this that were really interesting is, like I said before, most people cited social either obligations or just interests in why they concealed it. They wanted to get on that plane because they were looking forward to that travel. They didn't want to miss the concert. They were really looking forward to spending time with their friends. Some people did cite institutional pressures, but that was a significantly smaller portion of the variance. So that's also pretty interesting because if you were to ask me, I would say that probably most people would say, well, I can't miss work. That's why I had to go. I don't have any more sick days or I can't afford to not get paid or they're going to get pissed at me if I miss. And to be fair, this happened, they looked at a lot of this stuff during COVID. So they weren't just asking people, how likely are you to lie about being sick. But they also asked them, like, how likely are you to falsify a school mandated, like at their university during COVID, you had to basically like sign something when you came in like symptom screeners like, I have not had a fever, I have not had a cough. And so that was one of the components. It was... are you covering up symptoms. Are you coming to work or school without telling people you're feeling sick. Are you falsifying symptom screeners. And they did see that people, the highest percentage of people reported covering up their symptoms, but also people did say that they falsified symptom screeners or they came to work and just didn't say anything about being sick. So they didn't actually, quote, lie in their minds. They just concealed it, which is lying. You know, what's the big takeaway here. Because I don't think this... I don't think this surprises any of us. Maybe the magnitude of it is surprising, but I don't think it's a surprising thing that as human beings, people are likely to conceal how ill they are in order to continue to go to their social obligations or to continue to go to work or school. I think the thing that's worrisome here is at least for me personally, and I'm curious what you guys think about this, is how if you remember during COVID, a lot of the backlash was that some of the measures were quite draconian. Like people were not happy with being forced to wear masks or with having mandatory temperature checks or things of that nature. But research like this shows us that this cannot be an honor system. People aren't going to, they're always going to paint themselves in a light that is the least, I guess, revolting or frightening. And that's, I mean, it makes sense evolutionarily, right? You don't want to be around somebody who's sick. You don't want to get sick. And sick people are like gross to us and sick people are scary to us. And especially when we're talking, this whole entire study was looking specifically at infectious diseases. So contagious sickness, like things where if you cough or sneeze in public, somebody else might catch it from you. They did do a whole, just as a caveat, I should say, in many of the studies, they actually did carve outs for COVID simply because of the stigma around COVID. I think that they were afraid, personally, that they weren't going to get honest answers because like at the time, people know, I would never go to work if I had COVID and knew I had COVID. What kind of a monster am I? You know, I do think that's different now. But at the time, there was so much stigma around it that they didn't want to include that in most of the studies because they were afraid they wouldn't get very, I think, honest responses.

S: Yeah, I mean I think a lot of it is cultural. There is – and certainly within healthcare for physicians, there's a lot of pressure to tough through a lot of hard situations. That's just sort of the culture.

C: Which is funny because also in the same – you could say in the same breath that for many physicians, there's a mandate that they can't go to work if they have an infectious disease.

S: There has to be. That has to be the case. And that's why I agree. Like it shouldn't be just left up to 100% discretion because then you have that conflict of interest where I don't want to seem like a weenie. I don't want to dump my patients on all of my colleagues or – Because it is burdensome. It's not a little thing. I was the inpatient attending for a couple weeks early January. And I got sick. And I kind of know who gave it to me. But that's all right. Whatever. I got really sick. And I felt bad about having to call the backup. Yeah, I mean, the person in charge of the ward service would say, hey, I'm sick. But there are specific protocols. I had to get two negative COVID tests two days apart. So I did everything I could very diligently. But still, it was a huge burden for me to just suddenly have to miss two days of inpatient service. People had to interrupt their careers for two days and come and cover my ass. But I had to do it. But even still, I was following protocol. I still felt the social pressure. It's, oh, crap, I'm being a weenie and dumping on my colleagues.

C: And that's in a white-collar position. You think about people who, during COVID especially, were working in farm settings or were working in meatpacking settings and things like that, where they're like, I can't not go to work.

S: Yeah.

C: Like if I don't go to work, I don't get paid. If I don't get paid, I could lose my house. You know, it's like you have all these things. So you've got the institutional pressure. You've got the kind of internal pressure. But then you also and again, I think that says something about this study that it was mostly looking at health care workers and university students that their main reasoning was social pressure. They didn't want to miss stuff and that could just be saying something about the actual sample. This was college students and healthcare workers mostly and an online sample. So the researchers did say the next step is they're super curious about culture and looking at people from different cultures and at different SESs to try and understand how some of these responses might change.

Cicada Double Brood (52:04)[edit]

S: All right, Evan, tell us about this double brood.

