Transcript: July 7, 2008

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The future, according to Einstein, comes soon enough. According to Niels Bohr the future is difficult to predict. According to the local television weather person, it may or may not be sunny or cloudy or even raining over the next few days to some degree of certainty.

Then again, according to Yogi Berra, the future just not what it used to be? If there’s one thing though that such great minds can agree upon is that the future, whatever it holds, is definitely on its way.

And while predicting the future much like the following hour of programming does not necessarily represent the views and the opinions of the University of California, Davis, KDVS or its sponsors, if you listen carefully to the information as it flows through your ears you might just gain some clue as to the direction and scope of the future to come.

Some of the notions we hold to be most true today may change drastic, unintuitive changes. And everything from cosmology to biology physics and climatology are possible and will be addressed here before they happen.

My own address has in fact changed in incredible four times just since joining this show. I don’t know how that happened. But at some point you may begin to feel the alarming suspicion that you are not moving into the future at all. But that the future is barreling down upon you. If that is the case then stay right where you are because you are now directly in the path of This Week In Science, coming up next.

Good morning, Kiki.

Kirsten: Good morning, Justin.

Justin: Are you ready for this show?

Kirsten: I am so ready for the show. I’m so ready. I’m so ready. I’m sitting here in Russia and there’s a group of people, Russian scientists, all of them. And they’re excited about the show as well.

Justin: Excellent. Yes, you’ve got a whole group of Russian scientists stuck in a lab somewhere ready to bring the science.

Kirsten: (A gaggle of science in them).

Justin: Nice.

Kirsten: And…

Justin: And they’re going to be helping us out on the second half hour of the show doing some science news reporting, are they?

Kirsten: They are. They are going to talk about what it is to be doing science in Russia these days, where they’re from, what their interests are – do they like swimming or hiking.

Justin: This is great. This is perfect timing.

Kirsten: What kind of science they like.

Justin: Perfect timing.

Kirsten: And you’re not – and when you ask some questions, you’re not allowed to ask them anything that would make them incriminate me.

Justin: Oh, the KGB standing by. Right, I know. I understand. I understand how these international things are. Well, I’m glad they’re here because – and the timing is perfect because I have done very little science news reading this week.

Kirsten: Oh. So, you’re totally unprepared.

Justin: I got – well, the thing is over the weekend was the 4th of July, right, and I got food poisoning. I went out for sushi and I was laid in bed for – which serves me right for eating Japanese food the day that, they bombed Pearl Harbor or whatever.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: But it was, yes, I was a bento – and then the thing is – the also the thing is, I didn’t tell you yet, last week we got the new book from Leonard Susskind and have been…

Kirsten: Oh, yes. I actually have been reading that because I got a preview copy.

Justin: How did you get a copy before I got a preview copy? I thought I had the preview – don’t I have a preview copy?

Kirsten: Yes, I have a copy.

Justin: It’s mind boggling. I think he’s on board with my oceanic string space hypotheses faith based physics. But it sounds eerily similar.

Kirsten: Well, we will be interviewing Dr. Leonard Susskind in August.

Justin: Yes, awesome.

Kirsten: Yes, I’m setting it up. It’s going to happen.

Justin: I’m so excited.

Kirsten: Yes. So let’s get on with the show. Science news, right? What’s happening?

Justin: Yes. There’s – like I said, I have no idea. There is some news about something to do with – oh, if you’ve smoked marijuana, which not you. I know you don’t. But if there’s people out there who are using the marijuana narcotic.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: They should be very cautious. There’s a new indication that a canaboid receptor that is significantly reduced — significantly reduced in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia, is also reduced when using marijuana.

Kirsten: Right. But it’s – this might be one of the pathways by which schizophrenically, like I guess the people who are prone to…

Justin: Inclined. Prone.

Kirsten: …to schizophrenia.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes, how they might end up getting it if they — and it actually happens is that many people who have used marijuana as young high school students, they are more likely to get schizophrenia. And so that might be one of the pathways through which this induction happens.

Justin: Right. And so – and it’s also if you have any sort of – because Schizophrenia, it can be like a submersible mental illness meaning that it can be present but not really – the indication is so slight that you wouldn’t notice in your day to day life. Nobody around you would notice. But what this indicates is that the use of marijuana could accelerate the advance of the disease.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: So if you have this sort of submersible form, which you might not even be aware of, use of marijuana especially prolonged or – my goodness, an adolescent. And the fact that adolescent drug use even, I mean that’s such a volatile time in the brain development for…

Kirsten: Right. There’s a lot of changes happening.

Justin: …introducing psychedelics, you know. Here’s an idea. Here’s an idea, folks. Don’t take drugs. Hey, well, I know I’m not the first one to ever come up with the idea. But then I say, maybe don’t take drugs.

Kirsten: Maybe that’s a good piece of advice there, Justin.

Justin: I consider myself sometimes a wealth of wisdom and knowledge but this one seems pretty clear. It’s your brain. It’s the thing that your brain – so like whenever also whenever there’s like a drug or something that people are doing that causes some form of brain damage, you see the drug addict types or the people who are inclined to think it’s very casual thing. So like, well, they start parching like, well, how much brain damage?

