Transcipt: Mar 25, 2008 Part 2

Kirsten: And we’re back.

Justin: With more This Week in Science.

Kirsten: With more This Week in Science. And on the line we have Dr. Michael Stebbins, and I’m having issues with the CD player so unfortunately I can’t get the CD –

Justin: Again no theme music!

Kirsten: Yes. The CD player says TOC error. TOC error. I don’t know what that means. So, no themes music today, so we’re just going to play what’s there and see what’s happens.

Justin: Yes.

(Music Playing)

Kirsten: And Dr. Michael Stebbins are you on the line?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: I’m back.

Justin: Yey.

Kirsten: Yey. You came back from those white beaches and blue oceans.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: I did need something like that. Yes.

Kirsten: Nice. Are you feeling all refreshed? And –

Dr. Michael Stebbins: I am.

Kirsten: The taints of a DC area washed off of you.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. But it ticks right back off.

Kirsten: (laughs) I know. (laughs) and you’re back.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: I mean you’re the swamp, so –

Kirsten: It is a swamp, yes. Well, you know – until they got the pumps working in – pumped it out.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Indeed.

Kirsten: Yes. So, what’s happening over there?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Or I should tell you why I’m on vacation.

Kirsten: OK.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: I wrote a story. A piece of legislation that was going to put the Tobacco companies under control of the FDA.

So, if they wanted to increase the amount of nicotine in their cigarette, they’d have to seek FDA written of approval to do that or and they will have to list all the ingredients in cigarettes.

Basically is the – they finally get control over the marketing and designs of cigarettes and have some regulation over it, because right now, it’s not.

The idea is basically that of the FDA to regulate the mouthwash that were used to get rid of cigarette breath but wouldn’t be able to regulate the actual amount of nicotine in a cigarette that they use.

Kirsten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: So –

Kirsten: Interesting.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: So, this bill is been actually put some control over that.

So, I wrote – I write a story and I decide that I’m going to actually stop being hypocrite and because I’m pointing these companies and how horrible they are and how people shouldn’t support them. And I say I’m going to quit smoking, and for every cigarette that I smoke, I will give a thousand dollars to the American Heart Association.

Kirsten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Which is, a thousand dollars like I could not afford, so I wanted a very quick vacation to get out of town because I need to be some place where I could not actually – physically buy a pack of cigarette.(laughs) So, that’s why I went –

Kirsten: Last (sp)

Justin: And to avoid all friends, family, neighbors – people who’d you have to answer to for your bad behavior, while – while quitting and fitting

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Right. So I don’t have to choke someone.

Kirsten: And all the people – I mean – That’s right. (laughs) There might also be those people out there who would be tempting you also –

Justin: Somehow I’m picturing you –

Kirsten: A lot waiting for you to slip up like to get you two.

Justin: I’m somehow picturing him on this island, talking to volleyball. (Laughs)

Kirsten: (Laughs) Punching a volleyball.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes.

Justin: Okay not with a face painted on it. “I told you, never talk when I’m concentrating”.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: So, that is exactly what. So this bill is still out there and it’s not passed yet, but it’s a remarkable piece of legislation where, they won’t be able to advertise cigarettes products to children anymore for example. They can still do that –

Kirsten: Really? I though that was gone a long time ago.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. They can still advertise in magazines that are read heavily by children.

Kirsten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: And they can – they’ve been coming out with all sorts of flavored cigarettes – which of course are more appealing to children.

And they have a whole advertising – serious advertising campaigns to market a flavored cigarettes to a young woman in particular. And so, it’s really an opportunity –

Kirsten: Strawberry nicotine is my favorite. (Laughs)

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Oh, my god, its berry. (Laughs)

Kirsten: Oh, my god, it’s berry. It’s good.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. Berry bad. Berry – berry smokey.

