Justin: You’re listening to This Week in Science.
Good morning (Kiki). What’s up?
Justin: Anything can happen today. Justin’s pushing the buttons.
Justin: This could end really badly or I could go on. There’s no way to know.
Kirsten: Justin is pushing – Justin button-pushing monkey.
Justin: Where are you? You sound like you’re down in a deep, dark well.
Kirsten: Do I? I’m going to try and see if I can – I don’t know if I can turn it up at all. I am in Florida right now.
Justin: Wow! What’s happening over there?
Kirsten: Yes. In Florida I am hanging out at a resort and looking at the beach.
Justin: Oh, (unintelligible).
Kirsten: And not doing much else.
Justin: You poor, poor thing. Well, here we are. This is so strange doing a show without seeing you. I feel I can get a way with stuff.
Kirsten: I know.
Justin: But on the other hand, yes, I miss you. Yes.
Kirsten: I miss being there in the studio. It’s always better to be in the studio. But this weekend, we’re going to both be together at the BayCon Science Fiction conference in Santa Clara. I believe that’s where it’s located, in the South Bay of the San Francisco area.
And I think Friday afternoon, evening, I’ve got a couple of sessions, panels. I’m going to be talking about bad science. And on Saturday I think we’ve got our TWIS panel. You and I are going to be hanging out, talking about TWIS.
Justin: Yes. And then later that evening, I try to give people a game plan for when the aliens attack or the zombie’s revolt or the robots overthrow us or what to do in a post, what have you throwing the blank sci-fi apocalyptic scenario.
Kirsten: That’s great. I love it.
Kirsten: I think it’s going to be so much fun. And your panels are right up in your alley. And I think they’re the ones that I’m on and right up my alley in terms of our interest and what we enjoy talking about. So, if anybody is…
Justin: I guess. I’m not suppose…
Kirsten: …planning on heading out this weekend to the Santa Clara area, they can find us at the BayCon conference.
Justin: Cool. On to the science-y news, we have – there’s a ton of it this week. I don’t know what – okay, this is probably the biggest story.
Kirsten: What’s your biggest story?
Justin: I think this is when I got from – okay, this is a major scientific event that’s taking place this week that would have been missed by me actually if I didn’t get the email from (Minion Edwards) in Australia…
Justin: …researchers from the University of Melbourne, which is also in Australia and the University of Texas, which is not, have extracted genes from an extinct Tasmanian tiger through…
Kirsten: Oh great!
Justin: …tissues previously preserved in alcohol by a museum in Melbourne. And that’s a good story right there. That’s enough, “Hey look, they got DNA from an extinct creature. Now we can study it.” That’s enough of a story.
Justin: But the science-y news story that is out there. Because what the researchers did is they went beyond extraction and let into the “until yet” unheard of step of insertion of extinct DNA into a viable host.
They inserted the extinct DNA into mice and order to induce the functional response of some collagen I think. The result is published in the International Scientific Journal Plus One online – show that the Tas tiger COL2A1 gene has a similar function in developing cartilage and bone development as it does in the mouse.
So, this is actually the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce functional response in a non-extinct, obviously, living organism says (unintelligible).
Kirsten: Right. And going from there, they’re able to insert it into a mouse if they’re able to clone, you know, figure out another animal like maybe more closely related to the Tasmanian tiger.
Justin: That’s going to be a tough one.
Kirsten: And actually clone the organism.
Kirsten: That would be pretty cool.
Justin: Yes, just step closer to being able to function – yes, doing the whole organism. But they’re okay. So, here’s the thing now. Well, this does have like great potential biomedical, as well as, you know, just sort of studying aspects of a DNA and extinct creature. Yes.
The next step, you want to be like okay, what’s next? Like, do we have enough of that Terex DNA that, you know, solve that chicken and egg question (unintelligible) that we could, you know, make some cartilage, start there, start small and start piecing together.
Actually with – I guess we would have to do it with a chicken. Start introducing segments of…
Justin: …that we can capture of the T-Rex’ DNA and the chicken. Yes, I just want to see what happens.
And what would be interesting as an experiment too would be to see of any sort of retro DNA kicks in. Like if you put in a couple pieces of the puzzle, are there sort of latent DNAs that recognize it and go, “Oh, that’s back. I’ll show up too.” Think very fast.
Kirsten: Yes. I think it will be really, really curious to see exactly what happens with the whole cloning of extinct animals. I mean, is it going to turn into, you know, what was that Michael Creighton movie that went horribly arrived with the dinosaurs on the island.
Justin: Yes, Jurassic Park.