No. But it’s not – so you will live. That’s where you are. That’s you. That little gray matter in your skull, that’s you. That’s who you actually — that’s… and if you damage that, that’s all of you that gets hurt in the process.

Kirsten: Yes. So when you do things to yourself, “Oh, that’s just a little bit of brain damage,” you’re damaging yourself.

Justin: It’s not like you’re like a heavy jack operator and you get some nerve damage in the hands and it’s like, goes along with the trade, maybe you don’t — you can’t grip as hard as you used to or something like that. That’s your hand and yes, your brain is your entire outlook on – I think it’s how you exist. It’s you. That’s…

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: …can’t put the word.

Kirsten: Yes, one of the things about this study that’s really interesting though is that they’re really getting at the mechanisms. Maybe that might lead to schizophrenia and how the brain actually works.

And if they start understanding why this cannabinoid receptor is involved and how it influences neurotransmitter level, neurotransmitter release – how that is all involved if you can one – few more pieces of that puzzle where it’s going to be a long way towards understanding how diseases like this get started and then also how we can combat them.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: We will defeat this disease. What you got?

Kirsten: Cold sores. Cold sores, the secret that people hate to have. But herpes simplex virus 1 is a latent disease. It’s a disease that flares up occasionally. But for the most part, it remains dormant inside your nerves. So that when get infected with herpes it gets into your nerve and then stays there.

And people have been wondering how it hides out because most viruses that get in, they get into your cellular machinery and they use that machinery to copy themselves over and over and over again and so, the virus usually gets expressed. However with herpes simplex virus 1, it doesn’t do that. And so, researchers have been investigating this problem of how it hides out.

And a team at Duke University have found that there is a particular kind of RNA that’s made by this herpes virus. And this RNA which is latent, it gets broken down into little teeny tiny strands of RNA that’s called micro-RNA. And then the micro-RNA gums up the work and block any further production of proteins that actually activate or animate the virus.

And so, by figuring this out, now they can start looking into drugs that can potentially block the micro-RNAs. Then, wake up the virus which would then allow other drugs to be able to come in to fight the virus.

Justin: Wow!

Kirsten: Because as long as the virus is latent inside your nerves, you can’t find it. You can’t get to it and there’s no fighting it. So if we can block that and cause the virus to turn on and express its self, well, it might not make you happy for a short period of time if we can, at that point get drugs to attack it. It will make you much happier in the long run.

Justin: Cool. And it’s kind of like what is it in my own again with a little whack-a-mole, that game with a little…

Kirsten: Whack-a-mole?

Justin: Yes. With those little things that pop up when you try to hit them and then they hide again.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Tricky, tricky, tricky.

Kirsten: Good analogy. So it turns out that one of Einstein’s predictions has come true yet again. This is…

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Am I — this is just like…

Kirsten: He was the smart guy, right?

Justin: You know…

Kirsten: It’s Einstein.

Justin: The most unintuitive thing that Einstein came up with for me isn’t the general relativity, it’s not the — it’s not the warpage of space; it’s not the frame dragging of time. None of that is unintuitive to me is the fact that you can do mathematics that can like, in this case, predict the precise wobble or precess of a distant pulsar.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: Like 50 years after you – like that to me is an unintuitively, insanely amazing property of our universe. The rest, to me, it’s like – I mean the earth so it’s like, “Okay, so that’s like, okay, so that’s how it works, that’s fine. This is just.

So anyway binary pulsar, basically he predicted that if there’s two great bodies like a star and then a collapsed star, not one that’s gone black hole or anything but just very dense and collapsed that are in a relationship together where they’re spinning around in orbit. That one would have this sort of wobble wobble to it.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: And at a pretty precise degree to which it would be doing this precess wobble, they happen to have an opportunity to directly view disorientation in space. And it turns out that it’s been observed pretty much exactly like he described it would be.

This is — that’s just such a bizarre, I mean this is something that there isn’t like, you could make some observations and then back engineer some math, this is completely out of the theoretical physics or mathematics that he predicted that this would happen and here it is.

Kirsten: And yes. I mean I think that’s one of the neatest things is the fact that the math predicted that this could happen. And now they actually – they searched all over the place and then we’re able to discover that kind of evidence that would support Einstein’s ideas.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: I mean that just amazing thing that it got, “Oh look. Perfect pulstar binary star pair. And, oh, look. They’re wobbling. It’s really nice. Oh, the wobble fits exactly into the amount that was predicted through Einstein’s math.

Justin: Yes. Also the…

Kirsten: That’s just amazing to me.

Justin: No, no. That’s the most unintuitive part of physics to me, is the precision with which it predicts things that it cannot yet detect or see.

Kirsten: I don’t think that’s unintuitive. I think that just shows how physics work and how the math behind physics is not just – I mean it’s a bunch of ideas that these are ideas by very highly informed people who were coming up with hypotheses and theories that maybe they can’t explain them at or can’t through them or get support for them right at that moment in time.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: But the hypothesis is so strong and the ideas behind it are so grounded in what we know that it’s out there and it’s just a matter of getting to it.