E: The double brood, yes. I know. And we knew this was going to happen. It's been on the calendar only a matter of time. But now we are just weeks away, a couple months, from the emergence of North American cicadas. That's an occurrence that takes place in the early spring on some very specific years. So specific that, yeah, you can mark your calendars by it. Cicadas live the vast majority of their lives underground. We're talking about billions of these insects all over the eastern regions of the United States. Some of the cicadas will emerge, and it's a predictable cycle where cicadas in specific regions make their emergence either once every 13 years or once every 17 years. And those emergences are called periodical broods. But 2024 is special. We have a BOGO. Buy one, get one. Or brood one, get one. We have two periodical broods emerging at the same time this spring. Yep. And this is a less than once in a lifetime experience. The last time these two specific broods emerged at the same time, 1803.

C: Whoa.

E: Thomas Jefferson was president. And the next time it will happen, 2245. So yeah, not even a once-in-a-lifetime event.

B: That's like Star Trek time. Jeez.

C: So last time, did people literally think that it was like some biblical shit going on.

E: Yeah, they always do. They confuse it sort of with like a locust plague, and absolutely, it takes on sort of a biblical meaning to it. But it's certainly not a locust plague. There's no destruction involved, thank goodness, with the cicadas coming along. So yeah, so cicadas, real quick, here's how it works. They start their lives as eggs. The females will lay 200 to 400 eggs into tiny holes that they make in the branches of trees and shrubs. And after six to 10 weeks, cicada young called nymphs hatch from the eggs and immediately fall to the ground. Then they burrow underground and they attach to the tree roots. The nymphs stay buried to suck the tree sap of the roots for anywhere from two to 17 years. And that depends on the species. While underground, that's called the dormant period, and when it ends, the cicadas emerge above ground at sunset when the temperature of the soil is correct. They climb the trunk of the nearby trees, then they shed their skin, and boom, adult cicadas emerge than can live out their last few months of life above ground. Okay, so cicadas, what. They're bugs, right. No big deal. Tons of bugs, trillions of them, born all over the planet every year. What's the big deal. Well, cicadas, like all insects, they impact the environment in many different ways, but none are more impactful to environmental noise than cicadas. They are the loudest insects in the world. For example, there's an African cicada named Brevissana brevis, and it is the world's loudest insect. Its loudest song is almost 107 decibels when measured at a distance of 20 inches away. And by comparison, a chainsaw has a 110 decibel level. And there are two species of North American cicada, and they're second in the world. They come in at about 106 decibels. Yep. The cicadas, they have timbles in their abdomens. They create the noise when they expand and they contract. The males use the noise to attract the females, of course. Oh, and they also have – they evolved a means of closing up their own ears when they're singing so they don't deafen themselves.

J: Oh, isn't that convenient for them?

E: Exactly. Protect them. Protect themselves from this enormous noise that they emit.

C: Evan, isn't their song like almost exclusively a breeding song.

E: Yes, it is. And each brood has a different one, a distinct one, which is part of also what makes it its particular category, its own brood. When the brood emerges, it gets going. The peak noise can overtake most other noises we hear in nature. Now, how many cicadas are there in a brood emergence. Many billions of them, of course. But here's something. The densest areas, there can be a concentration of 1.5 million cicadas per acre. One acre of land, 1.5 million of these.

S: Wow.

E: Could you imagine that. And then, okay, now you're going to have a double brood, okay. Now, the regions of the two broods, and these broods are officially called Brood 13 and Brood 19. For these two broods which are coming, the regions in which they emerge, for the most part, they're in different areas. But there is going to be a little bit of overlap. So could you imagine if you do have an overlap and you get these two broods emerging with a potential density of 3 million cicada per acre. Ah, my gosh. That would be loud. Get your earplugs ready. I'm not joking about that. I mean, as someone who goes to concerts regularly and often – metal concerts with my daughter. I know the importance of proper hearing protection. You have to have it or else you're going to damage yourself. The cicadas will be so loud in some areas it's going to...

S: How loud will they be?

E: So loud that it will drown out the sounds of highway traffic where you live and airplanes flying overhead. There have been cases of people developing tinnitus as a result of cicada noise. Yep. According to the U.S. – what is it. The CDC. Yes. Hearing loss, damage to the nerve ending in the inner ear, thyroid problems to exposure to loud noises. And right now they say about 45 million Americans struggle with a disorder. Cicadas can impact that, definitely. You know, when you're reaching 100, here's what they say. Cicada buzzing, it can reach 100 decibels and 15 minutes of that exposure can be enough to cause hearing-related disorders. So 100 decibels, a jackhammer in operation or revving of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Yep. By the way, so you can know on the map where to look. Or in case you live in these areas, Brood 13 will be predominantly occurring in the, well, greater Chicago region of upper Illinois, along with parts of southern Wisconsin and Iowa, plus other regions along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Brood 19 is more centralized to the state of Missouri. So most of Missouri will be impacted, but also parts of Illinois will be impacted. That's where potentially some of the crossover will occur, the double brooding in the same areas, but also Arkansas, Tennessee, and other States in the Southeastern U S brood 19 is considered the largest of the broods when they emerge. So here we go. Here come the cicadas. Double your fun.

S: I remember the last time they were out in Connecticut. Actually, I was visiting someone in Maryland. We're at a park, and I'm walking in the park on the ground. There's millions of holes in the ground. I'm like, what were those from. Is that an ant colony. Then I remember. Every one of those holes is a little cicada climbed out of.