Kirsten: Jurassic Park, yes. I mean, are we going to start trying to clone these extinct dinosaurs and bring them back so that we can study them or is it just going to be using little pieces here and there to understand the evolution of DNA or is it going to be…
Justin: I think it’s going to be the ultimate Theme Park.
Kirsten: Or is it going to work to like bring only recently extinct animals back or animals that are on the brink of extinction.
Justin: Well, at first that seems to be – it would be easier to do creatures that have a very similar relative here. Like for instance, mastodons, you know, through elephants. That seems like something that we should be able to do first.
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: And then, you know, like dinosaurs might be hardest because what do you start to host – I mean, you’re not going to have the full decoded DNA to do a clone with, right?
Justin: So, you’ve got to start piecemeal. And that’s going to be a hard one for the fill in the blanks as, you know, really ancient stuff.
Justin: And I don’t have the full DNA to begin with. And then you don’t really have a good maybe host here now. I don’t know.
Kirsten: There is some really interesting news on the DNA front that’s actually going on right now and not dealing with extinct animal but I think it was published biology letters by some researchers out of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble.
They are looking into ponds to find the DNA of invasive species like bullfrogs. So, they’re taking samples of the water in pond and looking for DNA that have been slough off. So, you know, we flap off our skin all the time and we live it around in our environment. So, these organisms that maybe live in aquatic environment are flapping off their selves and there’s DNA existing in the pond.
And so, they’re starting to use DNA in water to be able to find and isolate invasive species and know when these species are coming in and taking over pond so that they know when and where to do protective measures.
Pretty interest – I think it’s a pretty cool new use of DNA genetic science – genetic science. They can detect DNA in really low concentration. And so, it can keep tabs maybe on threatened species that have small population or when invasive species are just coming in to an area and there aren’t very many of them around.
Justin: So, we’ve got some good monitoring of disease going on. Did you know that we’re going back to Mars on Sunday?
Kirsten: I know. The Phoenix Lander that’s so exciting.
Justin: It is heading out on another 90-day mission, which I think is just – they do that for the budget. You know?
Kirsten: Ninety day.
Justin: I said, “No, no, no. We only need enough money to be up there for 90 days and then, you know…
Justin: …we’ll be there for years. But this one is not going to be – well, I don’t know because it only seems like a step backwards. But it’s – I mean – what I mean we’re going back to Mars. So, there’s nothing wrong with that.
This is a three-legged non-roving rover. It‘s a digger. So, it’s going to sit. Once it gets towards or it’s heading to North Pole basically. It’s heading up to an area with very high northern latitude. It’s got a little back hoe to it. It got a robotic arm.
So, just basically, it’s going to do some digging. Dig about two feet down looking for ice, thinking that there maybe an ice few inches to a few feet deep. And it’s got a little onboard lab where it’s going to put the ice cubes in a little oven, cook it up and see what’s in there.
But this seems a little bit sketchy to me. This must have been – I don’t know if it was developed before the rovers or along side the time when they were developing and plan that early. Because one of the things that happened with the rovers is they kept not finding stuff they wanted to look at.
They kept finding lava rock and uninteresting terrains – not the terrain around. But the photos were amazing. But what they were really looking for, what they were looking to dig into and look at the rocks they wanted to examine, weren’t anywhere near where they landed.
Justin: And they kept having to travel. And that was like – the thing is they kept feeling like the clock was earning out, like they only have a few more days. And then there was dust collecting on the solar arrays. And then, they got lucky. And the wind came and blew the dust off and they can move again to a better location.
But the Phoenix is just going to kind of land, set itself up, and that’s it. Hopefully, it’s in the right spot. And hopefully it lands at all actually. I mean, that would be just – Mars is such a hard place to get to there.
So Sunday, keep your fingers crossed for the Phoenix Probe as it enters the orbit and begins its descent.
Kirsten: I think the most exciting thing is going to be the landing, you know, kind of keeping track of what’s going on. Sunday when it goes into its actual landing phase, you know, because like the hair-raising part of the event.
Once it lands, it’s going to start to slow process of digging and analyzing things in the surface soil looking for water, and evidence of more water there. You know, I think it’s going to be really exciting to see how it’s going to land because it doesn’t have the same landing device as the original – the other rovers.
Justin: Right. Which is the most insane – not just the landing of the original rovers, the giant bubble, bouncing air bag.
Justin: But then there was like three more layers of really complicated – like even once it had landed and start moving. There was like this whole series of really complicated ramps that had to deploy and all these other stuff that had to happen after it was there that just made it so amazingly. Those things even got off of the landing spot, you know.
Justin: It’s going to be…
Kirsten: Here we’re going to see – what are you going to say?
