Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!
We live in a world filled with information; information that exists in our every bit, every bit of our loopy vibrations and extends from the sub point scale to the very outer limits of our ever expanding universe.
Still the vast majority of our sub cosmic scale humans get their information from major media sources as though they were institutions of higher learning and research.
This does make a reasonable explanation for the irrational lack of knowledge and awareness – the only self known, self sentient species applies to itself like getting a degree and mental sedation. For instance, how can a looming yet avoidable global disaster cause little change in the behavior of its global inhabitants?
Well, by simply admitting the importance of reality. Yes, we can go on our day to day push and pull self absorbed ignorance of impending trouble and doom. Yey!
And while self absorbed ignorance like the following hour programming does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University California, Davis, KDVS or its sponsors, we are here in attempt at bridging the gap between the news and the knowledge, between information and understanding, between buzz bites and essential awareness. Yes we are that full of ourselves.
But compared to what? Compared to who? Yes, humility, sedation and ignorance are vices we will never flaunt here on This Week In Science, coming up next.
Good morning, Kiki.
Kirsten: Good morning, Justin.
Justin: Welcome back to the lovely United States of America.
Kirsten: Thank you. Thank you. First off, it went through my head when I landed in Atlanta, Georgia. I had to through the customs with people who’s speaking English and I can read all the signs.
Justin: I always think of Russian as sort of like Toys “Я” Us signs although…
Kirsten: A what?
Justin: Because it got the — Toys “Я” Us has the R in the Toys “Я” Us backwards. It always reminds me of Russian.
Kirsten: Of Russians.
Justin: Welcome back!
Kirsten: Thank you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be in the studio in person today.
Justin: No, that’s all right. I’ve gotten used to the button pushing now. Totally comfortable with it.
Kirsten: Awesome. We like you comfortable.
Justin: Yeah, I like to be comfortable too. Oh, my goodness. This has been a ground breaking week in science for many, many, many reasons.
Justin: It always is. Every week we come in here it turns out it’s been a groundbreaking week in science. Funny how that always seems to be the case.
Justin: They’re alive; they’re awake in a big dark town that scientists have found. Yes, there’s a world going on underground. New microbial life forms have been discovered there like no others species and microbes on the earth.
Justin: Yes, this is one of the surprising requirements of such life existing which is down sometimes hundreds of feet below the floor of the ocean. Like below the – you got the sea floor down there under all the water. And then up to like 160ft, 170ft, 200ft below that, there’s these microbes living.
And one of the requirements of these — now we’ve reported on this a little while ago that they’d found them. But now they’ve been doing some more research on it.
One of the surprising things is the only nutrients that they have down there to survive on are those that are fossil remnants of plants that were pre-digested by generations of other microorganisms.
Kirsten: Yeah. So…
Justin: So they’re like…
Kirsten: Bacteria droppings are being eaten by bacteria.
Justin: Yeah. Even more surprising then is the sheer number of these creatures living beneath the waters of the world. By the scientific estimations, their large prevalence makes them equivalent to 10% of the living biomass on planet earth.
Kirsten: That’s a lot.
Justin: That’s billions and billions of tons of carbon life form. I mean — and when they say living biomass, I think they’re including plants too. I mean that’s got to part of our biomass, right?
Kirsten: Absolutely. Yeah.
Justin: So every creature on the surface of the planet plus all the plants — 10% of all that is existing underneath the ocean floors. They’re very distinct from life on the surface and another — this is like this hidden roommate that’s been living with us all this time that we didn’t realize.
But they have this sort of geological time scale upon which they exist. Somewhere here it says – I think it’s E.coli can reproduce itself, can double its numbers every 20 minutes or so.
Justin: Very quick, you know. Instead of it’s getting bigger and bigger, it uses up resources food in the area, what have you and splits, doubles up. These archaea that they are finding under the ocean double in numbers over hundreds, possibly thousands of years. So…
Kirsten: So that’s a much longer, longer generation time.
Justin: Incredible, right? I mean that’s just bizarre.
Kirsten: Well I mean if you’re thinking about the relative lack of nutrients down at the bottom of the ocean, the lack of light, the lack of, I mean there’s stuff that’s dripping down to them from them higher level of the biosphere. But I mean they’re going to be adapted to like some kind of deficiency and so they’re probably not going to be reproducing as quickly as organisms that are adapted to times of its plenty.
Justin: But does this mean that the — they’re kind of like saying well, it’s a life form because it does, it is but it’s…
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: They can’t really figure out how the thing could die like what’s its deaths cycle? I mean if this is sort of in this state for a thousand years, that’s an incredibly long lifespan isn’t it?
Kirsten: Yeah, it’s incredibly long life span isn’t it?
Justin: It’s kind of — wow.
Justin: I mean granted it’s a thousand years of sitting in the mud below the ocean hundreds of feet and maybe you know not doing all a lot. But still that’s a long time to be on the planet.
One of the other super powers that they’ve attributing to this is that – well, first of all, it really widens the margin in the universe where life can exist. Right?