E: Isn't that amazing.

S: Yeah, it was amazing.

E: Oh, and finally, Steve, I'll throw this in. Some people are calling this Cicadapocalypse just to kind of have fun with it, you know.

S: Yeah.

E: So if you hear that word, that's what they're referring to.

S: All right. Thanks, Evan.

Who's That Noisy? (1:00:10)[edit]

Answer to previous Noisy:

Shoe-billed stork clacking its mouth

"A Statuesque Shoebill Stork Sweetly Mimics the Movements of a Visiting Keeper" Click/tap image for article.

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

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

["rat-a-tat" with a brief animal clucking sound]

What do you think, guys?

S: Sounds like a video game.

C: Yeah, it sounds like a gun.

E: Yeah, it sounds like maybe like almost had tommy gun-ish from a 1930s movie with... Edward J. Robinson, shame to rub you out.

J: Without a doubt, it totally sounds like a gun. So we had Visto Tutti write in. He said, this noisy is the 1984 arcade game called Turkey Shoot, where a machine gun with haptic kickback was used to shoot turkeys on a video screen. I played, I think if I'm remembering correctly, I'm sure I played this game. He said, I'm not sure if the game was banned, but it sure would have been for its blatant anti-foul propaganda. It is not a video game, but that is a wonderful guess because lots of video games have sounds like that. Another listener named Michael Blaney. These are very frequent flyers here on who's that noisy. Michael says, hi Jay. Gunshot is too easy. So I'm not going with that. So I'm going for an automated assembly line riveting machine. Look that up. I couldn't find that sound to compare it. But I mean, sure. I know that there are rivet machines that pound the rivets in as they're heated up, right. So I could see that. But that is also not correct. Then the last guest from this week, Liam Wenzlick. W-E-N-Z-L-I-C-K. Wenzelik. Got it.

E: Wenzelik, maybe.

J: Wenzelik. He says, who's that noisy. Hey, I used to work at a steel and it sounds like a hydraulic pecker on a digger pecking at slag. I would imagine that that's a machine that would probably break up the slag that falls when they're pouring the steel. The slag comes off and they probably have to get rid of it somehow. That's about the extent of my knowledge of steel mills. But anyway, that is not correct. But then we got so many correct answers this week because apparently lots of people know a lot about this. But the first person to send in the correct answer, listener named Paolo Ciarocca. And he said, Hi, Jay. Long time listener since 2014. First time guesser. I think it's the call of the shoe bill bird. And he's from Edinburgh, Scotland. And he said, I was a live stream guest firing COVID lock- Firing? During, probably during COVID lockdowns. So we have actually met via video call and I, I vaguely remember you. I do remember you. So this is a very large bird. The shoebill is a tall bird with a typical height range of 110 to 140 centimeters or 43 to 55 inches. And some specimens reaching as much as 152 centimeters or 60 inches. That's huge. The length from tail to beak can range from 100 to 140 centimeters or 39 to 55 inches. And it could have a 260 centimeter or 8 foot 6 inch wingspan. It's a huge bird.

E: Big bird.

J: So take a look. Look up the shoe bill. Now, this noise is generated by the shoe bill basically clacking its mouth open and shut really fast. This sound was taken, I think, from an interior. So that's where the echo is coming from. And the whining that you hear is the bird. So listen again. [plays Noisy] Now, Evan, talk about animals making noises. Oh, my God.

E: Right?

J: Could you imagine living across the street from one of those.

E: You know, I'd be ducking for cover if I heard that all day.

J: Oh, my God. That's great. Great noisy. Thank you so much for sending that in.

New Noisy (1:04:08)[edit]

J: I have a new noisy this week. This one was sent in by a listener named Mario.

S: Marlo Lemieux.

J: Yes, that's a cool name. So here is the noisy for this week.

[Hissing, vibrating, and ratcheting sounds]

Not an easy one. So you could email me if you think you know what this week's Noisy is or if you heard something cool because I really do appreciate those emails because they keep the show going. Email me at You guys can attach any sound files directly to the email because this isn't going through the website. So you just simply just drag and drop the file that you want to send me so I can hear it. Some people send me in noisies and don't send me the sound files, and then I have to email them, and it's not easy for me. So please do include the file.

Announcements (1:05:13)[edit]

J: We have stuff, Steve. We have stuff going on. So we are in our 19th year. And this year, we will be achieving our 1,000th episode


E: Oh.

B: Whoa.

J: 1,000 episodes.

E: 1,000 episodes.

J: Probably have done about 400 with you, Cara.

E: 400.

J: 300?

E: 300.

C: I don't know. Probably more. No, I think it'd be more than that by now.

E: 2015.

C: Yeah, so how many is that a year.

E: Roughly 50.

S: Yeah, so like half of, yeah.

C: Wow.