Justin: Oh no, no. Go ahead.
Kirsten: Well, I just going to say, you know, this one, you know, you don’t have that. It’s not that complicated. It has a heat shield. And it also had the parachute. So there is a shield that supposed to protect it from this and of landing. It’s going to be going through like something like 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. And then the friction itself of the atmosphere there is supposed to slow it. And then, it’s going to use a parachute for the rest of its descent – I don’t know.
It will be interesting to see exactly what happens. It’s going to also use thrusters to slow its landing when it’s coming in to about 125 miles an hour, six tenths of a mile above the surface that it’s going to – we can I guess reverse firing. So, firing these clusters at the surface of the planet to slow it down to a landing at 5.5 miles an hour within 40 seconds.
So, it’s going to be pretty fast off. We’ll see if it actually works.
Justin: Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully it does. Where’s my MIT? I have two stories from MIT that I think they are the same story almost. New material making methods, marking major contributions to mankind, thanks to MIT.
The many brilliant minds at MIT have given planet Earth a new material by which fuel cell membranes maybe more effective and much less expensive than previously possible.
This is a new material that was created with a technique known as layer-by-layer assembly by which the structure of material can be constructed just a very few nanometers of the time. So, very thin layer at a time so they can really have tight control over the parameters of material they’re making.
So, fuel cells operate like batteries and how they deliver the power. Major difference being that they don’t actually store the power inside them, like a regular battery they capture electricity from a source outside of the cell but deliver it more like a battery would.
So, the film they produce will replaced a current electrolyte membrane between electrodes that will not only be cheaper to manufacturer but is 50% more efficient in its power output than the current material being used, which – that’s a huge leap forward for fuel cells right there. That’s pretty major.
There’s also some photovoltaic potential from a new material making solar rays, that sort of thing. Not to be outdone, the MIT Brain Trusts or by the end IT Brain Trust, MIT’s chief rival. MIT has come up with a newly developed materials film of their own, created by not the similar layer-by-layer assembly technique.
They found an ultra thin material that has a surface that can control microbe accumulation. I guess it’s based on the structure of the material, again, just the stiffness of it somehow. Then in a way it interacts with the microbe. So it’s not antibiotic like we’re sort of used to it. It just controls whether or not they can stick to it.
So, this can be used like a cellophane or even put on medical equipment, that sort of thing, can limit the amount of harmful microbes that can grow on the surfaces. But it can also be tuned to accelerate growth. So, if you have a desire to get lots of microbes, I’m thinking some sort of biofuel pharmaceutical manufacturing process then it can be tuned that way as well.
So, I kind of like the fact that both of these stories coming out of MIT are using the same material building equipment. I just sort of picture them both like, “I thought I signed up for it.” “Well no. Look, I know you may have signed up for it. What I’m doing is really important.” “No, no. You don’t understand. What I’m doing is really important.” “No, no. Now, what I’m…” it’s like the same.
And I think there was even another one of these stories using the same machine like a week ago, something that could make electronics operate under water. It’s amazing.
Kirsten: That’s really awesome. I mean, I know definitely that the medical devices or bio films are getting rid of the harmful bacteria like the MRSA’s a huge concern, you know. So stuff like that that can be protected, that’s really awesome.
Justin: But it depends on where you use it because there’s also – there’s this story that – maybe I didn’t even bring it. These Canadians, oh yes here it is, this Canadian study where they took this ultraviolet lotion and they smeared it on toilets and hospitals. And then they went back and check them later.
Justin: And they found that regardless of all the protocols that doctors, nurses and everybody is taking in the general care patients, when the patients goes back to the toilet, they maybe encountering some harmful bacteria to say the least that was present from the previous tenant because the toilet don’t seem to be getting cleaned very thoroughly. That’s just (unintelligible).
Justin: That’s just I mean – so regardless of everything else going on, improper toilet cleaning, you know, wash your hands 100 times but just don’t use the bathroom. Well, you’re at the hospital and yet – it’s pretty awful
Kirsten: Yes. Well, even though toilet that seemed really dirty, galaxies are brighter than they appear. There’s some news out of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, researchers, astronomers led by Simon Driver have analyzed light that’s being released from galaxies around the universe.
And they realized that interstellar dust has been blocking a whole bunch of the radiation out of these galaxies. And during a bunch of analysis of different percentages of star light, what color is escaping the galaxies in getting the telescopes, there was like 10,000 nearby galaxies in distant calculations and realize that the universe as a whole amount to 5 quadrillion watts per cubic light year from thermonuclear fusion. And then increases the mass of stars by about 20%…
Kirsten: …in amount of energy that’s being released from them. However even though…
Justin: Does that make them closer?