Kirsten: Oh, my goodness, that’s just scary.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Well, I mean you have to figured that between – I figure is 1996 and 2001 the – actually it’s 1997 and 2005. So, about eight years, that the average cigarette went up in nicotine, by about 12%. So, while all these people were trying to quit smoking – (Laughs) Nicotine was actually being bumped up in this cigarette.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: Right.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. Lovely. So for the 438,000 people who die in the US every year from a cigarette smoking related diseases, I figured that wouldn’t be a good thing, but anyone who’s actually looking to quit smoking, it’s a great way to do it. Just openly pledge to all your friends “that if you catch me smoking, I’ll give a thousand dollars, for every cigarette to the American Heart Association”. You’ll clap

Justin: Or just lose credibility.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Or, yes. Or just go on (sp)

Justin: Well, there was a CEO for a company aced – one of the top people in the company is to work for that had said that he’d quit – he’d announced everybody that he’d quit smoking. He’d let everybody know. But they would catch him like out in a vast luminous parking lot a couple of times a day, puffing away like – and so you won’t – But to him, he quit.

Because he probably went from two packs a day down to smoking something like three cigarettes or something like that. In his mind, he had quit. But his credibility within the company was kind of shot by that announcing and telling everybody “ I quit”. And then seeing him smoking.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. It’s an ugly disease that – addiction of any kind but this one in particular is pretty insidious. Specially because it’s so easy to get a pack of cigarette.

Kirsten: Yes.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: So, I don’t – you know but this particular method – it works really well.

Justin: Yes. Right.

Kirsten: (laughs) Congratulations.

Justin: Yes. Absolutely. Congratulations on …

Kirsten: Keep it up. Let’s hope you keep your pockets full of the money – that’s thousands.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. Well, I figured now that I put it out there, I guess at the end of the year I should give the American Heart Association a thousand dollars, but it will be at the end of the year though.

Justin: Yes.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: This is one of the – I’m still quit. So, they may get it earlier if I screw up, but –

Kirsten: (Laughs)

Dr. Michael Stebbins: In the meantime all sorts of other stuff is been happening.

Kirsten: Yes. What’s up? What’s up?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: So, you know the genetic information and non discrimination act which I bring up over and over again is a wonderful example of how bad policy – good policy can actually get way laid by people who just don’t belong in congress.

Kirsten: Yes.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Well, it passed the house again; they attached it to the “Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act”.

Which is basically another piece of legislation that’s very popular it’s already passed the Senate. But they attached it in there. And so now, the two – the Senate version of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, goes to the conference with the House version and so the genetic information on discrimination act might pass without having been voted on in the Senate. They can actually do that.

The interesting thing about it is that they still have a hold on it in the Senate. So, senator Coburn has basically said that he does not want the vote coming to the floor even if he’s been voted in favor it of a twice before. Once on the floor and once in committee.

Kirsten: Yes.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: And – some people were digging into that hold and why is Senator Reid is respecting that hold. As it turns out, Senator Reid that majority leader has actually lifted two holds previously.

One was when senator Wyden was trying to block of the – putting the nomination of Lyle Laverty to the assistant Interior secretary for fish wildlife and parks. That was used to – Mr. Wilde was using a part of that hold for a number of reasons and then another act by senator Dodd was actually trying to block and – so he actually has not held or respected these holds for two people in his own party but for some reason he’s respecting it for this particular bill which has passed the senate twice before.

So there is no sense at all, until I think he bought actually, you know – unfortunately you know get on Reid’s case about this now because he really doesn’t have to respect it.

Justin: So, does he have an ulterior…?

Kirsten: Yes. And get and bring it to a vote.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes.

Kirsten: Hopefully he does.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. We’re hoping. It’s a good one.

Kirsten: Yes. But if that – I mean if at this point some that attach to this other bill – I mean it’s not like they’re going to be voting for them separately, it’s all packed together. So, if they don’t for it neither of them go through. Nothing goes through.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. Well it’s already been voted on the Senate. The senate doesn’t have to vote on it again. They can just clear it in conference.

Kirsten: Yes.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: So, you know any language that in difference between two bills can actually be going through in conference. And so – it’s a notorious way of getting bad stuff into bills.

Kirsten: Right.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: But in this case it will be really a good thing to get to a bill.

Kirsten: Hey, so it’s maybe the systems working –

Dr. Michael Stebbins: I have great news. We have another scientist in the congress.