J: All right. So we're up there too with Cara. It's a big milestone for all of us. And we will be announcing some plans that we have for that. We are formulating those right now. But we have plans that are already in place if you would like to join us. So we have tickets still available for the Dallas extravaganza. This will be happening on April 6th. That is April 6th. It is in Dallas and you can easily go to the SGU website. That's website. There's a button on there if you want to buy tickets for that. Tickets are selling out pretty quick so if you're going to be there or if you're visiting for the eclipse please come check us out. We also have a VIP available if you want to spend an extra hour with us at that show before the show and you get some perks with that as well. So please do consider joining us on that show. The other private show, it sold out. And ticket sales went really quick on that. We were very excited. But for those of you who are going, we're looking forward to seeing you there. There's a couple things you could do to help support the SGU. One of them is you could join our mailing list. We send out a weekly email. You could easily do that on our website as well. Go to We have a link there to join the email list. We send out an email every week. that is a summary of all the content that we've created the previous week. We're getting a lot of positive feedback on that email. So if you're interested, just please go join our list. You could give our show a rating on whatever podcast player you're using. I still think that Apple iTunes is basically the one that most people go to to get information like that, like rating information. But please do drop us a like or give us a review if you don't mind. That'll help other people find us. And of course, the absolute best thing you could do to show your patronage is become a patron of the SGU. You can go to We are currently 600 patrons away from us having to fulfill the 24-hour SGU live show, which we promised that we would do when we reach 5,500 patrons. So if you guys are interested in seeing that, now would be a good time to join because it is actually coming up. I predict that we will end up probably having to schedule that show that at some point this year we'll schedule it. I don't mean it's going to happen this year. We might have to push into next year depending on when it happens. But that's one of my predictions for 2024. Anyway, guys, thank you all for your support.

S: All right. Thank you, Jay.


Correction #1: Moon Timeline (1:08:17)[edit]

S: A couple of corrections that I want to do. So a couple of times on this show I've mentioned that when talking about the Artemis program, right, Jay? That the original timeline was 2028 for getting to the moon, but then the Trump administration moved it up to 2024, and now it's being delayed again. Now we're saying 2026, right, before landing on the moon.

J: No, no, no. No, not landing on the moon.

S: 2026 just to go around the moon?

J: Yeah. Well, the flyby I think was pushed to 25 and late 2026 we might have boots on the ground.

S: Yeah. That's what I said.

J: It's going to get pushed. Okay.

S: 2026 landing on the moon unless it gets pushed again. Right. But it turns out that that's incorrect, right. So I was basing this on the reporting at the time and there are like the Washington Post, the New York Times and then a lot of the space news is basically reiterating this notion that the original timeline was 2028 and it was moved up to 2024. But I was emailed by Jeff Wakesman who was – as he says, he was working at NASA HQ at the time. So apparently he knows that that was never the case. That was basically misreporting. That essentially what really happened was that the – like the Obama administration wasn't that interested in deep space exploration. And then the Trump administration was interested in it, but Trump wanted to go to Mars. And it was actually Pence who pushed going to the moon. The NASA, like basically saying we're going back to the moon and we're going to get there by 2024. That was actually Pence. And then when the Biden administration came in, there was a debate between the moon – what he called the moon Democrats and the Mars Democrats.

E: Oh, gosh.

S: And basically the moon Democrats won.

B: That's awesome, man. That's a smart move.

S: Yeah, which is a good thing.

E: Yeah, that is good.

S: But there was never this 2028 timeline. That was just a fiction. He's not even really sure where it came from.

E: There was a graphic I recall seeing. And I don't know if NASA put it out or somebody else put it out. I can't remember. But at the end of that timeline, it stretched across kind of just a bar. At the end, it did say 2028. It was an approximate.

S: Yeah. So that's what he thinks. It was maybe from something like that. But it was never policy. Like it was never a decision or a timeline that NASA had that were going in 2028. That never existed. It might have been some analysis or whatever, as you say, some kind of chart or whatever. But it was – that was basically just fiction. But having said that, the 2024 timeline was aggressive. It was very, very aggressive, and they knew that it was aggressive. It was partly for we want to make sure we beat China there. You know, that was part of it. So it's not surprising that the timeline has been delayed because, again, the 2024 is probably the maximally ambitious timeline to begin with.

B: Yeah, remember, Steve, you said that when you go aggressive like that, that's actually a great tactic. because if you say, yeah, we're going to do it in 2028, then people kind of forget about it. They're not motivated to get the funds and to get the ball rolling. So when you go extra aggressive like, oh, man, we got to get started on this and that really helps push it along. And if it gets pushed back a little, that's fine. But now you're committed and it's like you already got the funds in there. The work has been a lot done. So it's actually a good move to be extra aggressive or even maybe unrealistic.

S: It's probably good at the NASA end. Like if you want to get there by 2028, say you want to get there by 2024.

B: Right, exactly.

S: But it's not great for a PR perspective because then the repeated delays makes it seem like you don't have your shit together and people get disappointed.

B: Everyone expects delays at this point.