Kirsten: It doesn’t make them closer.
Justin: Just bigger.
Kirsten: It just makes them – there’s more light being admitted from them than we’re actually seeing.
Kirsten: Yes. But in all they say even though it’s a 20% increase in mass and in stars because that’s such a small – because stars, there’s such a small percentage of the universe to begin with because dark matter and dark energy account for 95% of the matter in the universe, it really makes this like really tiny differences. So it’s like all the calculations haven’t really changed that much but there is more light in the universe overall.
Justin: There’s only 70 sextillion stars in the known universe. That’s so insane.
Kirsten: I know.
Justin: That’s so insane.
Kirsten: You know, there’s only a couple (unintelligible).
Justin: Yes. And then we don’t really know how much. I mean a lot of the dark matter could just be, you know, regular everyday matter that just doesn’t emit light. I mean it could be dead stars, it could be, you know, planets that aren’t getting light reflected off them. It’s just not emitting stuff. We don’t know what the matter is, I think.
Kirsten: Right, right, exactly. That was an interesting story that was sent to me by (Kelly Dassa). Thank you for sending in.
Justin: Yes, we don’t really have to even have to do research anymore. There’s many that they’re sending stories in all left and right.
Kirsten: I know. I look for stories and in find stories and I’m like, “Oh, this one looks cool.” Then I’m like, “Oh, it’s in my inbox also.” It’s great. Yes, I love getting stories from all the minions out there. So if anyone wants to send, if they find more stories that they think we’d love to talk about, you can send them to Kirsten or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justin: So – and hey, the minions are showed up to the Foldit like crazy.
Kirsten: Oh, did they?
Kirsten: Oh, awesome, awesome, awesome.
Justin: I think we’re one of the biggest groups. It’s the protein folding puzzle that you can play online. We’re like one of the minions of tweezers. I think if we’re not the biggest, we’re like one of the top ten in size of groups that have signed up for this so far.
Justin: And of the like, I think it’s six or seven puzzles that came out this weekend. I think we’re taking half of them as the top – like we’ve got somebody who’s the top person, only half of them.
Kirsten: Well, thank you.
Justin: I think it might all be the same person too. I think Gold Star for a Gilda Star (with – and gild sadder), I don’t know. But we got one person who’s in there who’s like already a pro.
Kirsten: That’s so great.
Kirsten: I love it. Go minions! Foldit – what was it?
Justin: Go, yes.
Kirsten: Foldit dot…
Justin: It’s folds.net.
Kirsten: It’s fold.it.
Justin: .it. That’s what it is, yes. Fold. – and it just have…
Justin: Just Google Foldit. It’s one word and sign up to it. It’s like a – it’s so addictive. I poured a few hours – many, too many hours this weekend into folding these three dimensional puzzles.
I got an email from a minion down in Brazil.
Justin: (Icarus) is a…
Kirsten: Yes, I got that one too. He’s great.
Justin: Yes, experiencing what we went through. There’s, I guessed an upsurge in creationism talk going on in Brazil here in Rio de Janeiro. So the politicians have decided to put the creationism into public elementary schools.
He’s kind of upset because the, you know, saying the education system is already tough enough there, let alone adding this other element is making it more difficult.
And (Icarus) is currently doing – it is Physics, studying Physics. So, it’s a little bit irritating having to have these discussions where the other side doesn’t seem to be really aware of what they’re talking about.
Justin: So, I just wanted to – I got just a quick few words of advice when engaging conversations about religion and science as I have learned from doing the show, is get this public debate is on anything.
You have to remember that you’re not talking about science. You’re not actually discussing or debating science. Science discussions are two people who have different ideas about science or an element of science who are discussing what might be possible. That’s like Einstein and Gore is debating science.
When you’re having this conversation with the religious sector, you’re discussing their faith and the power of their church.
Justin: That’s what the debate is about. It has nothing to – and if you noticed, because like the intersections where science and religion have had these conflicts – haven’t changed over the year. The subject changes but it’s totally irrelevant to the conversation.
The conversation is the same whether you’re talking about, you know, the earth is the center of the universe, stem cells, Darwin. It’s predates Darwin. It’s not new. It’s not an ethical thing with some cells. It’s not that the science of evolution is shaky. It’s not that there isn’t proof that the earth isn’t the center or that the earth isn’t more than 2,000 years old. The conversation is about their religion.
And that’s why I’m kind of at this point it’s like I don’t know how much debating is necessary at this point. I think it’s better just to talk about science.