Kirsten: Oh, absolutely.
Justin: A couple of the factors that they usually look at in terms of looking for other places where life might be is well, is there a Jupiter type planet that’s close enough that can deflect lots of meteors that are coming; is there protection from radiation, all these sort of things?
These deep sea archaea – these organisms could handle massive impacts by asteroids on the planet earth and just be like, what was that?
Kirsten: Hey, what was that?
Justin: Did you feel that – yeah. Is that an earthquake? I don’t know. Let’s go back to…
Justin: Let’s go back to our nearly completely docile state for another hundred years or a thousand or so.
Kirsten: Yeah, it really – I mean when you think of the moons of Saturn like Enceladus that might have liquid water on it and some of the like organic building blocks that we think are necessary for life.
If we take these archaea bacteria and their ability to live in this really extreme environment, have a really long life cycle and be able to handle these harsh, harsh factors, I mean maybe archaea are just staying on Enceladus somewhere under its frozen surface.
Justin: Yeah oh, no, that’s – yeah, totally. They cid be anywhere now. I mean now we’re just change – and this is sort of what we’ve been thinking scientists that need for a while.
Is that we need to look at other types of life forms when we’re searching here out here. And then we find we’ve got them in magnitude here on our planet.
See, even at depths of 164ft, because the further down you go, the lesser of them there are. At 164ft below the sea floor, they’re still finding as many as 1,600 million cells per square inch of mud. That’s phenomenal. That’s…
Justin: Yeah. Woohoo!
Kirsten: That’s like 1.6 trillion, right?
Justin: Yeah, that’s…
Kirsten: In hundred million.
Justin: Mm hmm. You can call it that.
Kirsten: Yeah, that’s a lot. That is a lot.
Justin: That’s plenty. And so yes, it goes back to what are those — we keep exploring life in outer space and wanting to find it but we still got this whole planet right that we’re on. We should check out a little more thoroughly.
Kirsten: Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t know it’s just really interesting the questions that people are asking about what is life, the questions that these acrchaea bacteria are causing people to ask. I think it’s great. Let’s question everything.
Kirsten: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Some researchers in Germany and speaking of not bacteria but our cavemen cousins – our long, long lost ancestors or maybe not our but the people who live in this particular area in Germany.
There’s a cave became called Lichtenstein hole. And, yeah, Lichtenstein hole.
Justin: That sounds so dirty.
Kirsten: It’s hilarious. It’s made up of a bunch of natural caverns, chambers under the earth. And it’s been hidden. It was hidden for a really long time. They started researching it in about 1993.
Inside the cave, they found 40 skeletons and some kinds of objects that the skeletons might have been using for various purposes. And they thought, oh, maybe these skeletons are representative of the Bronze Age men.
But the bones like normally Bronze Age man would vary individuals out in open fields. And so, they’re trying to figure out – they’re trying to come up with ideas as to why these bones might have been found in the cave.
And they think that maybe one of them — one of the bodies was offered up as a human sacrifice, a meal for one of the other individuals. Yeah. Well and maybe this whole group had been part of some kind of cult ceremony where they were eaten, passed along the flesh from one generation to another.
Justin: Oh my.
Kirsten: Yeah, the bones were protected under a thick layer of calcium that it come from the rocks in the caves that had been – so water dripping through the limestone caves have bleached out calcium and the calcium had created a layer over the bones that actually protected them and preserved them.
So researchers were actually able to do a DNA testing on these bones. And they also took saliva swabs from 300 people who lived in the local area and checked to see whether or not they were related.
They found that a couple of the bones of the individuals in the cave had a particular genetic pattern to them that ended up matching some of the individuals from which they took saliva swabs.
Kirsten: So, yeah. So, they basically have been able to track some individuals living in the local area, their ancestry back over 120 generations.
Justin: That is intense.
Kirsten: Yeah, I know. Hey, that’s your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great – I’m not going to go back that far…
Justin: That’s so long ways back. Yeah.
Justin: Yeah, I think you could take the whole town of Davis and if you found a bone that was like 150 years old, nobody would be related to it. I guarantee it.
Kirsten: Probably not. So it’s pretty exciting these researchers in Germany. What are the names of the researcher? Uwe Lange, they’re working at the University of Goettingen.
Justin: And the name of the cave, one more time.
Kirsten: Lichtenstein hole.
Justin: I’m so wrong this morning. Hey, I’m boycotting our website.
Justin: Because since before I even got onto this show, there’s been a promise of a new website.
Justin: So until there’s a new website, I’m not going to the old one anymore. I’m boycotting it.
Justin: But the listeners don’t have to. Listeners, you can still go. I’m done. I’m waiting for the new one. Hey, this…
Kirsten: We’re working on it. All right.
Justin: This week in The End of the World, planet earth got its results back from the EPA clinic and…
Justin: Yeah, it’s official, yes. We have climate – yeah. This is kind of – who else is involved with this? I can’t figure out who’s working for who and who’s the subset of what organization but it seems like a bunch of governmental organizations got together and did this big, huge, long research paper analyzing what potential effects global warming we’ll have in the United States.