S: I guess that's the kind of argument is that it's pretty expected. We're not shattered by it. We kind of were expecting this the whole time. It's still disappointing.

E: We learned our lesson from James Webb, I think. To me, that was okay. Whatever they're going to say, you have to tack on more time because this stuff is so complicated. Of course it's going to take longer than they're expressing.

S: I'd rather have them do it right than do it quick.

E: Of course, especially when there's lives at stake.

S: Absolutely.

Question_Email_Correction #2: Long Acting Insulin (1:13:02)[edit]

S: The next one has to do with a science or fiction. This is going back to the end of 2023.

E: Oh, wow. I barely remember that year.

S: Yeah, I know. It's like it's lost in the mists of time. This one comes from a listener named Seth and Seth says, it was pointing out, so if you remember, there was a fiction item where I said that a company has developed a hydrogel that releases insulin slowly so that you only have to inject once every three months to cover your insulin. Do you guys remember that one?

B: Yeah, I do.

S: And he was pointing out that there actually is a, it's actually a micro gel with nanoparticles that does have sustained release of insulin, but this lasts for 22 days and is in mice. So I said, okay, that's closer than I thought, but that doesn't make it not a fiction, right. You know, three months in humans, 22 days in mice, it doesn't render it fiction.

B: Yeah.

S: I've done that before, like saying, like, this has been shown to work in humans. It's like, no, it's actually only in mouse studies. I've made a science of fiction that way many times before. But so for a quick background, though, so for people who are insulin dependent, either type 1 or type 2 diabetics that are insulin dependent... You know, there are different types of insulin that they use. There's sort of the basal insulin. It's like their minimum basal need of insulin, right. So you can get a long-acting insulin to cover that. And then there's so-called prandial insulin where, like, if you eat a big meal, then you've got to take insulin right at that time to cover the glucose spike for that meal. So the problem with getting like one injection that's going to last for a long period of time is that that really would work better for the basal insulin. And so and we already have that kind of longer lasting or like slow release insulin to cover sort of the basic needs. But then you still need to take the prandial like as needed I just had a big meal insulin on top of that. But this new study was showing that the microgel can sense the overall level of blood sugar, of sugar in the blood and therefore can release more insulin to cover the prandial dosing as well as the basal dosing. So that's why, like, even if you need both, you could still be covered for 22 days, at least in mice in the study that was done. So that's a very interesting technology, and I hope this works out in people and they continue to push that forward. It would be great, again, if you're an insulin-dependent diabetic just to have to take one injection, you're good for a long period of time rather than have to measure glucose levels and inject yourself multiple times a day. But it doesn't change the fiction. And you guys got all this one right, by the way. You guys all correctly called that out as the fiction.

B: Of course we did.

S: Yeah.


Interview with Dustin Bates (1:16:01)[edit]

S: We are joined now by Dustin Bates. Dustin, welcome to The Skeptic's Guide.

DB: Hey, thanks for having me.

S: And Dustin, you're the lead singer of the group Star Set. How would you describe your band?

DB: Cinematic, hard music. There's some rock elements, metal elements, EDM. It's kind of across the gamut. But yeah, definitely cinematic.

S: What makes it cinematic?

DB: Everything about it from the music to the marketing to the visuals is movie-esque. And we have a live violinist and live cellist. And so we bring in all of these symphonics to the music.

S: Have you ever recorded music for a movie?

DB: I have not, but that would be pretty amazing.

S: That would be awesome?

DB: Yeah.

E: The video game industry seems to appreciate your music very much.

DB: Yeah, and it keeps growing, actually. We're in the middle of our next tour. We're going to China for three weeks for, I think, yeah, eight shows in a row there for a gaming convention, I guess.

J: Awesome.

DB: Because they used our music.

S: Video games are very cinematic these days.

J: Dustin, I was looking up some pictures of the band and I found this goddamn remarkable picture of your guitar. I'm not sure if it's you because there's a helmet. Basically, somebody's wearing a sci-fi space suit.

DB: Yes.

J: That is so bad. How did that come into being. Tell me the backstory on that.

DB: Yeah, there's a running narrative with the band. And in fact, there's a novel out, a Marvel comic out, and there's going to be a second novel out that actually drops in conjunction with this tour. But when we first came out, there was a space element to the narrative. And that first version of the spacesuit was homemade, the first couple. And then we started to get help. And this next tour actually is on... kind of going to be unbelievable where you have new suits and they're they're just hollywood ready.

B: Whoa.

J: That is so cool.

E: Awesome.

J: That looks like a lot of fun. I mean you're basically in the band that I always wanted to be in because like there's like a science fiction backbone to it that really like sets the tone. I really really like the look.

DB: That's awesome, thank you.

S: So Evan you actually hooked us up with with dustin. you want to talk about with him why he's coming on the show?

