Transcipt: Mar 18, 2008 Part 2

Justin: They say that they’ve contributed great – much more greatly than the Australian government’s flyovers of military helicopters and what have you. Japan for whom whaling is historically part of its culture, much like slavery was at the United States I guess, has plan to kill 850 Minke whales and 50 fin whales.

Under international pressure, Japan dropped plans to kill up to 50 humpbacks, beloved by the Australian whale watchers. They also have one, like albino humpback- that’s like the name that the tourist got to see all the time, and it was so frightening like –

Kirsten: Yes. To somebody who is going to kill it.

Justin: Going to kill their cash cow of the sea.

Kirsten: Tourist cash whale?

Justin: Yes. Last year, as well – Japan only killed a little – more than half of its intended catch, although at that point it was because a fire had damaged the mother ship and it was leaking oil into the arctic down there.

Although the environmentalists also harassed whalers last year both sides said that the fire was an accident and unrelated to protests.

Japan uses that loophole on the 1986 whaling moratorium, that allows “lethal research” on giant mammals saying that they’re doing this for scientific research by capturing and killing and eating them.

Kirsten: I know.

Justin: Which – you know, and I’m so against this. This is such a large majestic creature on this planet, I mean it’s just such a –

Kirsten: I wonder what kind of –

Justin: …feat of evolution that this things even exist.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: And they’re gentle creatures. However, I did have a chance to have taste some narwhal when I was in Greenland.

Kirsten: Finland? Greenland. Hmm.

Justin: And man, I mean it’s not that I don’t understand why you would want to catch and eat them, because they’re –

Kirsten: They’re tasty?

Justin: They’re tasty. They’re very – they’re very good.

Kirsten: [laughs]

Justin: They taste very – so, it’s not that I don’t understand the Japanese wanting to eat them, but, it’s just not worth it.

Kirsten: Yes. I just have to wonder what the scientific research purposes are that they’d like – that they need to take these animals.

Justin: It’s the loophole thing.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: That’s what they call it in order to –

Kirsten: Well I mean, there are sorts of animals that – as long as they’re here in the United States as long as they’re not on an endangered species list, you are allowed – you know – even if they’re slightly threatened, you are allowed to take for a particular research purposes, you are allowed to take a certain number of birds or little white fishes or whatever it happens to be. To do what you need to do and –

Justin: And I understand the Japanese – I mean they can’t just do the research by taging them because small transmitters and receivers are way beyond their technology.

Kirsten: [laughs]

Justin: So, they have to use these primitive means because that’s all that’s afforded to them.

Kirsten: Right. Well, speaking about primitive means of studying, well advanced things, researchers are taking a look at surface of Mars by calculating the number of craters that have been blasted in the surface through volcanic activity.

They take a look at the crater-ring rate. Like they think it has occurred – they believe that what’s happen is that Mars has had a series of five very violent volcanic periods in its past. In which it was just racked by volcanic eruptions and lava flows.

These phases occurred about 3.5 thousand – million years ago. 1.5 thousand – million years ago.

Justin: Wait, it starts from – that’s a long time ago.

Kirsten: That’s a long time ago.

Justin: Wait -wait a thousand million that’s –

Kirsten: Four thousand millions.

Justin: Its not billions?

Kirsten: Trillions.

Justin: No. Billions.

Kirsten: Yes. Billions.

Justin: A thousand millions – so like three and half billion years ago?

Kirsten: Something like that.

Justin: What? That can’t be right.

Kirsten: Thousand million.

Justin: I don’t believe it.

Kirsten: 400 to 800 million years ago, 200 million years ago and 100 million years ago.

Justin: That makes more sense.

Kirsten: The dates of earlier episodes, they think they have a sampling error of only about a hundred or 200 million years and that the later dates are about 20 to 30 million years. So their sampling errors is a little bit less on those more recent dates.

Justin: Well, if they can track back that far, that means Mars never had plate tectonics, never had any of the stuff that…

Kirsten: Well, volcanic activity would I mean – that shows that there would be a lot of that’s activity occurring under the surface so maybe there was some kind – you know a little bit of plate action going on but this is volcanic. They’re looking at the surface –

Justin: But they’re doing it by checking out the surface, that’s something that kind of ruins the Mars had an atmosphere that was very earth like and then something went wrong …

Kirsten: Well, they believed it occurred after the warm wet period on Mars so they’re saying, first it was warm and wet and then volcanic activity, and now it’s this kind of barren drive part.

Justin: To the hundreds and millions years that make sense but not the three and a half billion year one. Because that’s about the time – isn’t about the time that the planets were forming? I don’t know what – I have to call these people.

Kirsten: No. I don’t think so. But the interesting thing that also came out recently is that they estimate that the formation of life here on earth occurred during the period in which we were being just ransacked and heavily impacted by meteors.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: So, we probably did come from space.

Kirsten: That’s very possible that we came from space. Yes.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: It’s very interesting. There’s this data that they’re using the high resolution stereo camera on the Mars express to be able to look at this geological activity. Basically, the idea is that the more craters that’s accumulated, the older the surface. So, that you know – and there’s the – the idea that – oh, maybe those craters did come from meteor impacts.

Justin: Hmm.

Kirsten: But researchers do think that the small craters don’t get – they’re not from meteor impacts but it’s the Martian rock that’s getting strewn by the single volcanic thrust out of the surface of the planet.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Mount Olympus. I think that’s the biggest mountain that we know of. Or is it Lymp –

Kirsten: Olympus Mons.