Kirsten: Yey.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Dr. Bill Foster is a former Fermi lab physicist.

Kirsten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Just one special election in the Illinois 14th district. Which was the district of former house speaker Dennis Hastert.

Justin: Yes.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: So, this is a republican district, where a democrat physicist just won. Now, Fermi lab happens to be in this district, and Foster just barely one the selection. It was 52 or 53 to 48.

Kirsten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: It’s very very close. And was even closer between Foster and his democratic rivals when during the primary where he won by a – I think it’s 300 and something votes.

Kirsten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: It’s very very close. At the end of the day we have another scientist in the House of Representatives which is a great thing.

Kirsten: Yey.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: But he has to go up against the same guy again in the fall, just because there’s a special election doesn’t mean that they don’t respect the regular election.

So, they’re putting him in double jeopardy in order to get this seat. So, he will serve at least until the end of the year. And hopefully he can retain the seat. It would be good to have as many scientists as possible and may – senate -…

Justin: Don’t stop kissing the babies yet, Mr. Foster.

Kirsten: Well maybe he’ll be in long enough to be able to actually do something and prove to people that he deserves to be there, and gain some favor.

Justin: Yes. Boys got a big seat to fill.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes.

Justin: The actual chair that was left by Hastert must be enormous.

Kirsten: Yes. (Laughs)

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. Interesting thing happens just the other day.

Kirsten: Yes?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: The Journal Nature? Actually called for the director of the EPA to resign or suggest it very strongly.

Kirsten: Really?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. Which is amazing. A new report release by the GA – Government Accountability, office found that the EPA’s ever to close regional research libraries around the country was plague by managerial problems etcetera etcetera.

Now, the real problem that what really brought this up was on February 27th, there were two – Senator Boxer in routine budget hearing. Got on Johnson’s case for why he didn’t pass this California request for a waiver from the clean air act, for regulating car emissions.

And she remains the same but a serious of memos in PowerPoint presentations that were leaked out of the EPA showed that his – that Johnson top level staff was actually begging him to pass – to allow it to go through.

”This is the choice only you can make”. One colleague write down, “but I asked you to think about the history and the future of the agency in making it if you’re asked to deny this waiver, I fear the credibility of the agency that we both love will be irreparably damaged”.

Wow. That’s one of his top people that was saying that to him.

Kirsten: And he totally disregarded it.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes, of course it did.

Justin: Well, I think – I don’t think it is absolutely irreparable.

Kirsten: Irreparable? Yes.

Justin: It’s we’re zeroing down on the reparation-able time.

Kirsten: (Laughs).

Dr. Michael Stebbins: OK. (laughs)

Kirsten: Yes. Exactly.

Justin: Everything can be fixed. Right now we just got a – you know make it happen.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: The labor you used represents the majority of EPA professional staff also sent in a complaint. And they asserted that Johnson have repeatedly ignored the EPAs official principles of scientific integrity.

And cited several examples of that, including – fluoride drinking water standards, organo-phosphates, mercury emissions in power plants and of course the refusal to waive the clean air act requirements for California.

Kirsten: Right.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: So, there you go. So, Steven Johnson on the ropes.

Kirsten: Wow. Well, it’s just – I mean –

Justin: Amazing house states rights course out the window when the states right interfere with some other agenda?

Kirsten: Yes. But I was just thinking you know – it’s a science journal nature. A society of professionals that have suggested that he be removed from his post, but at the same time, nature is published in the UK. The American organization is science. The American association for the advancement of science and they have not come out with any statement to acknowledge.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: No. they have not come out any specific statement on Johnson.

Kirsten: Right. And at the same time – you know, this is not – I mean, there’s people speaking out against him but, are there any high level individuals who would have some kind of ability to do something about it? Actually, saying something here in the United States.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. I think – at this point, I’m really quite surprised that there hasn’t been larger calls for him to be dismissed. It’s rather remarkable.

Kirsten: Yes.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: I mean, they have the same sort of problems over at the Interior department as well. Where basically they’ve changed the way that the endangered species is being evaluated and it’s under – below 35 years old.