E: Yeah, I have to go back to 2019, Dustin, when Star Set was performing in Hartford and my daughter, Rachel, introduced me to your music and she very much wanted to go to the show. So we decided to go. We got the opportunity to not only see the show, but also meet you. And based on what I had read and heard, I thought it'd be a nice opportunity to sort of introduce myself and our show to you, plus brought you a copy of our book. So that's where we first met.

DB: Yep, I still remember it. That was a very memorable hang. You usually don't get to talk about science and associated topics after a show, so that was very welcomed.

E: What was interesting when I was looking into your history a little bit is that you had studied at Ohio University electrical engineering. You Were a PhD candidate there.

DB: Yep.

E: And you also taught at the International Space University, something I didn't even know really existed.

DB: Yeah. Yeah, that was – it's an amazing – I did the summer program, and I went back and actually taught, and it was an incredible experience. I was – when I was helping to teach in TA there, I was, I think, 25. And all the others – like the students were all older than me because you had to have a degree to even – be a student in places like Boeing and NASA sent students and it's from all across the globe. And I met people that ended up being directors at SpaceX and, and Starlink. And so it's really been, it was an incredible experience.

E: Certainly has had an influence on your music and all the work that you put into Star Set.

DB: You know, I was in bands before this and I feel actually lucky that they didn't, it got dropped unceremoniously. At the time it felt terribly but I'm very much where I feel like I should be. This is a blend of all of my passions and nerdery.

S: Now Dustin you're going to be joining us in Dallas for the eclipse.

DB: Yeah, it's amazing that the stars align for that. When I realized that the eclipse was happening I was like oh crap. We got to be on tour and it has to be Cleveland or pretty much Dallas. And I'm pretty sure this tour exists the way it does because of this eclipse.

E: Interesting.

DB: I'm super pumped for it.

J: Awesome. Yeah. So you're going to be joining us for something we call an SGU private show plus, which means we're not just doing a two hour live show, but we're going to hang out with the audience and do some fun stuff for another hour after that. So to be determined on what we're going to do, but everybody's talking about it right now. We usually start talking a couple months before the show to come up with some new stuff. So I'm really looking forward to it.

DB: Awesome. Me too. Can't wait.

E: Dustin, the tour, the next Star Set tour is kicking off right around the same time as the eclipse. Where can people go for more information to see the show?

DB: Yeah, There's still some tickets available. I believe most of the VIP experiences have sold out, but there's still tickets in two-thirds of the cities.

E: Well, having seen your show about, oh gosh, seven or eight times so far, I can't recommend it highly enough.

DB: Thank you. And I definitely – this is an honest statement. I think this is going to be the most wild and immersive one. We're having a ton of fun designing it. So I hope to raise the bar on it for you.

S: Dustin, we're really looking forward to meeting you in person when we're all together in Dallas for the Eclipse and having you join us for our live show there. So thanks for coming on the show tonight and giving us a preview.

DB: Thank you so much for having me.

B: Thanks, man.

E: Thank you, Dustin.

J: Thanks, Dustin.


Science or Fiction (1:22:17)[edit]

Theme: Animal emotions

Item #1: Most rats will stop pulling a lever to deliver a preferred treat if that lever also gives a fellow rat a small electric shock.[6]
Item #2: A recent study shows that goats are able to tell the difference between happy sounding and angry sound human voices.[7]
Item #3: Capuchin monkeys are one of the few non-human animals to be shown to cry emotional tears.[8]

Answer Item
Fiction Capuchin emotional tears
Science Rats have empathy?
Goats differentiate voices
Host Result
Steve win
Rogue Guess
Rats have empathy?
Rats have empathy?
Capuchin emotional tears
Capuchin emotional tears

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

S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts, two real and one fake, and I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is the fake. We have a theme this week, and that theme is animal emotions. Actually, not inspired by Jay's news item, just a coincidence because this is based upon something else I saw on the news. But there's three claims that have to do with animal emotions. Okay, you ready? All right, here we go. Item number one, most rats will stop pulling a lever to deliver a preferred treat if that lever also gives a fellow rat a small electric shock. Item number two, a recent study shows that goats are able to tell the difference between happy-sounding and angry-sounding human voices. And item number three, capuchin monkeys are one of the few non-human animals to be shown to cry emotional tears. Evan, go first.

Evan's Response

E: All right, rats. They will stop pulling a lever to deliver a preferred treat if that lever also gives a fellow rat a small electric shock.

S: Yeah, so apparently the study was asking the question, do rats have empathy. And so apparently the answer is yes, if you interpret this study that way.

E: Okay, so the rat's pulling the lever, getting the treat. At the same time, it's witnessing another rat getting shocked, and it's making some sort of connection between those two events and sort of figuring it out. That seems like a stretch to me. Do rats tend to have more of a pack mentality to them like the damaging of one means everybody is going to suffer in some way. Is it part of a collective collective thought with other rats. I don't know. That one seems sketchy to me. The second one about goats being able to tell the difference between happy-sounding and angry-sounding human voices. That would not – I don't know that that would – I don't think that surprises me. Because I think other animals have been shown to have that. So why not goats. Why would a goat brain goat neurology not work the same way as perhaps some of the other animals like dogs who fall into that category. I think that one's right. And the last one about the monkeys, these monkeys. One of the few non-human animals to be shown to cry emotional tears. Oh, gosh. Why did I think at some point I was told, like, humans are the only ones who cry for emotional reasons, shed tears. So it's either that one or the rat one. And I guess... Oh, boy. It's one of these two. Gee whiz. I'll stick with my first guess. I'll say the rat one is the fiction, but I will not be surprised if I'm wrong and it's the monkey one.