Justin: Physics, yes, physics works.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: It does. It really…

Kirsten: Physics work.

Justin: …really, really works.

Kirsten: That’s a t-shirt right there.

Justin: Yes. Let me start the t-shirt factory. Next week, it’s all going to be one-liners. I make a good t-shirt, I don’t know.

Kirsten: I don’t know. I don’t know. An eyeless worm.

Justin: Aren’t they all?

Kirsten: Caenorhabditis elegans.

Justin: Wait a second. Wait a second. Back that up. An eyeless worm?

Kirsten: An eyeless worm.

Justin: I’ve never seen a worm with eyes so you’re going to…

Kirsten: No. None of them – not many of them really do. They live in the ground they usually don’t have eyes. But some of the more advanced worms out there do respond to light.

However, C. elegans which is a darling of the research world has a wonderful little early involving bilaterally symmetrical little worm. And for a long time, nobody thought that it responded to light at all.

However, this one group at University of Michigan were doing some other research with these worms. And they were like, “Oh, look at how cute that is. The worm wiggles around when they put it underneath the bright light of my microscope.

And so they were like, “Hah, if it’s wiggling around, maybe that means that they’re responding to light.” So they actually did some experiment to check out what was happening. They would flashlight aimed at squirming worms and it made them turn around and move another direction. They tested different kinds of light. And they found that long ultraviolet light or UVA is what they’re most sensitive to. And that that happens to be the most damaging light to human. It’s the one that causes a lot of cancers.

And they ended up finding that this light, the UVA is completely lethal to the worms so it’s a good idea that they get away.

The C. elegans have a very small number of neurons, only 302 neurons. And four pairs of sensory neurons out of those 302 neurons were responsible for the worms’ response to the light.

And so they found that these little tiny neurons had components like different proteins and various components that are common to vertebrate eyes. And they were active when light was being responded to by the neurons.

And so, this is the most – like really exciting interesting thing. I mean, okay who cares about worms responding to light right? Well, in terms of evolution, this shows that some of the components of the vertebrate eyes, the rod and the cone photo receptor cell were actually there early on in evolution and at least 540 million years ago.

Justin: Wow!

Kirsten: So there were very, very early components of the kind of fight that we take for granted so long ago in the evolution of organisms. Pretty exciting, I think.

Justin: Definitely.

Kirsten: You look at something new and take a different look at it and you realize that, “Oh, my gosh. This is something that played a role in building everything that we take for granted today.”

Justin: Well, something else that we’ve sort of taken for granted today.

Kirsten: What’s that?

Justin: That is the – it has to do with something that’s called the thing that I’m looking for that I can’t find because I’ve printed the wrong story. No, no. Here it is. The Younger Dryas event. Younger Dryas event is the thing happened about almost 13,000 years ago where they thought maybe an iced dam broke that emptied this gigantic glacial lake into the north Atlantic. Right.

Kirsten: Right. And that may have slowed down the…

Justin: Basically reversed the warming.

Kirsten: Yes, my current – yes.

Justin: Yes because we were coming out of the ice age but it, yes, it went in and changed the thermal convection or circulation of the north Atlantic – no longer bringing warm air up to northern Europe and it froze it over for like another thousand years.

Now, this lake, we’re talking lake emptying out of fresh water into the ocean very cold fresh water. The lake itself was about the size of California which is pretty big.

Kirsten: Yes, that’s very big.

Justin: That’s a big lake. And it emptied out in over the course of about a year. So that’s very quickly. So you can see that how that could have an effect.

What’s sort of new is in the last couple years, a new theory of how that came about has been being tossed around and there’s new evidence for it. It’s sort of being called the Younger Dryas Impact Event which is the idea that an asteroid exploded over North America somewhere over Canada about the same time as the as the lake spills out.

And what they’ve done, the new development here is they’ve took samples of diamonds and gold in the region of I think it’s Ohio. Yes, couple counties and Ohio and they’ve – through some carbon diffractometry x-ray technologies. They’ve linked them to an area of Canada as their source.

Kirsten: Oh, wow!

Justin: And these are diamonds that used to be scattered just a few feet under the soil of, the — of Ohio and some of the northern American, northern US American states.

And they’ve linked them to having come from this huge mine deposit area of northern Canada. So now, there’s really great evidence that this meteor impact may have set about the mines of the this lake and the emptying of this lake as well as being perhaps a reason for some of the extinction for the mammoths that were headed up that way as well as the Clovis population, right? So there’s a lot of things that are sort of getting tied into this.

But what’s interesting also is that this — the impact would have been about – gosh, I think they said it was almost a mile across. I’m not sure how – if they’ve quite gotten the size of the thing that impacted. But that would have created just a tremendous impact.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Except that they don’t think it hit the ground. They think it was one of these meteorites asteroid type things that came in very close but exploded above the area, right, much like the Tunguska which…

Kirsten: Tunguska.

