Transcript-TWIS.ORG Jan 20, 2009

Synopsis: Martian methane plumes Gassiness, Our Hologram Universe, Hydras to the Rescue for MRSA, Female Strength in nutritional deprivation, TWIS Mailbag, and More!

Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!

As the United States inaugurates a new leader and the scientific community at large awaits the promise of fresh leadership in scientific pursuit, there are so many stories rapidly unfolding in science that any form of leadership will find it hard to remain out in front of the uncoverings, discoverings and the brilliant new understandings of the universe at all.

What science awaits now is a leader with the vision to fully fund our future despite our current bank balance; to take the lead on tough policy issues by knowing when to simply get out of the way of them; to dedicate the nation to rebuilding our educational infrastructure in which scientific thought is cultivated without giving deference to religious dogma; to establish the building blocks for sustainable energy at home that can power us to an eventual lunar landing and marching conquest; to make it clear now, that we are one people, that there are no red states or blue states, this last point perhaps being the most important of all because if we find ourselves without this commonality between red states and blue states now, we will surely be lost when we are nation of red and blue planets.

And while Marsifest Destiny much like the following hour of our programming doesn’t necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of California Davis, KDVS or its sponsors. We can all take a moment this day to welcome a new American President to the world stage and join him in solemn swearing to take an oath not just to a nation but to our collective future and the better aspirations of our common past.

For instance we here at This Week in Science do solemnly swear to faithfully execute to the best of our own abilities, This Week in Science, coming up next.

Good morning America! Good morning, Kirsten!

Kirsten: Good morning, Justin. Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! What a morning it is, isn’t it? This is pretty special. Today is inauguration day and there’s just some amazing stuff going on the other coast, the East Coast.

Justin: It’s really is an incredible day. I do have – just to get this quick personal note out there, there is a little twinge of sadness in me that my mom isn’t here to see this day.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. She worked most of her life for the Democratic Party, very much inspired by the words of Martin Luther King, the positive progressive message of the Democratic Party.

And though, she did get to see the first woman speaker, somebody who she’d worked for a number of years, still would have – this would have been e a nice counter to the last eight years, which I believe did somewhat challenge faith in this nation.

Kirsten: Maybe slightly but a happy day, (Kulikuli). I’m very excited. I’m kind of sad that we can’t watch the inauguration right now, you know, because, we’re doing the show. But I hope that many other people out there will be watching it. Congratulations and good luck to President Obama. (It’s so neat) to be able to say.

On this week’s show though, we’re going to be talking with Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen about autism and his new cartoon. He doesn’t have a cartoon after the half hour break.

And we’ve got tons of science news. I got stories about, let’s see, our universe as a hologram and female strength.

Justin: The universe as a hologram is going to be fine because it’s one of those things where the universe – you think things are strange enough. You know, you think the universe is a pretty weird place.

Stuff is just about as bizarre as you think it can get. And then scientists come up with an even new more stranger, more bizarre version of the universe in some sort of (Douglas Atomy) type quote in which…

Kirsten: Exactly.

Justin: As soon as we realize how bizarre the universe is, it is replaced by something even stranger.

Kirsten: Mm hmm. I love it. This is the world we live in, the universe we live in more and more bizarre.

Justin: I’ve got some Martian news. I’ve got some proper hydration for good health.

Kirsten: Great.

Justin: And an attempt to get the lead out.

Kirsten: So, lead out, really.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: I’m interested to see what that’s all about. But we should talk actually – we should start off with your Martian story. I watched the press conference, a press release given by NASA Scientists last week. I watched it live on which it was really fun to do – watched them as they’re talking to the media and responding to the media’s questions about their findings on Mars. But, Justin, go ahead and…

Justin: Yes. The stunning news this week is that there may indeed be subterranean surprises lurking beneath the surface of our rose-colored planet. As copious amounts of atmospheric methane discovered on Mars maybe being made by microbial Martians.

According to Michael Mumma of Science’s or NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center there were three regions that were slowly releasing very large amounts of methane.

And there was no signs of other gases that would be expected to go along with something like volcanic activity which would – you would expect there were to be in addition to methane, a good deal of sulfur dioxide would be seeing from…

Kirsten: Would be (seen in their finding).

Justin: …volcanic activity, not there. And the amounts of — one of the release was a release of nearly 19,000 metric tons of methane. So, this is very substantial. Also, the fact that we can see it at all because the Martian atmosphere – methane does not last. It doesn’t have a very long existence in the Martian atmosphere.

So, something of that magnitude being visible, quite a big deal – we just lost Kirsten. We will get her back here in a minute. The methane observations weren’t made by the probes that are out there, the rovers of the Phoenix. But rather from a telescope that was here on Earth – and what?

Hey Kiki, you’re back?

Kirsten: I’m back. I don’t know what happened?

Justin: Where did you go? We just got the show started and you’re taking off on us.

Kirsten: I know. I’m just like, “Ah, I guess my plan is to just to leave you, leave you at the wheels- let you go.”

Justin: That’s fine as long as you don’t mind the wheels coming off.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: So, we’ve spoken in the past the fair amount about subterranean microbial populations living deep beneath our own planet surface, perhaps, even accounting for 10% of the biomass of planet, so very substantial, substantial amount of our life living in this sort of condition.