S: Okay, Bob.

Bob's Response

B: Oh, boy. Yeah, these are good, man. I could kind of justify yes or no for any of them. I think I'm going to go with the rat one, although the interpretation that they have empathy isn't necessarily the best alternative. Couldn't they be thinking also like, oh, man, look it. I pull this lever and that rat gets shocked. Maybe I'll get shocked if I hit the lever again. They might be doing that self-preservation instead of anything that's empathic. But what the hell, I'll go with the rats.

S: As the fiction.

B: As the fiction, yes.

S: Okay. Jay?

Jay's Response

J: The first one with the rats, I mean, that one seems the most believable to me. It doesn't seem like that much of a leap to think that they would be able to tell when another rat is in distress. They just have to be able to connect the act of getting the food with the electric shock. So I don't think that one is the fiction. That's likely science. The second one is a study that shows that goats are able to tell the difference between happy sounding and angry sounding human voices. Yeah, I mean, again, like hearing, being able to detect an intonation difference doesn't seem to be that complicated to me. You know, like, why wouldn't they. You know, like dogs can do it really easily. I don't see why a goat couldn't do it. And the last one about the monkeys crying, I have never heard anything of a monkey crying in my entire life. I don't know. For some reason, I just don't think monkeys can cry. I don't think humans are the only ones that cry, except crocodiles. Yeah, I think that was a fiction, Steve.

S: Okay, and Cara.

Cara's Response

C: I'm going to go with Jay on this, not because I don't think other animals can't cry. I know lots of animals that can cry, but I don't think we've ever been able to link tears to emotion. Animals have tear ducts. They can cry when they get shit in their eyes, but I don't think that other animals... I don't think we have any evidence unless this is like a new study that I haven't seen. And if they could find that a capuchin would cry sad tears, it makes no sense that like a chimpanzee or bonobo or orangutan or an ape wouldn't because we're much more closely related to them. I do think a rat, again, like Bob said, I don't know if you would call it empathy. I might call it empathy. I don't know. I mean, it's a construct, whatever. But rats are really smart. Rats are very they can't puke. So if they see another animal eat poison, and then if they see another rat eat poison and then die, they won't eat that poison. So I think that they would watch and be like, oh, crap, this is shocking that animal. I don't want to do that. And then goats. Yeah, goats are super similar. They're social animals. They're very social. They're domesticates. They were raised in farms. Of course, they're going to be able to respond to the farmer's voice, like if it's angry or sad or I guess happy or angry. So yeah, I don't know. The monkey one's the one that sticks out the most to me.

B: I don't know how smart rats are. I've got a small infestation, and I lined up three of my rat traps, one after the other, and I go up and look in the attic, and all of them are filled. Like, oh, boy, they see two other rats dead, and they're like, yo, I think I'm going to get this peanut butter. I think this one's going to work for me. Snap.

J: Bob, those aren't rats. Those are mice.

B: Mice, rats, yeah, whatever.

S: Bob, maybe they all died at the exact same time.

B: I discounted that possibility.

E: Wholesale.

S: Bob, I once caught two mice in a single trap.

B: Oh, twofer. Nice

E: Nice.

B: Holy crap. They're like running for it. It's mine, mine, mine.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: All right. Let's start with number two. A recent study shows that goats are able to tell the difference between happy-sounding and angry-sounding human voices. You all think that one is science, and that one is science. That is correct. That was a recent study that showed that. And what the way they did it was that they habituated the goats to one of the noises, either the happy noise or the angry noise. And then they flipped and, and see if the goats noticed basically. And they did, they would tend more quickly and for longer to the change in the, what we call the valence, the emotional valence of the human voices. So that was their paradigm for can they tell the difference between those two things. And yeah, they're domesticated animals, and so it's not surprising that they would do that. Plus, goats themselves are very vocal, so they already have the wiring there to hear and interpret.

C: They sound like babies.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: Yeah, each other. So it's not that much of a stretch. All right, let's go back to number one. Most rats will stop pulling a lever to deliver a preferred treat if that lever also gives a fellow rat a small electric shock. Bob and Evan, you think this one is the fiction. Jay and Cara, you think this one is science. And this one is science.

C: Yeah, Jay.

S: Yeah.

J: Good job.

E: I was right because I said if I was not right on this one, it was the other one.

S: Yeah.

E: So I was right in what I said.