Justin: …hey, you should ask around. I’m sure you got some folks that know quite a bit about this which is the…

Kirsten: Probably. I’m sure there a couple of people who know something about the Tunguska…

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: …Event.

Justin: So it looks like a larger sort of Tunguska Event which the Tunguska, it was one that hit in central Siberia and like right around 100 years ago, 100 years and a couple weeks ago, right?

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Which was a huge, huge event that like took out 80 million trees.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Like weigh them all down in like a radio pattern. I mean like, and they’d — it was one of these things that it’s only now really being properly researched because there was wars and cold wars and it’s very cold in Siberia and it’s a lot of people didn’t want to go there for their research projects I’m sure.

Like who volunteers for that? Like don’t any meteors have landed in the Caribbean or some place that’s nice…

Kirsten: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the people who work there.

Justin: Yes. But it’s very interesting. So there may be some new elements to this as well as the sort of that the idea that this is an event that could happen any time and cause drastic climatory changes.

Kirsten: Yes. There’s another story about diamonds in the news.

Justin: Diamond, oh the zircon?

Kirsten: Yes. So some researchers have found — they’re looking at little tiny zircon crystals that they found in an area of, I think it’s Australia. Let me see if I can find here.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Jack Hills in Australia. And they’re looking at these crystals and they found little tiny particles of diamond trapped in the crystals. Little particles of diamond has a particular carbon isotope that’s very light that is indicative normally of biological processes.

And so, they’re thinking that these – that where they found the diamonds trapped, the isotope that make up, a few – like a couple of other things, they’re thinking that it actually is evidence from life having existed on planet earth earlier pushing the date back further than they originally thought by about 500 million years.

Justin: Whew. Wow!

Kirsten: So I think right now, we’re not thinking that life wasn’t on the earth any earlier than 4.25 billion years ago. And now, we’re considering maybe it’s a 4.4 billion years ago, maybe it’s just getting further and further out there. Maybe the earth was a different environment in its early stages than we think it was.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: And so, the researchers, they’re looking at this evidence. And they’re going, “Okay, maybe this suggests life” but they also are, looking at all the possibilities. And they think that okay maybe these chemicals that we’re seeing, it could have been natural chemical reaction, inorganic reactions.

Or maybe it’s even material that was delivered by meteorites from space. Maybe it’s material that was dropped here during a period of time known as the, I think it’s the, I guess it’s the Heian. What to they call it?

Justin: That’s it. The…

Kirsten: Yes, the Heian period, the Heian period which is thought to have ended about it 3.8 eight billion years ago with intense, intense attack of the planet by meteorite particle.

So, maybe during that period of time, it was just bombardment and particles being dropped off here from outer space.

Justin: Primordial Stew.

Kirsten: Yes. Who knows? Who knows? So, it’s up in the air but maybe life could have existed on the planet much earlier than we thought.

Justin: That is so awesome.

Kirsten: And we have diamonds to thank for that information. I love it.

Justin: Yes. That’s a good preserver of going way, way back in the time machine of the early earth.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Although there those — they’re not quite sure that that’s a life. It could be organic or it could not be. So they are — jury’s still out on that one.

Kirsten: Yes. Yes. Jury is still out.

Justin: This is – I almost don’t want to talk about the story I’ve got here except that it’s got me — it’s got my ranty Agro-ness going here. This was a story that I just read from (Marcus Waltson) from AP who was covering a protest that took place at the home of a Berkeley professor late May of this year which I didn’t hear about at the time but I just happen to come across it on the Yahoo!.

Kirsten: If you had heard about it, you would have been there.

Justin: No, I totally would have. I totally would have been there. Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, yes, move over intelligent design wingnuts. I Actually have some love for you now because Justin has a new least favorite single issue people in the world.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: And oh my goodness, I do not like this story that I read. Nine protesters gathered in front of the home for a professor, faces covered with scarves and hoods. They wrote “killer” on his doorstep in shock. They’ve kind of misspelled “murderer” on his door. They broke a window and they actually broke one of the neighbor’s windows before finally being chased off with a garden hose. And they’re out front with big banners showing animals being used in research…

Kirsten: In research. Got it.

Justin: …and blow horns and the whole thing.

This was, that almost sounds like, yes, they got chased off with the garden hose; they broke a window. That’s pretty bad. But this is at the home. This isn’t at the laboratory. This isn’t at – this is at the professor’s private house. They’ve gone to the home and are harassing him.


Kirsten: It’s very – this has been happening for years in England.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: It’s very forward animal rights activist technique and they’re basically trying to scare the professor into not doing animal research anymore.

Justin: Yes. Other…

Kirsten: And that’s what they’re trying – and it’s, I don’t know. I think it’s almost a terrorist act. I think it’s not right.

Justin: Yes. No, I definitely don’t agree with it. That’s why I would have like to have shot because, it’s very strange like I consider myself to be a passivist. I would never want to raise my fist and anger against another human being.

But like activities like this make me feel like jumping into the pickup truck with some ax handles. Like they totally turn me into like instant redneck. I don’t know why it is. For like, not in my neighborhood. No way.