Given drastic temperatuthe Phoenix. But rather from a telescope that was here on Earth – and what?

Hey Kiki, you’re back?

Kirsten: I’m back. I don’t know what happened?

Justin: Where did you go? We just got the show started and you’re taking off on us.

Kirsten: I know. I’m just like, “Ah, I guess my plan is to just to leave you, leave you at the wheels- let you go.”

Justin: That’s fine as long as you don’t mind the wheels coming off.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: So, we’ve spoken in the past the fair amount about subterranean microbial populations living deep beneath our own planet surface, perhaps, even accounting for 10% of the biomass of planet, so very substantial, substantial amount of our life living in this sort of condition.

Given drastic temperature changes, ultraviolet radiation exposure on the Martian surface, subterranean ecosystem would be the most stable environment on that planet for life somewhat similar to life on our planet to exist.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: So, you know, methane itself can be formed by biological decay, right? It’s something that very much is thought to be necessary for life to form in the first place but it is also formed by the decaying of life.

There are geological processes that can mimic the signature. But there’s a little bit of – some of the observations are kind of interesting here.

The observations they’re saying are – there’s an association being made between these methane plumes as they’re rising up and the warmer seasonal summer temperatures on Mars.

Kirsten: There should be something going on with the heating that allows mass release of this somehow that maybe this could also be a geologic process, it could be biologic. They don’t know and there’s no way to actually tell the difference based on the data that they have right now.

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: All they’ve been able to cut out of the idea is the volcanic. We know it’s not volcanic in nature.

Justin: All right. A couple – and one of the interesting here things there was, in these plumes of methane, some of them have water vapors as part of that mix and some of them don’t. And what sort of curious about this is, is it may eliminate one of the other possibilities, which is super heating of rocks mixed with water below the surface through some sort of really mixing with irons.

You would expect to see that if there was a super heating effect going on that was part of these plumes I think you would expect to see those water vapors.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: And so, the fact that some of the plumes do not have the water vapors, kind of brings that in to question. Also, it could though be methanes from an earlier, you know, thousands and thousands – hundreds of thousand, eons ago that were formed and trapped in ice deep below the surface that are being released which could fit though.

Kirsten: Right, which is a very likely considering, you know, it’s associated with higher temperatures in an equatorial region. You know, it could very well be something that’s like, you know, the way that we have tundra that’s melting here on our own planet…

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: …and releasing methane that’s been stored in the ice. You know, that could be something that’s also happening in Mars.

Justin: And the other possibility is of course that it is from biological sources, underneath the soil and that the melting is required to – just melt that top layer of ice cover which allows gases that are building up from biological processes to escape in these plumes.

So, definitely a very exciting time to be studying the red planet. And again…

Kirsten: It is.

Justin: I think even though we’re doing this – we’re still dedicated at this point to the lunar landings and the lunar base. I keep getting the feeling that even though it seems illogical because it’s farther away, you know, I mean, it seems like the moon’s just right there. So, it would be an easier thing.

It may be actually a better situation to set up bases like this on Mars than on the moon. And while I don’t personally want to go to either, I’m very, very excited about the prospect of humanity doing this sort of exploration, pioneering this effort.

Kirsten: Yeah. I mean, even though like, you know, the moon – I think honestly, we’re going to get bases everywhere. I mean, if we get a base on the moon, it will allow us to jump between Earth and the moon and then have launches take place from the moon and go to Mars or to the Saturn or even beyond.

Justin: I still don’t think that’s likely. Even if we’re on the moon, we’ve been there for a while I still don’t think we’re going to launch anything from the moon towards Mars. I think it still makes more sense to take off from here.

But, you know, the moon though, you’ll be able to like, you know, do those big rock piles and, you know, spell out your sweetheart’s name in giant lunar rocks and maybe see if from the Earth, you know. And I think, there’s some fun stuff to be done on – I just hope they don’t turn into a billboard.

Kirsten: Yeah. (Cheery face, Chippendale). Yes, sorry for everyone. That was a tick reference from ages ago. That was one of my favorite cartoons when I was in college.

And moving on, if you just tuned in, you’re listening to This Week in Science with Dr. Kirsten Sanford and Justin Jackson. Are we just a hologram, Justin? Is that all we are?

Justin: I feel very three-dimensional in my own way, shape and form. But it could be an illusion.

Kirsten: It could be…

Justin: Because after all, the only way I know that the universe even exists is through these senses which I know not to be physically connected to the outside world, really. It’s, you know – these cones in which light reaches my eyes, these nerves which tell me that there’s sensation going on my fingertips. How do I know, it’s not all just an illusion?

Kirsten: How do we know? How do we know? Well, we don’t know. It could very well be – I think it’s real enough so we go about our life but philosophically it’s something that I’m sure many are going to continue pondering now that really interesting information has come out of the GEO600 project.

This is a German experiment set up to find – to detect gravity waves, gravitational waves, ripples in space-time that will be caused by like giant objects, black holes, neutron stars, big giant dense, gravitational objects that can actually stretch and move space-time in this way and basically like waves that ripples on the surface of a pond.