Kirsten: Yes, exactly. We need to get out there and promote science. And when arguments are made that are factually incorrect and – they need to be corrected.
You know, things that are inaccurate representations in science need to be addressed and need to be presented accurately so that the public in general doesn’t get the wrong idea about science just because of the few people out there who have a bone to pick.
You know, they are two completely different areas. You know, science is science and there’s a methodology for thinking about things and investigating the world and the universe around us.
And faith – religion is based on faith and they’re two completely different worlds. And there’s a line somewhere where they just will not mix.
Justin: And it’s not a thin line, it’s a very thick line. If the hand of God were to descend from the sky tomorrow and waved down at planet earth, it will be sufficient proof to all scientists including the atheist scientist that God exist. And they would no doubt begin to like conduct some theory and theoretical analysis to investigate the physical properties of the deity because physics would still be physics even with the deity.
But the hand of science descends daily. The hand of physics is present everywhere and yet they still pay no mind. So…
Justin: …with that, we got to go to the break…
Kirsten: Well, thank you. Thank you, (Icarus) for – what?
Justin: Oh, no, no. Go ahead.
Kirsten: I am going to say thank you, (Icarus) for writing in. It was great to hear from someone from Brazil to see, you know, what’s happening with this and the rest of the world.
Justin: Actually (Icarus) said you got the cutest voice. You all like – yes. (unintelligible).
Justin: But I think he was just comparing you and me, like, okay, Kirsten has got a cuter voice than me or than anyone. I couldn’t tell.
Kirsten: No, maybe just cuter than yours. I don’t know.
Justin: I don’t know.
Kirsten: But let the minions debate that.
Justin: All right. We’re going to the break. Hang on, don’t go anywhere. I got to talk to you off the air for a minute.
Kirsten: All right.
Justin: I got some good gossip, some good dish. We’ll be right back.
Kirsten: I love that. Sweet.
Justin: More of This Week in Science in a minute.
Welcome back to more on This Week in Science. We’re having button pressing issues galore down here. Unfortunately, I cannot get Dr. Michael Stebbins on the air. So, we’re just going to go ahead with the second half hour of the show without him.
So, we can make up some policy news. We’ve got all kind of stuff going on. There’s a guest that we’re going to try to get. I think the minions. You should go Google this guy and check out the story ahead of time. It’s very, very interesting.
I think his previous name is John Junkins. And he is a NASA scientist tracking a near Earth object that’s about – let’s say about 300m wide that is going to be coming rather close to our happy little blue planet in around the year 2013.
And no big deal, it shouldn’t hit us. It should be, you know, far enough away that we can get a good view of it perhaps and that would be about it.
And the projections have been that it’s going to come back around again next time in around 2029, a little bit closer but they believe at this point that it might be having its course altered by its new trajectory coming in and getting tweaked just a little bit, “I’m here.”
And 2029 might be the end of the Earth. Because it could very well – it’s already slotted to pass at some point between the Earth and the moon which is much, much closer than you would want any sort of large space debris to be traveling especially one the size of France.
So, he has been working very hard at coming up with a way to tract this thing, to basically to put a sensor in there. You know, come up with the probe, send it up and do two things.
First, you can just tract it, know its location. You might try to put something up there that can hold on to it, thrust it, blow it up a little bit maybe to alter its course once it’s away from the Earth.
But also you can put up a collector up there. So then you got this amazing rocket ship. This thing that has this huge elliptical orbit in which it passes the Earth once every 14 years or whatever it is.
And you can instead of having to invent a rocket ship or, you know, a proportion engine that can travel throughout the solar system, you just put the probe on the meteor that’s already traveling, already making the trip and just let it hitch the ride. It’s brilliant.
Anyway, he’s going to be a great guest if we can get him or somebody else on the project on the show. They’re funding just got cut which is to me really, you know, where NASA’s answer to him apparently was that they’re still focused on going to the moon which I can imagine, you know, it’s pretty interesting from the point of view of, “Look, there might not be a moon to look at in a couple of years.”
We got a caller coming in. Hang on, hang on. Good morning, TWIS minion, you’re on the air with This Week in Science, I think. Good morning.
Michael: Good morning.
Justin: Hey, there he is. I did my button pushing best and it wasn’t good enough this morning. Welcome to This Week in Science, Dr. Michael Stebbins.
Michael: Thank you very much. Am I on the air?
Justin: You are. You’re live directly on the…
Michael: Oh, Jesus. (unintelligible)
Justin: I’ve been treading water…
Michael: …than I normally use. Okay.
Justin: I’ve been treading water for the last couple of minutes making up stories.
Michael: Oh, good.