It’s called the Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.6. Analysis and effects of global change — interesting, it’s global change not climate but that’s governmental – yeah. Global change on human health and welfare and human systems from the US climate change science program and the subcommittee on global change research, they have finally released a final report.
Some of the findings, warning, these are a bit on gloomyish side of the street. Effects of global climate change on human settlements while likely to very considerably, they find that the most vulnerable areas are likely to include Alaska because the increased permafrost melt is going to change. Basically, it’s going to evaporate the foundation of a lot of buildings. What?
Kirsten: Oh, good.
Justin: Yeah. And there’s a flood risk and coastal zones and river basins and also arid areas with the associated water scarcity. There will be changes in precipitation patterns that will affect water supplies nationwide, likely, and also having reductions in the snow fall as well as earlier snow melt which will then of course even further reduce river flows in areas and also groundwater levels and could increase the saline intrusion into coastal rivers and groundwater which all will again reduce fresh water supplies.
Justin: On the flip side, heavy rainfall events have been increasingly, they note, in frequency by as much as 100% across much of the Midwest and northeast over the last century or so.
These findings are consistent with observed warming and associated increases in atmospheric water vapor. So, major flood events like what saw recently with the Mississippi’s 20 year flood, now like — they’re saying like it’s going to be like maybe every six years going forward.
Justin: Yeah. Also you can expect track conditions in already parched areas as well as further drying of the northeast. This is the – approximately half of the US population which this is saying is 160 million people…
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: …will live in one of the 673 coastal counties by the end of 2008. So half of us are living in the area that is at particular risk for sea level rise and fresh water shortage.
Kirsten: That’s great. Awesome.
Justin: Another wild card is they’re not sure how many biological life forms. This is that one thing that they couldn’t nail down for at least the scope of this study. How much the biological life forms will adjust to changes. The bio diversity in your area may change so that your state bird or flower may decide to pack up and leave like so many Swanee’s swans or barbaloots in search of choicer climates.
So, you’ve got your state bird, right? Whatever it is, it may have to give it to the state directly to the north of you or south of you depending on the preferences of the bird. Probably head north, yeah.
Justin: So, like…
Kirsten: Follow through, that’s what the birds do.
Justin: So state birds and state flowers will sort of become a historical record of what climate used to be for future researchers to look back and try to determine what was where.
The good news is that it is unlikely that vector and rodent borne diseases will cause any major epidemics due to the climate change because the United States’ public health infrastructure saying then “Oh well it says that if the public health infrastructure of United States is maintained and improved”.
This is kind of troubling because I was just having a conversation for — with a friend that works at a public health lab who’s explaining all the different lab closures and how they’re going to start. Even the main state lab, they’re considering shutting it down completely and just outsourcing it to others states or other central locations.
So, well, anyway…
Kirsten: Hey, you just made my day. Yey. Well, in this week in World Robot Domination news. Robot crab, robot crab.
Kirsten: There’s a robot crab that is being released by a company called Innovation First. It’s called the Hexbug crab. And it’s a cute little thing. It’s on eight legs and it’s got light, sound and environmental sensors that allow it to scurry around and run away from light, run away from sounds and go hide in corners.
Kirsten: Yeah. It’s programmed to find the darkest spot it can find. So I can just imagine this little robot. You turn it on and it runs away, hides in the corner, you forget it’s there until it comes out months later.
I don’t know. And yesterday, Monday July 21st, I’d like to thank Neil Shurley on his website TWiWRD.
Justin: Awesome, the best…
Justin: The best catalog for robot domination information on the internet.
Kirsten: Yes, his post for Monday, July 21st, it’s a historical moment in robot domination history.
Justin: A moment of remembrance.
Kirsten: It marked the anniversary of the first known incident of a robot killing a human. Robert Williams was smashed, crashed by an automated piece of machinery that turned on. And yes…
Justin: By itself.
Kirsten: So the terrible loss of humanity at one point…
Justin: It turned on by itself.
Justin: Not just premeditated.
Kirsten: A terrible loss but is gain for robot domination.
Justin: And it was actually found special thanks new listener minion Lisa down in Las Vegas, Nevada for getting me thinking about robots the other day.
Justin: Yes, it’s just – I don’t see them making that sort of an attack on us so. I’ve pretty much — I’m going with your scenario of we’re going to invent the hookerbot before too long.
Justin: And once the hookerbot is here, I realize like already the internet takes away from a lot of our social mingling that we would normally be doing because we can chat or send emails or do that sort of thing or just get all our new sources sitting in front of the computer.
Once we can have our fleshy needs, taken care of by – the great term that you coin like, I was saying that once we have robots doing chores around the house, it’s a simple step to get them into the bedroom, right? I mean they can already do this complex task. And you coin the term “chore play”.
Kirsten: I haven’t coined that term.
Justin: I’ll coin it then, I’ll take it. Yeah, it was mine. Chore play, I love it. I love it.