Justin: Yeah. The only thing is, I think the…

Kirsten: (It’s so far.)

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: What?

Justin: It’s the thing that’s always gotten – the part I’ve always had a hard time conceiving of this ripples of these gravity wave is that there would – it seems like it’s going to be so relative that you wouldn’t, you know, if gravity changed, you wouldn’t know. It will be like the way that light moves in any given area at the same speed.

Gravity I think would continue to work exactly the same anywhere these waves were placing – were happening. So, how could any detector tell any difference if it’s affecting all things in that area at the same time. But yeah, go ahead.

Kirsten: That’s a really good question. And maybe that’s one to ask somebody who works on Particle Physics at some point because I can’t answer that question. I do know that this GEO600, the way that it works is that it uses laser light to detect changes in light and space-time.

And so, what they’ve been looking for are changes where one location of – as a wave would come pass, the crest of the wave, the front side of the wave would compress or – I don’t exactly know which side would do what.

But anyway, you would have in one space a compression of space-time and everything getting kind of scrunched together. And then on the other side, it would be stretched out…

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: …and more – I guess diffused, space-time would actually be stretched like a rubber band. So, I think that’s the kind of thing that they’re looking for or evidence of that in using lasers to bounce light around.

Justin: It’s really marvelous – wait, what’s really marvelous about that really quickly is the Michelson-Morley experiment, which was basically shooting lasers in different directions with the motion of the Earth to see – it was basically exploring the old idea of an absolute space in Ether…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: …that got knocked down by their experiment and led to sort of relativity which, you know, then led to these gravity waves which is then creating – basically recreating a Michelson-Morley experiment to try to detect the gravity waves and isn’t finding it.

So, it’s sort of – it’s almost like if Michelson-Morley had happened after relativity, it would have been a confirmation of that theory and also, it’s the same thing that’s being – I don’t know. There’s something kind of strange.

Kirsten: Yeah. But it’s still – I mean the thing is they’re not. They haven’t found anything yet.

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: I mean, this is not – I mean, they have these detectors but they have not detected any gravitational wave. But what they have detected is noise. They’ve gotten noise in the light and they haven’t been able to really explain where that noise is coming from.

And these researchers are so good at figuring out where noise is coming from. They actually have to take into account cloud cover. And they have to take into account, you know, things that are happening miles away at different events that could potentially affect the results of their experiment.

And they’ve just been getting these excess noise and the frequencies – between frequencies with 300 Hz and 1500 Hz. And they just haven’t been able to isolate it and get rid of it and figure out where it’s coming from.

And so, there’s another physicist who kind of has been thinking about this universe as a hologram idea. And he actually – he’s Craig Hogan. He’s at the Batavia, the Fermilab. He thinks that the noise might actually be the point where space-time starts turning into little tiny grains as opposed to being, you know, basically the strings almost as opposed to being a continuous fluid surface.

And this is something that Einstein described as space-time dissolving into grains. And so, he thinks that this noise might actually BE that limit to space-time, that point where it switches from one state to another.

Justin: Interesting.

Kirsten: Yeah. It’s fascinating. So, he’s been thinking of it on his own. And he heard about this noise that GEO600 was experiencing and he was like, “Okay, I got this idea.” And, you know, so he sent his idea to them. And now, they’re actually starting to consider it as a possibility.

The idea of the hologram is basically what ends up happening, we all know the holograms that are on credit cards I think so is basically a two-dimensional image that looks three-dimensional when light bounces off with it. You know, you get this kind of rainbow images.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: And that’s basically what our universe would be like. So, if you should think about it, we are a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on some far away two-dimensional surface.

So for instance, maybe what we experienced within the volume of our entire, entire universe of being three-dimensional is actually a hologram that is the result of little processes and mechanisms and these grains changing and moving and doing whatever it is they do on the surface of the two-dimensional surface of the sphere that contains the universe.

Justin: Right. And I think it’s just one of those perspective things like, well, really the universe to a human being is a three-dimensional world.

Kirsten: Yeah, totally.

Justin: And even though, we exist completely, you know, well, very much on this three-dimensional world, we have things like thoughts which really don’t seem to exist in that three-dimensional world so we can be a little familiar with that.

And we can also say it’s like a photon of light. We can tell a photon of light that it lives in a three-dimensional world. But the photon to itself might be like, “Well, you know, I have not so much.”

So, we co-exist with things that also don’t share our sense of three-dimensionality, and yet we carry on as though we, you know, if I go up the stairs, I expect to be on the second floor and, you know…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: …not to slip off the face of the universe, thankfully.

Kirsten: I mean it doesn’t. I mean, you know, this understanding and getting to a point where, you know, maybe we do – maybe we are just a hologram. But understanding that, I don’t know if it’s going to actually change any day to day activities, I mean we’re still here. We still have to hold on a job. You still have to…

Justin: Some of those – what are you trying to — neither of us were employed. What are you talking about?

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: Still have to – neither of us have a job right now, Kirsten. What are you talking about? You know…

Kirsten: Fair enough, fair enough.

Justin: I think, actually, it’s just more of a science trying to work its way towards my oceanic crackpot Physics hypothesis thing.

Kirsten: Right. Got it.