So, but listen to this. I mean this is – I didn’t realize it was getting to this point. I heard about events like this in UK.

Kirsten: No, it’s in at this point. It’s been at this point.

Justin: In foreign countries where they don’t have laws like the UK, I can understand.

Kirsten: No, no. Here too.

Justin: Yes, there’s been attempted fire bombings of homes.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: People posting personal information or phone numbers, addresses, web sites that threaten that – people threatening violence that they’ve…

It’s seems like this animal rights movement is mostly made up of young people who don’t need enough meat. And I wonder if there’s some correlation between their misplaced issues.

They seemed to be focused primarily on research. Although which – and they’re having some protest at sites that euthanize stray dogs and cats like kennels and that sort of thing.

But a lot of the aggression seems to be towards researchers which…

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: …if you really look at it, the majority of the animals that are that are used, are used for food. So the question I would then ask is why aren’t – why are they targeting animal shelters and science professors in suburban homes instead of confronting the guys down at the meat rendering plant. Right?

Kirsten: Good question.

Justin: Why don’t you go down there? Why don’t you go down there with your little banner, the Sketcher shoes or your whatever. Your little alternative Urban Commando gear. Go there onto one of the meat rendering plants down there Bakersfield. Put your little posters up there, okay.

Kirsten: Yup.

Justin: You know why they don’t? You know why they don’t?

Kirsten: Why is that?

Justin: Because they’re chickens.

Kirsten: They’re chicken.

Justin: (Because they don’t get rendered because they’re I think…)

Here’s my new hero though. Here’s my new hero of the week – of the month.

Kirsten: And then we have to go to break.

Justin: Yes, yes. It’s University of Utah neuroscientist, Audie Leventhal. He had — his home in Utah was douched with a glass eating acid causing thousands of dollars with damage. They’ve scrawled, burnt in some slogans onto his home, that sort of thing.

He had some of the protesters climbed fences at the back of his yard, that sort of thing, very intimidating tactics.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: The kind of thing that would make, most people say, gosh this is too much danger involved in here. “Audie, even if I retire, I’m going to tell them I didn’t retire. There’s no way they’re winning” says the 56 year old scientist. My new favorite person of…

Kirsten: Good.

Justin: …This Week In Science. Yes, so and then the leaders…

Kirsten: We need to go to break.

Justin: Yes, yes. But the leader of the animal liberation front. Real quick. This is just a bizarre kind of a statement that I just don’t understand. An interview with the Associated Press, he said he is not encouraging anyone to commit murder. But if you had to hurt somebody or intimidate them or kill them, it’ll be morally justifiable.

Kirsten: What?

Justin: Wingnuts.

Kirsten: Morally — that is morally justifiable to kill somebody to get them to not kill.

Justin: I think there’s got to be a provision somewhere in there for inciting riot and hate speech. It’s got to be in there. It’s got to be in there.

Kirsten: I think, I think there’s got to be. Yes.

Justin: I don’t know how people can get away. I’m actually killing time while I try to figure out how to make this CD player work. I don’t understand how it – that’s why I’m talking slower. I don’t understand how it is that these types of people – it’s just not working. Okay, backup song. Here we go. Here we go. I’ll see you after the break, Kiki.

Kirsten: Yes, you’re in charged of the interviews.

Justin: Oh.

Kirsten: Because we’re going to be passing the mic around (in it). We only have one headset.

Justin: See you in few minutes.

Kirsten: Okay.

Justin: And we’re back with the second half hour of This Week In Science. On the line via Moscow…

Kirsten: Hello, hello.

Justin: …the entire Russian brain trust, all the scientists are in one room gathered together to (prevail) us with some wisdom from beyond the — is it a bamboo curtain now? What is it? Have we determined?

Kirsten: Oh, we have all of Russian science in a very small room. That’s true. But to lead it off, we’ve got Mr. Stuart Politi and he is a representative of the organization that has created this amazing English language teaching camp that – where I’m getting to spend three weeks of my summer along with a bunch of great students from across Russia.

And he’s going to tell you a little bit about what the CRDF is, what this program is, how it got started, why it got started and kind of the goal of what we’re trying to do here.

Justin: Very cool

Kirsten: So I’m going to pass the headset because we only have one headset here. So I’m going to pass it to him. And try not to control.

Stuart: Hey, Justin.

Justin: Privet. How are you doing?

Stuart: Good. How are you?

Justin: Good, good. So what is this program? Why is everybody – you already sound like you speak English. What do you need my Kirsten for?

Stuart: Actually I’m American.

Justin: Oh, well that’s cheating then.

Stuart: So, yes, I do speak English.

Justin: Okay. I actually am a representative of the organization that is putting this training on. So I’m actually based in – we’re based Arlington, Virginia. And this is the seventh summer in a row that we’ve put together an English language training for Russian science students.

Justin: Excellent.

Stuart: The organization is called the Civilian Research and Development Foundation. And it was formed in 1995 to promote international scientific research and exchange and also to provide opportunity for former weapon scientists to switch to civilian work.

Justin: The into Plowshares?