Kirsten: It’s a great word.
Justin: But then, like okay, so then we don’t start – we stop like meeting each other and probably, I mean we start having like, we don’t have that requirement then we don’t even have the accidental kids anymore let alone a new relationship because why bother, we already have our…
Our numbers start to decrease.
Kirsten: And so, we stop reproducing. Yes, got it.
Justin: And robots as this story that I have in here somewhere, just sort of mentions that the latest Mars expedition or expeditions especially with the Mars sample that’s returning — it’s an essential step really and the sort of baton being handed from man to robot in terms of space exploration.
Justin: I mean and this is going to be the future. We’re sort of going to be left. I mean if you put a geologist on the moon or Mars right now, huge benefit, right? Having a human geologist look around real time be able to do stuff, manipulate the surface, huge.
By the time we can actually get a human being to Mars, it’ll be totally obsolete. There will be absolutely no reason to have geologist out there. Even the moon, there’s not going to be a whole lot of reason to have a human very soon because robots are going to be able to take care of it.
They’re immune to the radiation out there. They don’t need all the life support that humans do which is a huge bulky addition to any sort of space exploration.
And we can control them with the scientists here on earth can do as much work as they need to from here which is mostly manipulation because computers do most of the preliminary analysis results anyway.
So, I don’t think we’re going to be needed very much longer in space exploration. I think that we’re going to just — robots are going to take over the job sometime in the next 30 years completely. And they’re just going to send us pictures. And there will be postcards from beyond, you know.
Well, be like “Oh, look. Space is pretty. Wish we could go. Sorry, you’re not a robot. You’re not allowed in the space.”
Kirsten: Yeah. Well, I mean the idea I think is to allow robots to go out first and explore. And at some point, I imagine humans will follow because with all the beautiful happy news that you report on The End of the World here for humans, we’re going to have to get off this rock at some point. Populations will either grow or we’re going to use resources to an extent that we’ll need to leave.
There might be a point where we just have to get off the planet and have to move on and colonize another one.
Justin: But that conversation — I mean I understand that conversation. The only problem is that conversation – whenever I hear that conversation, I think of like a ship lost at sea. And the people on the ship being like “Yup, you know what, I think we’ve been on the ship too long. We should just get off the ship.”
And like, you know…
Kirsten: (Probably), yeah.
Justin: Because the ocean is stretching out around them for as far as the eye can see. It’s just seems a little like sun baked or scurvy encouraged or just…
Kirsten: They don’t the robots to check it out in the local area.
Justin: Oh, I know. But listen, I mean we have a very hospitable planet and there’s non-others around. There’s just — they’re not there. If there was one there, if there was like, one like we could even — it would take us 100 years to get there, I could be like, “Yeah, okay. Let’s…” but there’s nothing, there’s nowhere. This is it. This is the only one we got, people, concentrate, focus.
Kirsten: In good news, though, reported in the BBC, researchers who are taking a look at the Lundy zone, the fishing area off and around Lundy Island. Off the coast of Devon in the UK have shown that by creating a protected zone where there’s no fishing allowed, many species are starting to see a revival and that there is an increase in lobsters that are growing to a larger size. There are more fishes that are growing to larger sizes, the…
It seems as though, compared to commercially fished sites around the area, it’s doing based much, much, much better. So things are happening. The – putting in restrictions and regulations on the fishing industry is going to have a good effect on the fisheries around the world. And so, we’re starting to see evidence of those positive outcomes.
Justin: Which is good because we had all good intentions regulating the fish industry before. But I think it backfired the whole throwing back the small ones keeping only the large? The idea was that we are going to keep the older mature fish and the young fish would be able to survive and reproduce.
But what we ended up doing was putting in all the — throwing back all the runts. All the mature fish who are very undersized who continue to mate within the population so that overall, the fish populations – the peak of their height got smaller and smaller.
So we’ve actually like bred smaller fish into the oceans over years of our fishing policies. It’s very bizarre.
Kirsten: Very bizarre. But I mean they’re going to keep taking a look at the fish out in this no take zone or the lobsters in this no take zone. They’re tagging them. And then they’re checking to see if any of the tagged individuals are being caught outside of this no fishing zone.
And if they are being caught outside of it, that means they’re moving out, they’re migrating and that’s good for the fisheries as a whole.
Kirsten: So maybe it could imply that these no fish zones, if they were created in key areas that then — all around the world that that might offer an area for breeding for these animals. The animals could grow, be fine, migrate out and then add to the fisheries as a whole.
Justin: I know fishing ships are much more mobile than this but I’m picturing that no fish zone just being surrounded by like a fleet of fishermen who’s just waiting.
Kirsten: They’re just going to put a giant net over around the corner. But you’re probably right.
Justin: Oh, we have reached this part of the show in which we go into a break.
Kirsten: Have we now?
Justin: Yes, we were like right up against it.
Kirsten: Okay, okay.
Justin: So we’re going to vanish for a moment and then we’ll come back with more of this wonderful show. Do you have any early shout outs or anything else you want to get out while I play the buttons and figure out what things do?