Justin: And sounds just like it. I’m saying, you know, it’s coming around and taking closer. So…

Kirsten: So, anyway, it’s a really fascinating idea and it’s, you know, something to think about. It was – there’s a neat article in New Scientist that goes into it and a bit more detail than we talked about it here. But it’s just, you know…

Justin: Yeah. The one who’s really…

Kirsten: …covering the thing to think of.

Justin: …on the cutting edge of this and it’s going to be the next book because it’s been hinted about quite a bit in the last one. Leonard Susskind is on the absolute cutting edge of this theory.

Kirsten: Yeah, he is.

Justin: And as soon as he’s willing to share that kind of, you know, a formulated – he was explaining to us last time. I was trying to get him and talk about it last time he was on the show.

And he hinted that he doesn’t like to speak about an idea until he’s really got his own head wrapped around it which would sound like a daunting task except it’s his brain which is, you know, it manages to do this again and again in Physics.

But I can’t wait until he’s ready to really start describing how this theory works because he’s a regular, you know, he’s been on the show a few times and we’ve got a good source there.

Hey, we’ve got a new case of science imitating life.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Is that life can increase its killing power. But only so much so that we may better save more lives. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus…

Kirsten: Aureus.

Justin: …Aureus, a.k.a. MSRA is on the rise.

Kirsten: MRSA.

Justin: There are a couple of reports out to that it’s specifically on the rise amongst children, lots of head and neck stuff going on. To break this down a little bit MSRA…

Kirsten: MRSA.

Justin: Yeah, sorry, MRSA. The M is Methicillin which is a form of penicillin that is actually too toxic to use on humans. Isn’t used in treatments, it’s only used in the laboratory as sort of a benchmark.

So, if a bacteria – to see if bacteria maybe killed by penicillin. So, if the methicillin is introduced and it doesn’t kill the penicillin – I mean doesn’t kill the bacteria, we know that bacteria is going to be resistant to many forms of penicillin, right, having seen it’s most potent form. The Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is the most common cause of staph infections.

So, MRSA infections increasing — chief cause of – the sort of the Canary and the mind shaft alarm for potential overuse of antibiotics. And it’s the specter of once again living in a world without effective antibiotic treatments which would be paramount to medically regressing to an age in which the vapors is claiming more lives than anything else.

As bacteria resistance has increased though so does the effort to counter them. One possible savior of the potential waste land of a plague ridden in future population is the tiny tubular tentacled, sticky footed freshwater hydra.

Kirsten: Really?

Justin: Yes. The hydra which is a water born animal best seen with a microscope has an unusual protein. They figured out, they’ve named it hydramacin-1 that researchers at the University of Kiel have found to be extremely effective in killing a wide range of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria including otherwise drug-resistant Klebsiella oxytoca, whatever that is.

The Gram-positive/Gram-negative thing, for those of us who have never really spent proper amount of time in a laboratory, is a very simple test of bacteria that literally – the bacteria is literally subjected to a colored dye, usually over sink in a slightly messy looking bit of science that looks like some sort of kid’s project playing with food coloring.

Depending on the structure of the bacteria, it either retains the coloration of this dye or it does not. Classifying it is a Gram-positively if it retains it, Gram-negative if does not.

Some of the better known Gram-positives, Anthrax, Listeria, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus all the important coccus is really in the best choice for epidemic outbreak, I think clostridium.

The more pathogenic Gram-negative camp pass your salmonellas, your heliobacter pylori, everybody’s favorite food poisoning, influenza, pneumonia and good old fashioned gonorrhea.

So, the fact that this is working on both camps and very effectively gives us – and has not been seen before, has not been widely utilized before is really going to I think, you know, be one more chance at figuring out an antibiotic from nature that’s going to be – will withstand the type of diseases.

One interesting aside to that too is I went down to – it used to be that the Gram-negative, Gram-positive is really just the first – very first step in the process of identifying a bacteria…

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: The old process would be, you have all these other steps and each step you would have a whole slew of test tubes in which you put the bacteria and put a new test and see how it reacted to where you could have, you know, 30, 40, 50, 60 of these test tubes waiting a result just to identify a microorganism.

I got a chance a while back this summer to visit the microbiology lab in Santa Cruz for the Health Department and was shown the cupboards and cupboards full of unused test tubes. And the new machine that was – had replaced them all that look like a small office copier sitting on top of a desk that runs all the tests in like, you know, by…

Kirsten: And it’s (out of pay). It’s like a printed page result.

Justin: Yeah, and identifies things. And it does it through this neat process where you actually have tiny samples of the – looks like an oversized credit card, little bit thicker with actual samples in these tiny windows. You could actually take a syringe and pull a sample out again and retest it if you needed to.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Very intense, very cool what science has been able to do.

Kirsten: Very, very cool what science has able to do. The technology is moving ahead so quickly and, you know, hopefully it will allow us to be able to make better identifications and be able to determine better ways to combat disease causing organisms.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes. Well, quick headlines before the end of the first half of our show because we are going to be moving on to our interview with Simon Baron-Cohen in just a few minutes.

When it comes to brains, females are a little bit better at surviving than males or at least with putting up with starvation. A report this week suggested that nutrient deprivation of neurons produced sex-dependent effects.