But as a result of the changes that they’ve made in the way the things are listing – Bush has more than seven years as a president, he has placed 59 domestic species on the endangered species list. That’s almost the same number that his father listed during each of his four years in office.

Kirsten: Wow. What about removal?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. That’s good.

Kirsten: How many have been removed from the endangered species list?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: And since interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne got into office, he has not declared a single native species as threatened or endangered. That was two years ago.

Kirsten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Not one. So…

Kirsten: Wow – wow – wow. This is all exciting.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: There’s average that called wild earth guardians may just file the law suit last week. And they’re seeking court order to protect 681 species, all in one shot.

Kirsten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes.

Justin: Good for them.

Kirsten: We’ll see what happens.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes.

Kirsten: See if the legal system actually moves that forward. Please do. Hey.

Justin: Yes. It’s too bad there isn’t an organization out there for scientists and engineers just for you know. Seeing conversation to get together and talk about these policy things.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: There actually is.

Justin: There is?

Kirsten: There is? What?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Yes. A little new organization that you may afford of hearing there are the “Scientists and Engineers for America”.

Justin: So, it’s somebody were to you know – go to a website or something that could probably sign up to get updates on the policy stuff that’s related to science?

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Indeed. And the stories that I cover here, every two weeks, this is going to be a daily briefing of those stories upon the websites for SEFORA.

Kirsten: Fantastic.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Thank you very much for the very subtle plug.

Kirsten: (laughs). We’re all about subtle here. But we need to take – make a move on forward.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Thank you, guys.

Kirsten: Thank you so much for joining us –

Justin: Thank you Doctor.

Kirsten: And congratulations on the quitting on smoking and hope you don’t –

Justin: Very good – very good for health. For next step –

Kirsten: Hope you’re health –

Justin: Next step I’m telling you – a vehicle with airbags. You know? Technology has changed a lot since 1981.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: 91 –

Justin: Still no airbags. Still no airbag.

Kirsten: Thank you very much. Have another couple of great weeks, and we will be talking to you later.

Dr. Michael Stebbins: Take care.

Kirsten: Thank you. Bye.

(Music playing)

Kirsten: That was Dr. Michael Stebbins with the “Weird from Washington”. We’ll be talking to him in two weeks. Next week, we have an interview with science fiction horror author – Scott Sigler.

Yes. We interviewed him last year and he’s got a new book that’s all about this crazy alien parasite infecting your brain. And yes, it fits nicely with our fears of Toxoplasma Gondi. (laughs). And those many other parasites that control your behavior in the world of nature. So, I’m looking forward to the conversation that we’ll be having with him next week. We have lots of evil doing news coming up, didn’t we?

Justin: I don’t know if this is it.

Kirsten: Can we bring it?

Justin: New study from University of Texas at Austin reveals women’s relationship preferences are influenced by their own attractiveness.

Kirsten: Is that evil?

Justin: Yes. Yes. It ruins everything for me. Psychology Researcher at the universities published to findings that attractive woman want it all. Good genes, economic investment, parenting proclivities and emotional commitment – which is published in this month’s evolutionary psychology.

Previous researchers argue that woman that what women vied depended on the type of relationship that they were looking for.

Women looking for long term partners, want someone to be a good provider for them and their children, but women seeking short term flings, care more about masculinity and physical attractiveness, features that may be – from either may be passed down to children.

Researchers, found women ideally want partners to have all the characteristics that they desire. Huh? They want it all. Yes.

Kirsten: Of course we want all.

Justin: However –

Kirsten: (sings)

Justin: However women will calibrate their standards based on their own desirability. And I don’t know if this is – I have a feeling this is perceived desirability too. Not just their actual attractiveness but their perceived of attractiveness – perhaps.

Kirsten: What they perceive of themselves.

Justin: Yes. Maybe. I don’t know – I don’t actually know. But when revealing qualities they desire in romantic partners women gauge what they can get based on what they got. Women who are considered physically attractive maintain higher standards for perspective partners across a variety of characteristics.