Kirsten: I’d like to thank Ed Dyer, as always, for sending in lots of fantastic stories. Who else was somebody who…?
Justin: Kalidasa, of course, always.
Kirsten: Kalidasa, always, thank you very much. Mike Hart, thanks for listening. I’ll send you an email later. And John Thurm, John Thurm was another person who emailed and…
Justin: And by all means, boycott our website. Don’t go there…
Justin: …until Kirsten fixes it.
Kirsten: I want people to go to the website. Twis.org. And we’re going to – I really am going to fix the website. I promise.
Justin: It’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s that – oh, wait. I don’t believe you. All right, we’re doing a break.
Kirsten: All right, all right. Oh, yeah.
Justin: We’ll be back with more of This Week In Science…
Kirsten: (Unintelligible), thanks for the cavemen story.
Justin: …on the other side.
And we’re back with second half hour of this This Week In Science. On the phone via remote and the beautiful yet cold San Francisco Bay Area, lovely producing and co-host, Kirsten Sanford.
Kirsten: Why, thank you. Thank you, thank you.
Kirsten: We’re here. We’re here. I was listening to the whole break and the Chlamydia song…
Justin: Mm hmm.
Kirsten: I played it for a bunch of my students in Russia and they loved it. And all of them said, “Can I have it?” and they brought me disks and their little USB flash drives and…
Kirsten: …“Please, please. Can I have the Chlamydia song? I love it.” So now, there are Russian science students…
Justin: That is so awesome.
Kirsten: Yeah, climatia is spreading.
Justin: And yeah, huge, huge shout out to Trebetherick…
Justin: …who’ve created the song for our last pledge drive there. Together we are spreading Chlamydia to the world, my friend. That’s so wrong.
Kirsten: It is. It is so wrong. But it’s so good. So right.
Justin: it really is a much better way trying to get to general public to pay attention to such things because I really think once they see it in terms of chlamydia, it will have a much better – bigger impact on their day to day lives.
Hey, here’s a positive story, potentially on The End of the World. Put it a little positive spin like a pale ale on a hot day, a slice of lime maybe the perfect addition for getting the climate’s palate back to an earthly taste, say scientists who have found a workable way of reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere by adding lime to seawater. Huh?
Justin: Yeah. Well, not lime limes but it’s I think from limestone lime.
Justin: They think it has the potential to dramatically reverse some of the CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, says the report that is however in Chemistry and Industry magazine. So not necessarily source the best source for scientific informational news but still it’s out there.
Shell Oil is so impressed with the new approach that it is funding an investigation into the economic feasibility of something of this nature stating that they think it’s a promising idea, adding calcium hydroxide to sea water will also mitigate the effects of ocean acidification. And therefore should have a positive impact on the marine environment.
I don’t know if that makes – do we really need to fix the ocean before — I think the oceans is – okay.
Kirsten: Well, yeah, the oceans act is a buffer. And they soak up a lot of – I mean they are one of the places that carbon dioxide is being held. And so, we’re not seeing as great of an increase in the CO2 in our atmosphere as we would because the ocean is soaking up a lot of it.
Justin: Oh, right, yeah. The ocean is the largest “taker away” of carbon in the atmosphere. It absorbs like…
Kirsten: Right. And…
Justin: …two billion tons a year.
Kirsten: Right, right. And as carbon dioxide increases in the oceans, that means that there are going to be other chemical changes that are leading to changes in PH or the hydrogen hydroxide ion balance within the oceans.
And as that changes we’re going to see differences different is in the ability of fish to survive, corals, all sorts of different things. A lot of processes are going to change.
And so, I think what they’re saying is that we put in if lime or the limestone components, it’ll probably soak up carbon dioxide in the form of like calcium carbonates or other compounds so that it won’t be able to make those PH changes within the ocean itself. So it’ll get – just put into a physical compound as opposed to being in pollution throughout the oceans.
Justin: Excellent. So yes, they’ve been thinking about this for years but abandoned a long time ago because there’s so much CO2 released in the process of obtaining lime from the limestone in the first place.
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: But I guess what they’ve found is that the process of making lime generates half of the CO2 that is absorbed by sea water once it’s introduced. So it has a net negative carbon impact…
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: … of almost twice. So it’s almost twice as much as it causes in the process. There’s a researcher, Klaus Lackner, researcher in the field from Columbia University who’s saying the theoretical CO2 balance is roughly right and certainly worth taking a careful thorough look at. The oceans – actually it’s an open source project. You can go to www.cquestrate.com or ww…
Kirsten: Say that again.
Justin: It’s cquestrate like – don’t be playing on words for your website it makes it actually harder to remember them. Like come up with something simpler but it’s the letter C and then questrate like sequestrating the carbons from that.
I kind of think this lime idea still needs the dash of salt to go with it like…
Kirsten: That’s great.