S: Covering your bets. So rats actually seem to have a pretty wide range of emotions including behavior that seems to follow a construct of empathy. As Cara said, it is also a construct. The researchers are quick to make a distinction between emotion and feeling. Feeling is a subjective experience. We have absolutely no idea what the rats are feeling. Emotion is a programmed response to a situation that involves a behavior.

B: That's interesting.

C: It's like, you know how rats can... They laugh when you tickle them. And so that's an emotion maybe, like laughter, but you don't know if they're actually feeling joy or if it's just a reflex.

S: You don't know what they're feeling, but that's irrelevant to the research. So... There's a lot of research in this area. This is not just like an isolated study. There's also a researcher who is doing a series of studies in rats and they found that a rat will also free a fellow rat from a cage, right. And they'll do that even if they don't get to subsequently interact with the rat. So they're trying to control for variables like, well, maybe he just wants to play with the rats. We're like, hey, come out here and play with me. It's like, nope, he'll free him just to free him.

C: What a good boy.

S: But, Cara, only if they're the same color.

B: Racist rats.

E: Racist rats.

S: More specifically, only if they have been socialized to that breed of rat. So if they grew up with that kind of rat, it's not just about color. It's also about just like...

C: So it's like a kin thing.

S: The distinctive sort of breed of rat. And if they were brought up alone, they won't free any rats, right?

C: Yeah.

S: Yeah, they basically will free rats that they have been socialized to say that they're my group.

C: Yeah, my kinship thing. That's really interesting. There's a lot of interesting stuff in like evolution or evolutionary biology about like kinship evolution, not just the individual but like the family unit or the group.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: Yeah, interesting research. Which means that capuchin monkeys are one of the few non-human animals to be shown to cry emotional tears is the fiction, Evan, you are right. Humans are the only animals that cry emotional tears. There's three kinds of tears, right. There's sort of the basal tears, which is the constant secretion to keep your eyes moist. Then there's reflexive tears, like you get something in your eye and it tears. And then there's emotionally triggered tears. And humans, we don't know why, but we're the only species that has emotionally triggered tears. We don't know evolutionarily why that happened, why it's never happened to any other species, but there it is. I thought it would be a little bit too obvious if I said like a chimpanzee. That's why I went with the capuchin monkey. The fact that they were so weird and specific might make it believable. I don't know.

C: I might have bought it more if it was a chimp. Or like thinking about Coco the gorilla or something. I wonder what it would be like if there was an ape, like a chimp or a bonobo. I'd say bonobo. If a bonobo was raised exclusively around people who cried a lot. Could it learn to cry. Probably not.

S: I don't know.

E: It would imitate, but maybe would it shed tears.

C: I don't know.

S: I think it's such a...

C: Because I don't know how much we evolved that as an... I mean, it's clearly a social response.

S: But it is an involuntary response.

B: It's hardwired, man.

C: It is involuntary, but it's... Yeah, and you're right. Like, I don't like the word hardwired, but it's involuntary and somewhat reflexive. But we could have evolved for it to be that way because of social cues, like laughing or smiling.

S: Mm-hmm. Yeah, but babies smile even if they're blind.

C: That's true.

S: They don't have to see it.

C: Right, but I wonder how long, like when did we start doing that. And did it continue throughout our lineage because we started doing it evolutionarily.

S: Yeah, those are always interesting questions. I know one of the ways that we try to get at it is to say, what are the things that are universal to all human cultures. And then we assume that it's plausible, therefore, if every human culture does it, it's probably something that was present in our ancestors long before we divided up into different cultures.

C: Yeah, it's probably like there's something genetic. And then the question becomes like, why is it in us and not a chimp. Or like, when did that division happen. Or I don't know. It's fascinating.

S: Right. I stayed away from pets because pretty much anything pets do, you would believe. You know what I mean. If I said whatever. If I said anything. And it's all true. It was really hard to find a negative. It was hard to find a definitive statement about an emotional ability that an animal doesn't have. You know what I mean. That's why crying was the only thing I could find to be the fiction.

C: And even with that, people will claim up and down that they've seen animals cry emotional tears, but there's no good scientific evidence to back it up.

S: Yeah, it's pretty clear, I think, that they don't. They're anthropomorphizing. They're just over-interpreting reflexive tears or something else. All right, Evan, give us a quote.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:36:14)[edit]

If you really want to rediscover wonder, you need to step outside of that tiny, terrified space of rightness and look around at each other and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe and be able to say, "Wow, I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong."

 – Kathryn Schulz (1974-present), American journalist and author

E: "If you really want to rediscover wonder, you need to step outside of that tiny, terrified space of rightness and look around at each other and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe and be able to say, wow, I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong." Katherine Schultz. She's a columnist with New Yorker magazine. She's also the author of the book, Being Wrong, Adventures in the Margin of Error.

C: Ooh, I want to read that.

E: Yes, and that line was the last line she delivered at a TED Talk back in 2017. That was the quote.

S: Yeah, I like it.

E: About being wrong. It's important.

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

E: Thank you, Steve.

C: Thanks Steve.


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

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


Today I Learned[edit]

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


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