Stuart: Yes.

Justin: Excellent.

Stuart: And actually there’s a program within the organize called the basic research in higher education program which is actually what this English training is run through.

And starting in 1998, we have funded 20 research and education centers across Russia and across different scientific disciplines. And the program is funded half through the US through the McArthur foundation, the Carnegie Corporation and half through the Russians Federation. Foundation of – I’m sorry, the Russian Ministry of Science and Education.

Justin: And the English — teaching the Russians better English, is that because Russian would just be too hard for us to learn?

Stuart: Yes and it’s more now the language — international language for scientists. So in order for them to collaborate with their colleagues internationally whether they’re in America not, Europe or Asia, they need to be able to speak and write — and communicate in English and also be able to present their scientific work in English to present at international conferences.

Justin: Right. So you can even have then a roomful of several scientists from different nations all non-native English speakers but communicating the science in English because it’s their common language.

Stuart: Exactly. And that’s the whole purpose of upholding this training.

Justin: Excellent. So how are your students doing? And they…

Stuart: They’re doing great. We have we have 64 of them. And again, their representatives of 20 different universities from all over Russia and we brought sort of a sampling of students here from the Russian Far East.

We’ve got someone here from Siberia, some of them Moscow and some of them northern Russia. And in a few moments, they’ll be able to talk with you and tell you a little bit about where they’re from and what they’re feeling about the program.

But all in all, I mean it’s going really great. We’re about halfway done. And again, this is the seventh such English training we’ve gone through this basic research in higher education program.

And I may say it’s our best yet. I think in each year that we do it, we sort of fine tune the curriculum and the people that we’re bringing over and what we’re trying to do. And I think that this is maybe the tightest program that we’ve put together yet.

Justin: All right.

Stuart: We’ve got — we bring over some English teachers for them and we also bring over four scientists. So the students are having a mix of traditional sort of English as a foreign language teachers but also meeting with scientists from the US who are discussing things with philosophy of science with them, ethics and the history of science as well.

Justin: And is there – when you’re saying students, is this a continuing education? Is this undergraduate students or are these like more like graduate or are these working profess – okay.

Stuart: It’s a mix. It’s a mix. I would say some of the students, maybe a third of them are upper level undergraduates. And the rest of them are masters or Ph.D. candidates.

Justin: Okay.

Stuart: So, I’m meaning this would be a good time to transition over to some of the students…

Justin: Let’s bring some of the students on, see what – because I mean you think the program is working great. But you’re also in charged of it. Let’s see what’s really going on.

Stuart: Yes. We have to talk to some of them.

(Man): Hello.

Justin: Hello. How are you doing today?

(Man): I’m fine.

Justin: First question, actually, I need to ask this real quick. What’s the weather like over there?

(Man): Oh, the weather is fine. It’s sunny. And the people are swimming in the river.

Justin: Oh, my goodness. It is –I don’t know if you use the Celsius or the Fahrenheit or some other. It’s just it’s 500º right now in California which is you can actually cook eggs on the sidewalk right now, it so hot. And California is on fire so there’s a lot of smoking out here. So first, I’m very jealous of everybody over there for having nice weather right now.

So how did you get involved in this program to start learning English to communicate better with your scientific colleagues? Is this something that you signed up for or is something that was forced upon you?

(Man): Yeah, it was some competition and the students take part in it and after, we go to this camp.
Justin: So you had already have shown some inclination for having pretty good English skills to begin with, right?

(Man): Yes.

Justin: Excellent. Okay. Because, I mean yes, you seem to be right. All right. Now, what is more helpful for you, the English teachers over there or the other scientists who were speaking English? Who do think accelerate?

(Man): Yes. That was very good tutors and I think that is good idea to put them together and for best results.

Justin: And is it more for their conversational English that’s helping you or is there more – is there a sort of a jargon or scientific language that you’re picking up on? I for instance, in reporting science news, constantly come across words I’ve never seen before and just have to guess anyway which I think is acceptable.

(Man): I think that this training is more for conversational language but in some areas of science too.

Justin: Mm hmm.

(Man): But the tutors try to be interesting for every student and so don’t go deep inside some scientific area of knowledge so it’s interesting for everyone.

Justin: Excellent. Excellent. And what type of work are you – I mean what are you studying?

(Man): Yes I would like to present myself a little bit.

Justin: Yes.

(Man): I’m from Siberia, from the center of Russia from city of Krasnoyarsk which is based on the River Yenisei, very big river. And I present my scientific center. And my work is about biosensors and bioluminescence in monitoring of environment.

Justin: Okay. Is that anywhere near the meteor hit from 1908? Tunguska…

(Man): Can you repeat the question please?

Justin: Yes. I’m trying top find the – see, this is the whole thing about pronunciation. I can’t find the – oh, never mind. It doesn’t — so luminous biosciences, so what is it you’re looking for in the environment? What are you, what indicators are you trying to track?

(Man): Yes, the toxins in the water and some medical application office sensors responsible to.