Justin: It seems a little – and I kind of checked out the website and I didn’t – it sounded like it’s being run sort of by a management company and Shell Oil is involved. And just I didn’t see enough sciency backing behind it. But maybe it’s there below the surface and I haven’t seen it yet. So, maybe the minions can go check it out, see what they think.
Justin: I’m not – I’m skeptical.
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Kirsten: It’s good to be skeptical.
Justin: Yes. And I’m skeptical about everything. I’m skeptical about gravity, so. Prove it. You got to prove it first.
Kirsten: Well in a piece of information that – a piece of evidence has come out for in support of a hypothesis suggesting that lots of Antarctica come from the southwestern United States…
Kirsten: …have been published in the Journal Science.
Kirsten: Yes. So there’s this idea that says hypothesis that’s called the southwestern United States and East Antarctica Hypothesis otherwise known as the SWEAT hypothesis.
And the idea is that – how long ago was it? Is it like 600 million to 800 million years ago, there was a supercontinent called Rodinia. And during that timeframe, a piece of it like broke away from what we now consider the southwestern United States.
And those pieces that broke away from the Rodinian super continent drifted to the south and actually ended up becoming part of Australia and Antarctica. And so there hasn’t been a lot of evidence to support this idea even though researchers have been checking out geological records.
And they found this basically trail of rubble that’s been – it’s been streamed from Canada all the way down through the United States. And they call it the Transantarctic Mountains. And so, they’ve been trying to piece it together by following these things.
And they ended up sorting through some rubble on Antarctica. They’re picking up boulders. And they’re checking things out that looked interesting. And they found one rock that was about as big as, you know. They say it was small enough to pick up in one hand. And they found it on top of what’s called the Nimrod glacier.
And they say that it has a very specific coarse grained texture that is similar in chemistry and isotope levels to the belts of igneous rocks that’s found in North America that stretches from California all the way Eastern through New Brunswick and Newfoundland in Canada.
Justin: Wow! Interesting.
Kirsten: Yeah. And so…
Justin: That’s an exciting discovery.
Kirsten: Yeah. So one little rock that they found – this little rock that’s just is a piece of piece of granite. And they have done tests on it. And it’s like, “oh, it seems to be this part of this Laurentian mountain belts”. And that somehow this rock moved all the way through geological activity from California to Antarctica.
And just imagining the granite that you see in Yosemite or the Sierra mountains…
Kirsten: …having picked up and taken to Antarctica.
Justin: That’s wild. I’m picturing being – having a moment of self awareness knowing that I’m on a glacier, an iceberg in Antarctica that’s called Nimrod.
Justin: Feeling as though somehow fate has sent me here to stay. Something terrible about that, I can’t…
Kirsten: I’m a rock on Nimrod.
Justin: I’ve been sent to a glacier in the most forbidden frozen part of my planet. And they called it Nimrod. And now, I’m like the – it’s my own island. Now, it’s time to create a flag and start my own country.
Justin: I got to on that, by the way, keep putting that off my starting my own nation scenario.
Kirsten: Yeah. No, I don’t know what’s holding you back.
Justin: I haven’t been able to come up with the right design for flag yet. It’s kind of like picking a new tattoo. It’s just I keep going over and over it. And I’m like “Yeah. No. Yeah. No. Yeah.”
Kirsten: The same thing as the website Justin.
Justin: Is that…
Kirsten: It’s just isn’t perfect yet.
Justin: Any website will do. Even if there’s boards missing on the floors, I can – I’ll work around them. I’ll put up the little yellow signs, the slippery when wet, the whatever we need just get it up. Come on. How hard can it be?
Kirsten: All right, all right, all right.
Justin: Thank you. And in evolutionary arms race, knowing your enemy is key. Even better, changing your enemy. Yes. This was a great story that was – I don’t know was this a year ago, year and a half ago or something — where we found the retro virus that was hidden away in our DNA. And some scientists went and actually reanimated it, brought it back.
Kirsten: Right. I love that story.
Justin: Well, they didn’t stop there. They started playing with it. And they introduced it to some human cells. See what happens. And it infected the human cells and the human cells had a response with a protein called APOBEC3G which mutated the virus’ DNA in recognizable pattern and used it to attack it.
Justin: Yes. It like was still – our immune system still had record of how to handle the retrovirus.
Kirsten: That’s amazing.
Justin: Which – I mean this retrovirus could’ve been, gosh, who knows how many like thousands, millions of years back in the scale of evolution? That this thing encountered us for the first time, right?
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Kirsten: And somehow our immune system was like, “Oh, I know exactly what to do.” (Unintelligible).
Justin: In the architecture of our immune system, there was still the answer. It was still recorded. I think that’s amazing. It’s amazing, one, that the retrovirus can sort of have a print of itself that it survived through our DNA which is strange enough.
But that our DNA can see this retrovirus show up out of nowhere, and still have a reaction to it, still know how to combat it. Brilliant. Brilliant. I love our DNA. Yey, DNA! Yay immune system.
Kirsten: Yey for installation storage with fidelity.