Now, what does that mean? They starved neurons. They stuck in their brain cells in petri dishes and then deprived them of necessary nutrients. Male neurons were more likely to curl up and die. And female neurons did a really good job with conserving energy and staying alive longer.

Justin: Wow!

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Interesting.

Kirsten: For some reason, the female has a higher propensity to conserve fat and this might lead to metabolic difference that makes the difference when it comes to cellular nutritional deprivation. Pretty fascinating stuff.

And there’s also a study that has been published in science this week reporting that fish are important – are very, very important significant contributors to the ocean’s levels of calcium carbonate.

Justin: Oh, yeah.

Kirsten: They actually found that fish, all the fish in the ocean – and this is a pretty wide range but they give an estimate of 3% to 15% of marine calcium carbonate is produced by fish. And it could be – this is a conservative estimate – it could be up to three times higher than that.

And this is really important because pH is affected by calcium carbonate. And so, the pH levels of the ocean in part determines by the fish who live in it. It’s amazing.

Fascinating, I mean you just to give another level to that sense of, you know, global ecosystem and seeing really working together and organisms really contributing to the environments where they live.

Justin: Super cool. Other quick news, just to get my lead out stories, South Korean scientists have found a potential way of removing heavy metals from the bloodstream.

Basically, it works sort of like a hemodialysis where the blood is taken from the body sort of goes through a machine as it reenters the body. And while in the machine, it has this unique magnetic receptor system that literally works like a magnet and pulls heavy metals out of the blood.

So, you could see people who work in industries or live in areas who have been too exposed to lead, for instance, having that removed from their body. Brilliant stuff going on. Hey, we’re at the top of the hour. Bottom of the hour?

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Top of the hour?

Kirsten: Right. It’s smack out in the middle.

Justin: We’re in the middle of our hour and we’re going to be right back with more at This Week in Science with our guest, Simon Baron-Cohen.


And we’re back with more This Week in Science. I hear dial toney stuff going on. What’s up over there?

Kirsten: Simon is not answering his phone.

Justin: He’s probably watching the inauguration. It just started.

Kirsten: He’s probably watching the inauguration.

Justin: I almost blew off the show myself today. So, what I did is I opened up — in your short absence, I opened up the TWIS minion mailbag.

Kirsten: Oh, yeah. I’ve got a couple of those as well.

Justin: Yeah. This is from minion Joseph Gorndt who writes with a bit of marketing advice, “Hey, I just wanted to let you guys know that I really enjoy your show. I wish you’d advertise somehow back when I was at Davis. I’ve only just started listening to you now that I’ve been away for two years.”

So, here’s only who is within the broadcast range of the show and didn’t know about us. “Honestly, I’ve waited KDVS like the plague after I tried it out one day and just got noise which was the goal of that program.” I guess there are indeed some probably noise sessions that do broadcast out of this free forum radio station.

Just as it goes on, “An ad in the Aggie, which is the local university newspaper, would have caught my attention especially if you put it near the crossword. Keep up the good work.”

It is true. We do not advertise the show. It’s our way of unintentionally keeping the general public at bay. Individually, I think the general public isn’t a bad lot. But when you take them as a whole, those huddled masses who are always yearning for things, it gets annoying, you know.

So, to put up bluntly, I’m saying perhaps that not everyone has what it takes to be a minion of TWIS. And I’m not going to determine who is and who isn’t. Right? If you listen to the show. So instead, I leave it up to you, our dear minions to stand guard, the vanguard velvet rope of TWISclusive (edivity).

Well, that was a stretch. By word of mouth, email, linking and bloggers for your posting the word of the show can get out but it’s totally up to you. Others though will find their way to the programming first by searching deep within themselves for things worth searching for on the internet.

And it only takes search for science news radio or a quick query of science news podcast will reach a site of enlightenment. We’ll come up first under either of those searches. So, if you know…

Kirsten: But if people are already listening, then they already know.

Justin: Oh, yeah.

Kirsten: So, you’re just telling those who know that (unintelligible).

Justin: Exactly. But who else do you want to talk to but the choir. I mean really, you know. That’s why I think we (harmonitize) quiet nicely together.

Kirsten: Absolutely.

Justin: (Harmonitize).

Kirsten: I don’t know. You know, maybe it’s a good idea. Maybe we should put up a little posting in the Aggie. We might catch a little bit more interest. Good idea.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: Great idea.

Justin: It’s not a bad idea to (tutor unharm) at any time or get people to listen to the show. I still think our minions can get the job done without us. I don’t — I think they’re doing just fine.

Kirsten: Absolutely. Also, on a past show, I think this was about two weeks ago now, we talked about daylight savings time.

Justin: Oh, yeah.

Kirsten: And I don’t know what exactly the question was. But basically like…

Justin: Where did it come from? Why do we got it? Why is it there for?

Kirsten: …where and why we have it. And the (going) ideas that it has to do with like people in rural areas versus in cities, farmers wanting to have that extra hour of daylight in the winter.

So, minion (Matthew) from Melbourne, Australia have this to say, “I was listening to the podcast in Melbourne, Australia about the daylight savings. Most states in Australia adopt daylight savings during summer. Queensland however does not.