Justin: Mm hmm. So one of your sensors would be then in the river stream and if a certain biological factor or agent or chemical agent was detected, it alerts and then we know that we’ve got something going on in there. Is it like that type of monitoring or is it more censoring like going in and researching what’s already there?

(Man): Yes. It’s more for monitoring in environment, it might be put it on the river and there might be to pull the air control somewhere. And then these methods using for monitoring of lakes of our region. And then show good results.

Justin: Excellent. Excellent. Yes, I could see that being very handy like downstream from a chemical plant, some sort of manufacturing facility keeping them a little bit honest downstream the river.

(Man): What? It’s difficult for me to understand this question.

Justin: Oh yes, it seems like that would be – sensors like that would seem like they would have a really good application near a manufacturing plant or chemical plant downstream from them.

(Man): Yes, yes. I think it might be very good for the certification. Of course, our role is for more toxic area. And we need to check, check all the food, water, air which we use.

Justin: Excellent. And you get the – where do you get your funding from? Is just from the states? Yes, I still don’t know how Russia works anymore. Used to be everything come from the State and evolved that way, right? Now, there is private industry that finances as well. Is that correct?

(Man): Yes. I think it’s correct.

Justin: So, it’s a mix now. Okay.

(Man): I would like to give the words for my friends.

Justin: Mm hmm.

(Man): Yes. We have four more people.

Justin: Oh, okay. We got ten minutes so let’s get everybody going here.

(Man): Okay.

(Alexie): Hello.

Justin: Privet!

(Alexie): Not Privet.

Justin: Welcome to This Week In Science. So I think we’ve got – we’re running out of time. So why don’t we do this. Why don’t we get your name, where are you from and what you’re working on.

(Alexie): Okay. I’m from Moscow there at (Khotkovo), Russia and I’m from center which is (condensed matter) on the external states. University Center MIPT and MIPI. My name is (Alexie).

Justin: Wait. How do you spell that?

(Alexie): Huh?

Justin: How do you – what was the name?

(Alexie): (Alexie).

Justin: How do you spell that?

(Alexie): (Unintelligible).

Justin: Okay. Okay. Have we got – is that it?

(Alexie): (I can more?).

Justin: Yes, yes, yes.

(Alexie): Now, I actually now, I investigate movement of (non-internal) fluids in tubes and its turbulence. It might be used in our industry in transport through tubes and in drilling.

Justin: We got to get to the next – because we only got like 2.5 minutes per person here because we got – we’re running into the very end of the show. So let’s get the other three on as quick as possible.

(Alexie): Should I pass the head phone?

Justin: Yes, we got to keep passing because we’re running out of time. We’re going to get cut off here in any second.

(Alexie): Okay, okay, okay.

Justin: All right.

(Woman): Hi there.

Justin: Hello.

(Woman): Hello.

Justin: So who are you and where are you – where do you do your research and what do you do?

(Woman): Okay. My name is (unintelligible) from Russia, of course and I’m from (unintelligible) close to Moscow. I’m a physicist.

Justin: A physicist, excellent.

(Woman): Yes, really good.

Justin: What do you think of this English learning program so far?

(Woman): What?

Justin: What do you think of the English teaching program that you’re involved in?

(Woman): Well, I (am new) like it because there are a lot of different kinds of work I mean scientist articles. I also can improve my English in common and I do a lot of sports activities. We have our own football championship. We lost the game but I hope revenge.

Justin: Excellent. And what – are you involved in any kind of research at the moment?

(Woman): Well I study (short range order) innermost materials at my university. I hope that it will be good for devices in cars or something like that because of radiation in them.

Justin: Excellent, excellent.

(Woman): Yes.

Justin: And we got – I’m sorry. We have – we’re running out of time. We got to keep passing the mic because we’ve got just about five more minutes before we’re off the air.

(Woman): Okay, sure. Bye.

Justin: Bye-bye. Gosh, she sounded really cute.

(Coshia): Hi there.

Justin: Hello!

(Coshia): Hello there, Justin.

Justin: Hi.

(Coshia): Nice to hear you.

Justin: You too. What is your name? What do you do?

(Coshia): My name is (Coshia) and I study biology. I’m from Vladivostok. It’s a very far away city, at the Fareast Russia. I took some two days to get here, (to come here).

Justin: Wow! Welcome.

(Coshia): Thank you.

Justin: So what type of work – what type of research are you doing?

(Coshia): Well, I’m interested hydro zones. There are lot of (exploring) and so on. And I’m trying to figure out what is (unintelligible).

Justin: (Unintelligible) the Skype is breaking up. So I cannot hear…

(Coshia): (Unintelligible).

Justin: I’m having a hard time hearing all of you.

(Coshia): What about now?

Justin: With the breakdown of cells, did you say?

(Coshia): Sorry?

Justin: I think our connection with the Skype is starting to – starting to disappear. Thank you for joining us in the air today.

(Coshia): Okay.

Justin: If we’ve got one more person waiting?

(Coshia): Yes. (unintelligible).

Justin: Let’s get them on real quick because we’re about to head up to the – we’re about to hit the end of the show here.

(Coshia): Okay. I’m passing, okay.