Justin: No, no, they’re not. There was no making up.
Michael: All righty. Should I just roll in then?
Justin: Yes, great.
Michael: Excellent. Well, last weekend, 100 scientists and engineers were trained to run for office and volunteer or volunteer in campaigns in Georgetown University.
So, the scientists and engineers from America run this workshop. We had 100 scientists and it looks like some of them march are going to run for office which is fantastic.
Justin: Nice. Yes.
Michael: So, step one for changing everything. So, I absolutely believe this can be about that. And here are the reasons why scientists should be running for office.
Okay. So, launch into some of these wonderful stories. Actually, we’ve got positive stories this week. Unfortunately, Kirsten can’t be here to hear them. But the Senate will be voting on supplemental appropriations bill. Probably, today, they’re going to be just starting to debate it.
Now, in that bill, there’s going to be an extra $1.2 billion for NASA, the Department of Energy, NIH and the NSF. So, a total of an extra $1.2 billion. This is the war supplement though.
Michael: So, the president is of course, threatening to veto anything that has any domestic spending in it which these would all fall under.
So, it looks like the money that would have gone to supporting Science is being stuck into a bill where arguably does not belong. But nonetheless, it would be a good thing in making up for the deficit that Federal Science has been running under the Federal for the last couple of years.
So, we’ll see what happens, if that money stays in there or if it’s stripped out. But the president is threatening to veto it. And the Democrats are basically saying, “Go ahead, I dare you.”
Justin: That’s – following the story, I was just talking about how did the funding was cut for this project, that wants to investigate a meteor that is coming close in 2013 but may actually slam into us in 2029 and, you know.
Michael: Oh, sweet?
Justin: Their funding just got cut. You know, they’re going to try to come up with a probe to put on it, maybe figure out a way to redirect it or do something to it. So, the priorities I guess, you know, planet, science versus war on Earth.
Justin: Well, I guess we get this straight either way, does it at that point?
Michael: So well, I mean, we’re just going to take like, you know, one tank and that will be enough money to do it, right?
Justin: Yes. You’re right, good. Yes.
Michael: Yes. So, other good news, tomorrow the President will be signing the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act into law. So, it was passed and he has absolutely going to sign it tomorrow.
Michael: There will be no ceremony, though. Here’s the weird thing, there’s always something weird even with the good news. So, this is the first forward-looking piece of civil rights legislation the U.S. has ever passed. It’s favored by a tremendous number of republicans and democrats.
It’s good will all around. And for some reason the White House isn’t going to make a big deal of it. And say, “Hey look, like here’s something that’s extremely popular with people and we’re going to sign into law.” I don’t understand that at all.
Justin: You know what? I can already hear the word that’s going to be talked about once this thing has been signed is going to be signing statement. There’s going to be – that’s why they don’t want to make a big deal.
They don’t be like, “You know, should we sign it?” Now, there’s going to be some weirdly worded signing statement that’s going to have a connotation that we won’t understand now. But in ten years, we’ll be like, “Oh, my goodness. Can you believe that’s in there?”
Michael: Well, that’s a little bit of paranoia. But, yes.
Justin: I want at this point.
Michael: There is a little bit of…
Justin: It’s a track record.
Michael: Yes, that’s fair. So, we are going to try and deal with the signing statement and (unintelligible) as well.
Justin: Keep an eye on it. Keep an eye on it.
Michael: But it was just strange that something that’s widely popular with Americans is not going to be boosted in some sort of ceremony. Although being a quite members-only sort of thing in oval office and that will be it.
And then, a couple – but there will be actually another ceremony that will happen with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. We’re actually would be having a small ceremony.
And I’m actually going to be at that. And so, I’d probably blog on that some time tomorrow afternoon or the next day and tell you what that was like.
Justin: Yes. Just for the minions don’t have the blog ID address.
Michael: What’s this?
Justin: Your website where they can check it on this one.
Michael: Scientists and Engineers for America.
Michael: Sefora.org. And I will post something up there. So, this is a real insider thing. This is on the celebration of a bill and there will be two events, one with Secretary of Health and Human Services and then one on with Congresswoman Slaughter. And I’ll let you know what happens at this sort of events.
Justin: Mm hmm.
Michael: Most people would classify these sorts of things as dull or somewhat boring. But I’ll try and give the insider’s view and keep it brief for everyone.
Some good news?
Justin: Yes, yes, yes, keep bringing it. This is awesome (unintelligible).
Michael: Eighty-five percent of Americans want a presidential debate on Science. A poll is just released by Research America and Science Debate 2008, and which of course Scientists and Engineers from America is signed on to Science Debate on 2008.