I’ve always heard that Queensland’s rural community never liked daylight savings. And hence, that state didn’t adopt it at all. Most people at Australia view Queenslanders as a bit backwards and I think this proves it.

Who wants daylight starting at 4 a.m. at least four hours before you should be awake? Isn’t it better to have more daylight after work to enjoy summer time evening?” Right?

Justin: Yeah. That’s a good point. I kind of like that.

Kirsten: Yeah. I have to agree with the summer time evenings. His point, main point, my point, I think it is, the urban communities that have dictated daylight savings and not the rural community.

And also, I think I find it interesting that (Matthew) tried on a little bit of Australia bashing. You know, as an Australian – I guess, it’s not really Australia bashing it more like Queenslander bashing.

Justin: Nice.

Kirsten: I don’t know.

Justin: Let’s see, minion…

Kirsten: What else?

Justin: Oh, go ahead.

Kirsten: You have another one?

Justin: Yeah. Minion (Brandon Tucker) who also goes by the name (Raven Scruft) is in Philadelphia, PA writes in, “Dear TWIS, but mostly Justin, your statement about adding an extra month to a year…” Okay, because this goes back to again, about two weeks ago.

It’s this sort of thing that I’ve always, you know, thought was odd is that if you break down the number of days in a year, it works pretty – it fits pretty nicely with you can have 28 days per month, four weeks in every single month. If you just had 13 months instead of 12, you know.

And in that way too, you would breakdown your, you know, if the first day of the month was Monday, it would be the first day of the month. Every month would be a Monday. And you could sort of plot and plan things that way.

Also, you get – it was pointed out to me by local author a while ago (Bob Dunning) that you can – you’re actually losing money. If you’re getting paid by monthly, you’re going to be paid twice a month. And you think you’re getting paid every two weeks but you’re actually losing your entire month of payment each year. Because you’re getting paid every two weeks and a couple of days, all right?

So anyway, it’s one of those things – then you can argue that, you wouldn’t be getting that extra month of payment because it still pays you the same yearly amount but they would just break it down over the 13th month instead of the 12th and so, you’d get less at each month and then you’d be paying more for your rent because you’d have to pay another month’s rent.

All of these – it’s the arbitrariness of the economy in the numbers is that, I think it would all work out. Even I’d say this to (Brandon Tucker) who is adamant — the extra four weeks would destroy his economy because he has to pay $119 a month for his trail pass on a transit system. So, I’m guessing buses and trains, et cetera.

Kirsten: There will be a $119 a month (per year).

Justin: I highly doubt that they would lower their fees or that anybody would be getting paid more out of this. So, he’s pretty much against that. He does also want to point out that…

Kirsten: (Enough).

Justin: …changing the number of months in a year may also incur the wrath of our robot overlords.

Kirsten: Which we always have to watch out about.

Justin: Yeah. And I’m also – I’m like curious maybe somebody can number crunch this. He brings up somewhere in here interest rates. I’m curious to find out because I’m not good with the calculator and the thing and the numbers and the stuff which is that, if you were making a monthly payment, because APRs are figured out over a year, right? It’s an Annual Percentage Rate.

And as you pay that, you’re knocking it down. If you had 13 months of payment, would you – you’d be making payments a few days earlier each time by making them, you know, on a 13-month cycle…

Kirsten: You don’t have the same number…

Justin: …but you’d be paying less.

Kirsten: …of days in a year.

Justin: But you’d be paying less per month if you broke it down. You know, monthly payment could be lower. Yeah. So, you’re paying it faster but maybe you’re paying less of it per month, do you actually win?

Because here’s the thing, if even there’s just a fraction of percentage that the banks get more by having the 13 months, I have found somebody who will lobby for me to make the 13 months happen.

If the banking system can get – if they’re making just a tiny bit more interest by having you make that less payment, even though you might be paying a little more often, a little quicker, if by making a little bit less of the payment, they actually earn more interest on the dollar they’re lending you. I may have found somebody who will finance us.

Kirsten: Okay. I have another letter I want to talk about.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: We have a few more. Minion (Scott) wrote in with a correction.

Justin: Uh-oh. For me?

Kirsten: For something we we’re talking about. “Although, I am not a mathematician, I am more or less a Math Physics groupie, more or less a Math Physics groupie.” I guess that would be like us.

“I have spent years following the progress made for the Grand Unified Theory. The problem is much more complex than the way in which Justin expressed it. It is not as simple as the color missing from our spectrum.
Quantum mechanics is a mathematic used to express all things subatomic. Quantum mechanics completely breaks down when used to describe anything not subatomic. Likewise, general relativity and special relativity is a mathematics used to describe the larger than subatomic. But it can not be used to describe anything subatomic.

Rather than a spectrum of light missing the color purple, it is more like finding out that although 3 + 3 = 6 and 2 x 3 = 6, 3 + 3 does not equal 2 x 3. And the GET would be able to be used to express the very small and a very large or at a minimum use to bridge the gap between the two.

Justin: And that’s the…

Kirsten: A part of it that’s really interesting is a good clarification.

Justin: And I thought it was the theory – a mathematical system. I mean, I always thought it was sort of a mathematical system that would be able to describe both equally well.