Kirsten: Great. That’s great. Ninety three million years ago, there was a mass extinction. And researchers think that there was a massive amount of oxygen depletions. And they’ve been trying to figure out why or how the oxygen would have been depleted.
And they think – they suspect that it was probably a large amount of volcanic activity. However, researchers weren’t able to find a clear link within the sedimentary record.
However, some researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada have found what seems to be the evidence that points to a massive increase in volcanic activity globally. They looked at isotopes of an element called osmium. It’s a very rare metal so it’s not found all over the place. It’s not really widespread but it is located globally.
The ratio of osmium is 187 to 188. And the different isotopes are in different levels within the mantle and the crust. So 187 is usually found more in the crust of the earth and osmium 188 is usually found in the mantle.
So they took a look at the ratio of these two isotopes to each other in a couple of areas, one in Italy and the other one somewhere in South America. They found that there was a drop in ratio so the amount of 177 dropped in relation to the amount of 188 suggesting that there was a huge amount of maybe magma that contains this osmium 188 that was discharged or put into the oceans at a particular time that seems to lineup with the 93 million year old extinction point.
And so, they took a look at this stuff. It correspondents to 3,000% to 5,000% increase in global volcanic activity.
Kirsten: 3,000% to 5,000%. I mean it’s just crazy. I mean just imagine what that would mean to the amount of magma being like flooded into the ocean and what would have happened. What they think is that in the modern day Caribbean…
Justin: Jacuzzi, Jacuzzi.
Kirsten: Are you there? Huh?
Justin: Yeah. I was just singing a Jacuzzi song because I was getting excited about the hot tub of the pacific.
Kirsten: Yeah. And it would be a hot tub. So the modern day Caribbean, they see that like millions of square kilometers would have just erupted almost instantaneously, just everything blowing up.
Justin: I don’t – yeah.
Kirsten: That is just insane.
Justin: Moody earth. Why…?
Kirsten: Yeah. But now, they’re trying to figure out. So now they have this evidence that seems to link increased volcanic activity to the 93 million year ago extinction but they don’t know what caused the eruption.
Why it happened there in that particular location? What might have caused it? And then exactly how did that eruption deplete the oxygen in the seas enough to kill such a large proportion of life on earth at that time.
So they’re working things out. One question answered leads to more questions asked.
Justin: Our planet has gone through so many, many, many changes.
Kirsten: I know.
Justin: And yet, our friendly archaea under the sea, “They never really taken much notice of it.” They could care less.
Kirsten: I think that’s like a line out of a song. If somebody out there wants to write it. The friends archaea under the sea…
Justin: Couldn’t care less about you or me. [singing]This is a story sent in from Kalidasa this week. This is really interesting. A very small sample story but it’s titled “Loud Bar Music Makes Customers Drink More.”
Justin: Yeah. Customers at bars that are playing loud music drink more quickly and finish their pints in fewer gulps. French researchers have found their study is published in the Journal Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research. It almost sounds like a how-to for bars though.
They found that – didn’t it? That’s more like you’re being industry magazine like how to get them to finish their pints quick and move on.
They found that turning up the music spurred drinkers to down a glass of beer about three minutes more quickly than without the music. To gauge the effect of sounds, they spent three Saturday nights visiting two bars and observed 40 men between the ages of 18 and 25. It’s a very small sample but what a brilliant idea to research.
Hey, when do we go out to the bars and (unintelligible) tell while it takes people to finish their drinks. Yeah, that’s good research. That’s good research.
Kirsten: That is good, yeah. And the about hope is that also somebody got some grant funding for that. I can just imagine (unintelligible)…
Justin: At least enough to cover their own pints.
Kirsten: I don’t know. Okay I need $300 for beer.
Justin: Oh, but it’s France. I’m sure they were like, whoa, yeah, that, you know.
Kirsten: Wine. Yes.
Justin: But they think the louder music actually did spur more consumption too with people ordering more drinks per patron while they were there. They think that one possible reason for this strange phenomenon was that it cut down on the pub goers’ ability to converse with each other because you can’t spend as much time…
Kirsten: I can’t talk.
Justin: …running your mouth. So, you take another gulp, which makes sense. So for you bar owners out there, crank up the music. I mean just blast it. Make it so it’s like make it illegal to talk in your bar. That would be new laws, like no talking. You don’t need…
Kirsten: This bar is for drinking only.
Justin: It’s just a drinking bar. If you want to talk, you got to go outside with the smokers.
Kirsten: Well in terms of drinking, there’s a phenomenon that occurs when little babies drink the milk of their mothers. And it’s called — it’s related to the trust fostering that occurs through this process of nursing.
When mothers nurse their children, the suckling increases the amount of oxytocin, a hormone that released from the pituitary that ends up getting into the blood and it causes this just bonding between mother and child to occur.
So when oxytocin starts being released, there’s this bursting that ends up happening. There’s like the synchronized bursting between the neurons in the network of the brain that control this behavior. And researchers have been trying to figure out what possibly controls the bursting.