And it says that, it was Harris Interactive poll that 56% strongly agree and 29% somewhat agree that the presidential candidate should participate in a debate to discuss key problems facing in Untied States such as healthcare, climate change and energy and how science can help tackle them.
Justin: Okay. Because I was thinking 80% of Americans, that’s going to be – well, at least 40% of those want to debate to be against Science. I guess…
Michael: So, that’s actually the interesting part of this debate, 83% of adult that’s 88% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans say it’s important that the candidate talk about how Science and types of research will affect their policy making decisions if they’re elected.
However, only 19% say it’s acceptable for elected officials to hold back or alter scientific reports if they conflict with their own views, 16% of Republicans, but 21% of Democrats felt that way.
Michael: So, yes interesting huh?
Michael: And now among these serious and long term issues faced in the country, 76% felt that healthcare should be looked at, 69% Education, 67% National Security. It goes on. They’re all very high numbers but fascinating ones.
Now here’s where it split up a little bit though between Democrats and Republicans, climate change have the widest part on these part where 66% of Democrats ranking among the serious, while only 33% of Republicans gave it a top ranking.
Now, global poverty was the next widest but the 63% of Democrats ranking it, 41% Republican. Now the third widest was of course Education, 72% of the Democrats thought Science Education is incredibly important 59% of Republicans. Well, they should debate that issue.
So, that’s actually all good news right there.
Justin: Yes. That is bright news. I always wonder how amazing it is when something that shouldn’t have any political relevance like a climate change issue.
Justin: You would think would be very much in a territory of, “Oh, it’s an issue of the planet.” It’s not economics. It’s not social, you know, justice. It’s not one of those things that you would…
Michael: Well, it is economics to a degree and it will become social justice if there’s enough climate change. But yes, it’s one of the things where a lot of – for example the Generic Information Nondiscrimination Act is a great example of this. But it weren’t really a science issue. It was a civil rights issue…
Michael: …that dealt with science as the basis of the discrimination that was at stake. And so, it became for a long time a science issue but at the end of the day it was something that was about employee rights.
So, now the environmental courts, this is a wonderful statistic that came out at the Sacramento Bee. That’s why I gave them some props. The latest rejection of the Bush Administrations attack on the environment was in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. They ordered a halt of three proposed logging projects in the Northern Sierra.
That means that Federal courts have largely rejected the Bush Administration attempt to significantly rewrite America’s Conservation Laws. Out of 78 Federal Court Rulings and Settlements in endangered species cases since 2001, the Bush Administration has won only one of them.
Michael: They’ve lost 77 cases.
Justin: Oh, my goodness.
Michael: And now the interesting thing is that the one that lost was the Western Gray Squirrel in the Pacific North West. And it did not warrant protection apparently.
Michael: They’ve lost 77 other cases of species protection.
Justin: That’s awesome.
Michael: It’s really where how the judges have been scolding the administration over and over again during these things where – for example in one case judge on the US appeals in the District of Columbia, Court of the Lord’s Prayer and I’m just courting absurdity of the EPA’s interpretation of the word “daily”.
Lawyers for the agency argue that Congress did not literally mean “daily” in establishing a cap on the maximum total loads of pollution that can slow into the Anacostia River. So, the judge got a little mad and said, “We see nothing ambiguous about the command daily connotes everyday. No one thinks, give us this day our daily bread as the prayer for sustenance on a seasonal or annual basis” which is so genius.
So, we get this wonderful suggestion while the courts are really slapping back at the administration. And so, actually, you know, our system of checks and balances was really working and is still working even though, you know, for a long time, Congress wasn’t working on these issues. And the judiciary actually now these are what, you know, some conserver’s called activist judges.
But as it turns out, you know, it winds up being judges who are saying that you can’t actually overturn EPA regulations based on political desire. And they are accused of these judges over and over again of ignoring the Science in favor of industry.
Now here’s the California news for the day though. So, yesterday Henry Waxman, Democrat from Los Angeles is the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Justin: Mm hmm.
Michael: He released the series of documents and testimony that showed that the Whitehouse was directly involved in the EPA’s decision to deny California’s request for a waiver to regulate greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks. Now this is the way where (FAS) under the clean area where California is the only state that can get a waiver. But once they get that waiver, other states can adapt. These are federal or California’s regulations.
Now according to testimony by the former EPA Associate Administration, Jason Burnett that Steven Johnson, the Administrator of the EPA preference for a full or partial grant of the waiver did not change until he communicated with the White House.
Michael: Yes. So, in other words, he’s directly saying that were going to give the waiver until we spoke to the White House.