Although, the description I think, I got from Susskind I think one of his last book, “The Black Hole” was of it being more of a spectrum, being that area in between, being that transition area in which both math sort of broke down and failed to transition into the other was sort of – it had a feeling of a spectrum of scale and scope in this certain area…

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: …and not necessarily meaning one model that would handle both because really…

Kirsten: If it is a spectrum, you know, then you would have a model – one model that could handle both. And the thing is that right now because there is that point between atomic and subatomic, we have to have two models. And that’s the way it works so far.

So, where is it? What is it? What model will take both of those separate models but don’t equal each other and combine them together into something that is a whole? That’ll work. That’s what I think we’re going for.

Justin: Grand unification.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: There are no relative states in quantum states. There are only the United States.

Kirsten: Ha-ha-ha-ha. I have another couple of emails from this guy, (Marsh Wildman) who’s been trying to get me to talk about Brown’s Gas. And he asks in his most recent email, “So, what’s the deal? Is this some sort of taboo that makes the stuff in my garage and now in my car? So, it’s not like it doesn’t exist.” There is no taboo. It just does not fit into the schedule and what we – the news that we’ve been reporting on.

Brown’s Gas is a gas that is created from the electrolysis of water. So, it’s basically using an electrical charge to be able to split water, H2O into a gas that contains hydrogen ions, hydroxide ions and water vapor itself.

And basically then, the oxygen and the hydrogen can be burned. And the burning can actually be used to power things, you know, so like hydrogen gas basically creating oxygen. And hydrogen gas and being able to burn it and be able to power things like car engines.

And the Brown’s Gas has been used – I forgot the term for it. But welding — in welding, there’s a type of welding (effects) that is using this technology basically because the hydrogen and oxygen ions can be heated up to such a high, high temperature that it does a really great job at cutting stuff and melting it.

But this Brown’s Gas is not going to be like some amazing – it’s not a secret. And it’s not – but it’s not also not going to save the world. And it’s not going to change the way that transportation takes place. I mean, if it were that way, we would already see it happening.

And technically, what happens is that so much energy has to go in splitting the water molecule into its component parts that you never quite going to make that amount of energy back.

The energy that you get from burning the hydrogen and the oxygen is not equal or not greater than the energy that you put into it in the beginning to get the system going.

And so, you know, this is not the like energy, what is perpetual motion machine. It’s not going to make amazing changes happen in our world. But it is a really cool gas. It has lots of uses and I don’t know what else to say about it. If other people have questions, I’d love to hear your questions about this gas. And, you know, I’m never going to say that it doesn’t exist but I don’t think there’s any conspiracy to keep people from knowing about it either.

Justin: Well, not anymore. Blowing it, come on. You’re supposed to keep that under wraps. Don’t you remember the briefing? Oh, my goodness. We’re both in big trouble now.

Kirsten: The science communicator briefing, I forgot about that.

Justin: So, hey! There’s a Lunar Lander that’s making the journey on the inaugurational parade today.

Kirsten: Really?

Justin: Yeah. It’s a pick-up truck size vehicle which has beds, toilet. It’s big enough to fit two astronauts. And they decided to give it a little test drive in the inauguration apparently.

Kirsten: That’s kind of fun.

Justin: That’s pretty cool.

Kirsten: They’re probably trying to make a good show of things to be like, “Hey, look, look, Mr. President, give NASA money. Come on, please.”

Justin: And, you know, I’m not going to say too much on the president. But did you hear his words on Friday? He did say that he wanted legislation in Congress to quickly permit the Federal Funding for stem cell research and to devise some wording for an overturn of the previous president’s ban on such research.

Kirsten: Yeah. So, we’ll see if, you know, the funding does come true and if the ban is overturned.

Justin: I love this, “If we will see.” You’re so skeptical. You’re such a scientist.

Kirsten: No, I’m just – I know I’m a scientist.

Justin: You’re like, you need a result before you believe anything, don’t you? My goodness! How tedious is that?

Kirsten: I’m just a realist, all right?

Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kirsten: I believe it when I see it. And I will, you know, I am looking forward to if these things do happen, the results that will come of the research. And I just, you know, would like to know because people have said; the research has been stunted because we haven’t had the funding for the research and because of the way the restrictions that have been put on the researchers to work on stem cells using Federal Funding.

There have been such researches once they’re taken away, is it going to change anything?

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: And I think, you know, that that in itself is going to be a really neat experiment.

Justin: Yes, yes. And again…

Kirsten: Because people have said for so long. “Oh, it’s because of these restrictions, because of these that we’re not getting results.” So, this is – you know, will it change?

Justin: And there’s another – there’s a new head of the EPA out there who’s part of the comments in accepting being in charge of the EPA says that science must be the backbone of what EPA does, which is one of those statements that should go without saying, you think it would be already implied with the job? Well, I don’t like to be the one to state the obvious.

Kirsten: That’s right.

Justin: Oh, my goodness.

Kirsten: It’s a very (unintelligible).

Justin: Oh, my goodness. Science must be the backbone of what EPA does. If I am confirmed, I would minister with science as my guide.

Kirsten: Oh, okay.