Researchers identified four categories or characteristics women seeking a partner. Good genes, being one of them, which can be reflected perhaps in the physically desirable traits or maybe your social interactive ability. The desire to have children – good parenting skills, that’s the second, solid. Number three, loyalty and devotion. The fourth category, MONEY, resources – money.

Kirsten: Are you surprised?

Justin: I’ve got three out of four. Most women attempt to secure the best combination of these qualities. But researchers said, the women who do not find the partner with all the qualities, may trade some characteristics for others.

So, maybe you’ve got good genes, you’re very loyal, you’ve got plenty of money and resources but you don’t want to have kids, you’d be a terrible dad. But it might still work – for some.

Kirsten: Might still work.

Justin: Or, you’re great with the kids, good genes lots of money – yes, but you cheat.

Kirsten: (laughs)

Justin: Yes? Like which one do you live out? Like which one would you – out of those four Kirsten, you know – the good genes, the whatever that means – the good looks you know – the desire to have children, loyalty or money. Which one would you give up first?

Kirsten: Which one would I give up, first?

Justin: Yes. In a partner.

Kirsten: First, money.

Justin: Yes. OK. I’m hoping most women think that way –

Kirsten: Yes. I’d give that up first.

Justin: Otherwise, a lot of women selectivity across categories reflected how attractive they appeared to be to other people.

Researchers also found the characteristics in men – the characteristics men’s desired in a partner, did not vary based on their own physical attractiveness.

Kirsten: Yes. Men just want women. (Laughs). Ugh Women! Hubble has found – some exciting traits on an extra solar planet.

Justin: Huh?

Kirsten: Yes. The planet known as HD189733b.

Justin: I like that one.

Kirsten: Is a hot Jupiter type extra solar planet. It is really close to its parents star; it takes just about two days to go around its fiery sun.

“Hot Jupiters”, they’re big like Jupiter and they orbit close in like Mercury here in our solar system. So, in our solar system, Jupiter is a little further out, it’s a big planet. It protect us and that kind of stuff, but this other planet it’s big, it’s close to the sun and we – it’s got to be gravitational field so it causes a little bit of wobbling, star and – it’s very exciting.

Justin: That was just close up. Classic you have it back for the Jupiter planetary wobble.

Kirsten: I think I’ve been using this sound a lot recently – anyway, the Hubble looking out at the galaxy around us has shown that this extra solar planet has methane – which is an organic molecule which is a precursor and is thought to be necessary for life.

One of the other things that this planet has is water. So there’s evidence that the planet has methane and water. It’s very exciting. This is a couple of the very important ingredients for life. However, this hot Jupiter is much too hot for life as we know it, to be able to survive. Well, it gets even temperatures probably much beyond anything that we have even found in the most extreme thermo philic bacteria on own planet.

Justin: So, maybe some like, super Cajun life form could be.

Kirsten: Yes. Also, NASA’s “Chandra X-ray Observatory”, has a XMM Newton Observatory in the Gemini Observatory have been studying a super nova remnant.

And a super nova light echo, from this explosion that was visible to the earth – from the earth, years and years and years ago. So, there was a super nova explosion long ago, and we’re using the echoes that are remaining around it.

Kind of like the ripples on the water after you throw a rock into a pond. They’ve been using this X-ray Observatories to be able to study the super nova explosion, and to estimate the energy that the explosion had. So, they’ve been validating a new method for studying super novas of the past.

Justin: Very cool.

Kirsten: Yes, it’s very cool. And then there was one more study of their recently – was the brightest gamma ray bursts.

Justin: Furthest object ever witnessed from the earth.

Kirsten: With the naked eye. Which is the most exciting.

Justin: The naked eye.

Kirsten: The naked eye. No binoculars –

Justin: Microscopes –

Kirsten: Not microscopes – telescopes required. We’re out of time, unfortunately, and we have to go away like I said, next week –

Justin: Next week –

Kirsten: Scott Sigler will be with us. Until then, keep your science eye focused on the world around you.

Justin: And if you have learned anything from today’s show, remember –

Kirsten: It’s all in your head.

Kirsten: World robot domination (sings).