Justin: Okay. Nice to meet you.

(Coshia): Mm hmm. Thanks.

Justin: She sounded cute too, my goodness.

(Yuri): Hi, Justin.

Justin: Good morning or good night. What is it over there? I have no idea.

(Yuri): It’s evening here already.

Justin: So what is – what’s your name, where are you from and what are you studying?

(Yuri): My name is (Yuri) and I’m from the Yekaterinburg. Our city is located beyond the border of Europe and Asia.

Justin: Mm hmm.

(Yuri): And I’m a physicist.

Justin: Excellent.

(Yuri): Yes, it is.

Justin: And what’s your – what type of physicist are you? What are you looking at, the universe at large or the universe at small?

(Yuri): Oh, it’s a very interesting question. Now, I elaborate the (unintelligible) of semiconductors. And it is what I do in our university, exactly. What do you want (to know) else?

Justin: So trying to find new materials for the semiconductors to get them more efficient, that sort of thing?

(Yuri): Yes. The physics problems become more complex with each (year). And we have to invent more efficient computer systems. So we (solve these) semi conductors for that as we efficient computer systems.

Justin: Excellent. Excellent. And how’s English learning program treating you so far?

(Yuri): Oh, very good. It’s really great to be in the (such) environment when you have to speak here English everyday every hour is great.

Justin: Yes. I have to hear it everyday of every hour too. It starts to annoy me after a little while. I don’t know why.

(Yuri): No. Actually, it’s not annoying. It’s great.

Justin: Well, thank you for joining us. We’re hitting at the very end of the show. If I can get Kirsten back on for one more moment?

(Yuri): Yes, thank you. Good bye.

Justin: Thank you for joining me, (Yuri).

(Yuri): Bye-bye.

Justin: Good bye.

Stuart: Hey, Justin it’s Stuart again.

Justin: Hey.

Stuart: Just wanted to just follow-up before I give the headset back to Kirsten.

Justin: Okay.

Stuart: I think that you can tell it’s a pretty unique program that we’ve been putting together for the last few summers.

Justin: Quite a diverse group.

Stuart: Yes. And it’s again – this is the seventh time we’ve done. We’ve also done it for some adult scientists as well through other programs. And it’s a capacity that CRDF has developed that we think we could do with other programs as well — English for special purposes.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Stuart: And I think it’s pretty amazing I think that every summer that we’ve been able to bring these many students together and these many scientists and English teachers to live together for three weeks and learn from one another.

Justin: So we’ve only got about a minute and a half left here.

Stuart: (Unintelligible).

Justin: How does somebody who’s interested in joining this program maybe spending a few weeks in a beautiful place like Moscow, sign up for this kind of work?

Stuart: They could go to our website, the easiest, And they can – there’s an info, I think. And also my name is Stuart Politi and I’m the one who is in charged with the English language programs that CRDF does, so.

Justin: Excellent. Because yes, it sounds like Kirsten has been having a blast over there.

Stuart: Yes, she’s great. I’m just really, really, really happy that she was able to participate this year.

Justin: Yes, you can’t keep her.

Stuart: We are really lucky that we found her.

Justin: You can’t her though.

Stuart: I hope she’ll do it again.

Justin: I’m getting her back.

Stuart: Okay. Here she is right now.

Justin: Oh, I didn’t mean right now but okay.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Hey, Kiki.

Kirsten: Passing this headset around is crazy. Are you there?

Justin: Yes. I’m…

Kirsten: Hi.

Justin: Hey.

Kirsten: Hey, was that fun or was that fun?

Justin: It was fun. The only thing is I think we could do better if you did a recording over there and then we played it later because the Skype was getting funky in the middle there.

Kirsten: Oh, that’s too bad.

Justin: So we lost some of the quality. But they sound – gosh, those girls…

Kirsten: I can do interviews next time. We’ll have pre-recorded interviews.

Justin: Those girls sounded really – I think I have a thing for Russian accents in women.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: I think it’s just they both sounded just drop dead gorgeous. I – you know.

Kirsten: They are. They are, Justin. It’s drop dead gorgeous and you are totally missing out.

Justin: How do you sign up for this? I’m going to have to go back to…

Kirsten: Beautiful, intelligent Russian woman you’re missing out.

Justin: I’m so going to be there next – next time, you’re here on the 500º heat with the Californian fire and I’m hanging out with the Russian hotties just talking English because that’s what I do anyway. I do that like all the time. I do it sometimes, I do it in my sleep and sometimes we do just to…

Kirsten: You are the talker, yes?

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: All right. We’re running a couple of seconds over our minutes. So unfortunately, I’ve got to let you go.

Kirsten: All right. Well, it was great to talk with you yet again. Next week will be the last week of the Report from Russia.

Justin: Okay. Hey, take some pictures while you’re there. Yes?

Kirsten: I’m taking pictures and I’m taking video. It’s going to be – because we’re going to share. Everything is going to be shared. Yes.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes. Talk to you next week.

Justin: Okay. Hey, if you learned anything from today’s show, remember…

Kirsten: It is all in your head.

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