Justin: And this is Mrs. Jackson. Lisa Jackson, no relation who’s been chosen to head the Environmental Protection Agency. She had words at her confirmation hearing last Wednesday morning.

Kirsten: But, you know, it is good to have – I mean sure, state the obvious. But it’s nice to hear somebody say this when for several years there has been more politics than science taking place in a basically of science based organization.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: Yeah. So, it’s good to hear it said. And now we can use the public record to hold her to her words.

Justin: The only downside I can see to any of these is the poor people involved in making the big black markers, those big sharpies, to all the scientific literature that’s been used on over the last eight years created sort of a boom industry over there.

And I think, they expected it to keep going. I don’t know because they probably grew with their production. I hope they’re not too negatively impacted by the lack of scientific censorship that’s coming. That’s the only thing. That’s the thing I’m going to be mostly excited about is not that there’s going to be too much leadership in science or on, you know, from a political stand point. But that there’ll be a whole lot more “Get the heck out of the way-edness” you know.

Just getting out of – just letting science do its job and not interfering with it. That’s all what really science asks. Just don’t mess with the result. The result is the result that’s why we called it the result. I don’t know.

Kirsten: Sure.

Justin: A little.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: I’m a little bit excited today.

Kirsten: Another couple of quick completely out of left field had mind that are kind of fun.

Study in Germany found that among German people, red head have more sex and a study by – I think it was Garnier, one of the hair color companies out there, looking at which hair colors have better life effect.

They found that brunettes are more successful in work and love than blonds, with brunette women having higher salaries overall than blonds and having more satisfying lives.

So, these are the women we don’t know what the results are, for men well, whether or not, these effects have anything to do with it. They think that brunettes that in women, basically there is more self-confidence and which then leads to the ability to be more successful. So, somehow having brown hair gives you self-esteem.

Justin: Yeah. I think that there are — my personal — this is not scientific basis, personal observation here, has less to do with your hair than whether or not you’re wearing comfortable shoes. I think that’s really…

Kirsten: I mean…

Justin: …the key when you – I think they need to drill down a little further because comfortable shoes can make all the difference in a day.

Kirsten: Right. This guy (Elliot Van Begnum) who wrote in and sent me stories. And he asks – he is waiting to see the results for the studies for men. But he asks specifically, whether past hair color might still have an effect on bald men?

Justin: Oh.

Kirsten: So, you know, did the color of what your hair once was have an effect on you now?

Justin: Is it trumped by the lack of follicle adhesiveness in the present tense.

Kirsten: (Right).

Justin: Yeah. Well, my own — I can have my own — I still have hair and all but I have many previous hair colors. I’ve had like the spectrum of hair color from my early days as an apathetic youth.

I think we’re at the end of the program.

Kirsten: We are. And next week we will have all sorts of science stories as the normal. As for usual, I’ll see if I can get Simon Baron-Cohen on the show. See, if we can get him to pick up his phone next week.

Justin: Or get his cousin. Get (Sasha).

Kirsten: Let’s talk to (Sasha) instead.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: Maybe she can tell us about his cousin about the research.

Justin: He’s probably got more dirt and he can tell us better jokes about his…

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: …cousin, yeah.

Kirsten: I’d like to thank (Mil Shirley), (Tim Denow), (Shannon Morganer), (David Wheeler), (Elliot Van Vegnum), (Kalidasa), (Logan Waterman), (Robert Christ), (Gary Delaney), (Ed Dyer), (Eric Meter), (Cachic Ford), (Jake Hartman) and (Frank Disoglew) and (Helen Storeman), (Marsh Roblin) for writing in this week.

Justin: (Neat).

Kirsten: Sending all their pictures and craziness that make me happy.

Justin: Music this week was from the Used Rugs, Jake Mann and let’s see…

Kirsten: Chris Taylor.

Justin: And soon to be Johnny Brickhouse. And so, we’re going to go out here at the end of the program. You can get in touch with us if you need to kirsten@thisweekinscience or Put TWIS somewhere in the subject line or your enlightened comments will forever be lost to the spamosphere. Goodbye and we will…

Kirsten: No, no, no. Stop doing that.

Justin: What?

Kirsten: And thank you for listening…

Justin: I can’t see you. So, how do I – I can’t get – I have the stern look. I don’t get the kick in the shins. That’s what you get for not making – getting me – oh, you don’t have a car to get into.

Kirsten: Thanks for everything.

Justin: That’s what you get for not riding the rail and being here in person is you don’t get to kick me in the shins. I get to keep talking as long as I want. We can go over time. I could spoil the…

Kirsten: Justin, (unintelligible) again. Thank you everyone for listening to the show today. TWIS is also available via podcast. So, if you’re interested in that format, you can go to our website, and find out how to subscribe, by clicking on the subscribe to TWIS Science podcast button for information. Or just search for us in the iTunes podcast directory.

And a big thanks to everyone who’s emailed us for questions, comments or stories. We love your feedback. Please send us more. If you want any more information on anything you’ve heard here today, Show Notes with links to short articles will be available on the website,

Justin: And if you’re…

Kirsten: We’ll be back here next Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. pacific time.

Justin: If you learn anything from today’s show, remember…

Kirsten: It’s all in your head.

Justin: We’ve got Kirsten via New York for the