Now, something that I thought was really interesting about this article out of the UK Department of Computer Science at University of Warwick and some researchers at Center for Integrated Physiology in Edinburgh, Babraham Institute in United Kingdom and Biology (Dinnerhorn) Endocrine Montpellier, France.
So these researchers have published in the Public Library of Science about their neuronal model. So they’ve taken a computer model to try and describe the behavior of these neurons based on a bunch of evidence that’s been published previously in the literature. And they think that they have figured out what happens.
So what ends up having suckling stimulates the response. But then there’s oxytocin that gets actually released from the dendrites of the neurons that has a positive feedback effect that primes the neurons themselves to go on to release more oxytocin from the ends of their axons.
And so, the thing that’s really fascinating to me about this whole idea is the fact that the dendrites of the neurons which are normally meant for receiving information are releasing information that controls the entire behavior so it…
So normally, you have – I don’t know, this is probably something that might be more widely spread throughout the brain than we currently think it is. But – so you have the dendrites and then the dendrites receive information from axons of other neurons and then electrical information travels down the dendrites to the cell body to the axons.
And then in the axons, they store more hormones and neurotransmitters that then get released from the ends of the axons to the next set of dendrites and so on down the line.
But now they’re finding that there are these little bundles of hormone in the dendrites and that they’re being released to each other and they’re kind of controlling the way that they all work together. So, it’s kind of neat.
Justin: That’s awesome, yeah.
Kirsten: So there’s – yeah.
Justin: That’s wild that they can get that drilled down on that process. That’s insane.
Kirsten: Yeah. It’s really, really neat.
Justin: I actually – I think I ruined the trust of my children.
Justin: Well, because I wanted to – I have two kids and I felt left out both times with, the breast feeding and all that kind of stuff. And so, I tried, you know. But because I don’t produce any milk, they’ve just began to trust me less and less and get angry with me. So the whole thing backfired.
Kirsten: You promised so much, dad.
Justin: Oh, no. Do we have – I’ve got stomach bugs appear to protect kids from asthma.
Kirsten: Well, that’s pretty cool.
Justin: Helicobacter pylori may strengthen the immune system of children. At least they found the correlation between an absence of helicobacter pylori and children who have increased risk of asthma.
We need to really do the drill down on – I mean I’m glad this kind of research is going on because this is awesome. I mean it maybe that – let’s see, our hypothesis is that if you have helicobacter, you have a greater population of regulatory T cells that are setting a higher threshold for sensitization.
So it’s not that it’s directly combating asthma but it’s creating an effect on your immune system that has your immune system more keyed up and ready to prevent other things from bug and…
Kirsten: Yeah, but it changes how sensitized you are to things. So if your threshold desensitization is higher, the likelihood of you just becoming sensitive to anything is a lot, lot less. You’re going to not get asthma or allergies or whatever. But then if you have a lower level of those cells, sensitization is higher and so you’ll be more likely just to respond to anything.
Justin: This is a — I’m going to coin a whole new frame of reference for endangered species here based on what I’m reading. They’re saying that this growing body of data that says that the early life use of antibiotics increases risk of asthma. Parents and doctors are using antibiotics way too often and that the reality is that heliobacter is disappearing extremely rapidly endangered species.
Kirsten: It’s not endangered species.
Justin: Yeah. It is to the bio – I mean if there’s lots and lots of one kind of animal on a foreign country and another, but here they’re disappearing rapidly, we say they’re endangered here, right? So…
Justin: …you can call helicobacter an endangered species in early stomachs, early age, right, and protect them.
Kirsten: It’s an interesting idea though that by using antibiotics when kids are young, you’re actually changing the level of natural bacterial populations that the immune system should be responding to and then you change the way that the immune system responds to things.
Justin: Right. And preschools are basically incubation centers, okay, for bacteria. But this is a good thing. This is getting — these immune systems supercharged to head out into the global big world beyond and having had as many looks at different things.
They’ll figure out the days of the week if they don’t get it in preschool to figure it out by kindergarten at least the first grade, none of that really matters. They’ll catch up.
Kirsten: I haven’t figured it out.
Justin: They’ll catch up on all the things that they try to actually teach them in preschool even if they don’t go to preschool. What they get in preschool, what they get is they get is that mix, that mix of bacteria and germs. It just gives them so many looks in their immune system so much knowledge.
And yes as a parent, you spend a good amount of downtime for the new stuff, like oh, “What are these kids into these days?” And you find out and you have diarrhea for three days.
But that’s what preschool’s all about. It’s about licking the monkey bars, touching everything and not washing your hands right away and not using anything antibacterial…
Kirsten: That’s right.
Justin: …because it’ll make a much stronger person for the future to come. And in the future to come, you’re going to be here, right?
Kirsten: Next week, I will be there in studio. I promise.
Justin: Awesome. So good because we’ve reached the end of the show. Hey, if you learned anything from today’s show…
Kirsten: It’s all in your head.
Kirsten: See you next week, Kiki.
To listen to the audio podcast visit: http://www.twis.org/audio/2008/07/22/264/