Justin: Olympus Mons – that’s what it is.

Kirsten: It’s big one. Big – big –

Justin: Huge mountain ever from Mars.

Kirsten: Yes that’s right. People think that climbing Mount Everest is a big challenge.

Justin: It is. That’s big enough.

Kirsten: It may be even bigger on Olympus Mons.

Justin: Yes. A lot of people won’t survive that hike. Oh, my goodness. Studies suggesting getting squirrely with stress – stimulates your smarts –

Kirsten: The squirrels study right?

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: This the squirrels? I like them.

Justin: Yes. You got this one?

Kirsten: You go. No -no you brought it. Bring it.

Justin: No – no – no. Because I don’t have – I just have like a it’s a strange.

Kirsten: So, the basics is that “Cortisol” is your stress hormone. And when you’re stressed out, cortisol is increased in your body. And there’s been this question as to, how much cortisol is good and how much cortisol is bad.

And it’s thought by looking at various different species that the body can adapt so you have like acute stress which is you know – maybe someone’s steps on their brakes really hard in front of you in the car and – you have to react really fast and then your heart rate goes up.

And you’re a little bit jazzed up for a while, and over a period of time you’ve calmed down a little bit, and every thing’s OK.

And that is thought in this acute stress. It’s thought that kind of – can increase your ability to learn and remember things. Because periods of – moments of high stress you do usually end up remembering those things very clearly.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: For whatever reason during periods of very high stress in your life. As long as it’s not you know, mounts of high stress, you’re going to really remember the details of the moments that was sometimes you know – these things you don’t notice and don’t remember.

Justin: I can still see the car that slammed into me and while I was driving a car too. Thankfully – in slow motion.

Actually even inside and the time in slow motion, the squealing of the brakes, the lowering of the front end of the vehicle as it moved closer and closer.

Kirsten: Right. Time seems to slow down, you recall things much more clearly after the event.

So, there’s a lot in peoples’ personal experience that suggests that you know, cortisol can have an impact on learning and memory. But there’s also the chronic stress, like say long periods of time where you’re sick, or you’re working like really stressful job.

And like overtime it really impacts you and it’s thought that, that will actually deteriorate your learning and memory.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes. So, the study was by Jill Mateo at University of Chicago in comparative human development, and she looked at the stress hormone cortisol in ground squirrels.

Ground squirrels they have to adapt to things so there are predators all around they have to – when they come out of their burls when they weaned they have to like be able to react quickly to get away from those predators that maybe wants them –

Justin: Baby squirrels have lots and lots of concerns. I mean at four weeks of age, most humans don’t have a whole lot to worry about. If you’re a squirrel, you’ve got every thing from hacks to neighborhood cats to dogs to any like – trying to cross the road for the first time at four weeks old you’re crossing the street.

Kirsten: Yes, exactly. So, what the researcher – what Jill Mateo found is that there’s something of an “inverted U”, in the relationship of cortisol to survival – the memory.

And it looks as though those with really high levels and those with really low levels of cortisol don’t do so well, but right in the middle in those moderate levels of cortisol, they have the highest learning.

Justin: Hmm.

Kirsten: The ones in the middle has the best learning so if you don’t have a lot of cortisol – if those animals don’t have a lot of cortisol, maybe things just don’t get stimulated enough it’s just not revving up their neurons in getting things going. But if there’s too high amounts of cortisol, in the body, then maybe that’s actually impairing the activity.

Maybe just flooding the system like when you step on the gas – you know maybe automatics people don’t have that effect anymore, but if you try of the stick shift there’s the possibility of flooding your engine right? So, if you push on the gas too much and the gas floods the engine.

So, maybe that’s you know, you don’t have enough gas, it won’t go, too much gas you flooded it, it won’t go. Nice even amount as you accelerate you can just jam right out of gate.

Justin: I don’t think you can flood most engines anymore.

Kirsten: That was something I grew up with. I don’t know.

Justin: I think that’s old car. It’s like when you’re pulling the choke. You got to pull the choke lever and you got to double clutch to get in the get into gear– what? When you go out friend you cracked the engine on. Right?

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: You know what I’m talking about?

Kirsten: Yes. So, anyway this squirrels they didn’t learn how to respond to danger as efficiently as those who had moderate levels of cortisols.

So, the conclusion is that maybe we can put this over you know not so much on ground squirrels and then we can adapt this hypothesis to humans and –

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Maybe moderate amounts of cortisol are good for us.

Justin: Yes. But can we – I mean we won’t promise we can’t do that study. Right? We can’t like boost the levels of cortisol in people.

Kirsten: Well, I mean human research, you have to go through all sorts of protocols and stuff – I mean people do it all the time by drinking coffee and like you know –

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes. I mean you boost stuff like that all the time by giving yourself little caffeine.

Justin: Stimulants. Ah. Wow. That was awesome. No, no, no that was Kirsten just do with the mouth. Do that again, do the squirrel sound. That was incredible.

Kirsten: That’s little squirrel noise.

Justin: Do it again. Oh, my goodness. Wow.

Kirsten: That’s my sound effect.

Justin: That’s awesome.

Kirsten: Ta dah!!

Justin: That’s a good one. Yes.

Kirsten: Thanks. We can use that on your next radio drama – the drama of the squirrels in outer space.

Justin: Our next presentation, we will give you an hour and a half of squirrels chatting. [laughs]