Justin: Now, why would the Whitehouse not want the state of California to have higher emissions restrictions?
Michael: Well, it’s because the federal ones are kind of lame and we haven’t actually significantly changed what’s called cafe standards. You know, this regulates miles per gallons that your car must have on an average or fleet of cars actually must have out of any particular automaker.
And so, we hadn’t regulated that in 30 years. So, California decided they were going to get waiver and try and boost it up. This is actually Governor Schwarzenegger initiative.
Justin: This was pre-existed Schwarzenegger because California has already had higher emission standards previous to this. One thing if you have a vehicle that you purchased in a state that’s not California and hasn’t adopted California’s emissions program…
Justin: …a lot of times what will happen is if you move to California, your vehicle goes in for a smart check and it can be a brand new vehicle and it will fail smog. It will fail the smog check because the manufactures don’t put in the same emissions restrictions as they do what they’re selling the car in California.
Michael: Correct. So, yes and it’s been a long time problem. Now, we’re talking 12 other states though have signed on to the California emissions. So, as soon as California gets its waiver, now it was rejected and they have to go to the courts now. They’re going to sue the government.
And now it gets stretch out until the next administration which point they’ll give you giving their waiver. But when that happens, 12 other states are automatically going to actually change their laws too, which means the automakers are going to have to prep real quick that start selling cars in these 13 states.
Michael: So, I believe it’s 12 and 13 but now it may actually be more now. Now the other thing that was weird about Jason Burnett’s testimony was that he said directly that he had been directed not to answer any questions about the involvement of the White House and the decision to reject California’s petition.
He was ordered not to talk about it. Okay, so he didn’t. All he simply said was, you know, the decision change when he did speak to the White House but he can’t talk about anything other than that even though he was, you know, formerly with the EPA, he no longer works for them.
So, this is absolutely extraordinary and it really points to how the White House is playing puppet master with the agencies on a very unusual level.
Justin: They’re kind of like activist administrators.
Michael: Yes. They’re really is. They are totally activist administrators who are ignoring the science behind all their decisions, a great number of decisions and in favor of industry, but an industry that recognizes there is a problem. So, it really – you know, is remarkable.
So, when people say, you know, the White House doesn’t have, you know, that much influence over science policy in the US because there’s checks and balances system with Congress. It’s simply not true. They’ve had an awesome influence over environmental law in particular.
But, as we said before that judges are actually holding them in check are at least some of those issues, particularly the ones involved in species because the science is often very, very clear there, where you can actually just look at population dynamics over particular specie and say, “Hey look, it really is disappearing”.
So it winds up being good on both funds and like I can’t wait until I get rid of these guys who are just running rough shod over our laws.
Justin: And hey, you know, it looks like based on the work you’re doing there, we may end up with some scientist politicians running in the future.
Michael: Yes, wouldn’t that be grand?
Justin: That would be really amazing.
Michael: Yes and well I guess the first step though I mean, you know, our entire goal is – it was not necessarily get a whole bunch of scientists running in Congress because that would actually be horrible, a Congress full of scientists because two scientist can’t agree on, you know, what color the sky is.
Justin: Yes, but at least they’ll talk about it in some sort of rational form.
Michael: Exactly. And not all but to get, you know, politicians in general who actually respect evidence-based decision making. And so, we’re moving forward on that, you know, listeners should join Scientist and Engineers from America. It’s free. And they can really take part. It’s a different kind of organization.
And I’m always happy to plug of them over and over again, not just because of my own personal involvement because I really believe that they’re going to make a difference.
Justin: Dr. Michael Stebbins, thank you for bailing me out.
Michael: Next time, are we going to have a full house are both of you going to be in there?
Justin: Yes. I’m never doing this alone again. It’s terrifying. There’s so many buttons.
Michael: Are you having trouble with buttons?
Justin: Well, you know, there’s – when I’m sitting over there, which you can’t see over there, but far over there I have to look at any of these buttons. I’m standing in front of a gigantic mixer board. There are CD players, there’s computer monitors. They’re all blinking. And apparently, it’s not enough to move a slider or a push or button you got to do a couple of different things at the same time.
And then there’s also that nobody has got their finger over the dump out button where if I, you know. And people don’t realize this at home but I drop curse words constantly. I’m having to really monitoring myself today because I don’t have Kirsten to hit the button that covers it.
Michael: You don’t have your own dump button?
Justin: No. I don’t know how to work it. So, being very cautious. Thank you Dr. Michael Stebbins.
Michael: Thank you very much.
Justin: And thank you minions for listening to This Week In Science. Remember, if you learn anything from today’s show, it’s all in your head.