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Justin: Good morning Kirsten.
Kirsten: Good morning Justin.
Justin: That was an awesome disclaimer.
Kirsten: Yeah. That disclaimer was from Sean Clark. He’s got a blog that he writes. He’s a science university student and he’s got a blog called bigroom.org which was that little thing at the end was.
And he’s got another TWIStribution coming up at the end of the show, when we play the TWIStributions like we normally do.
Justin: Good thing because the writer’s strike is on around here.
Kirsten: I know. We got a writer’s strike. So, Justin didn’t write a disclaimer.
Justin: I didn’t write a disclaimer. I called around. I got a friend, (Ely) down there in Los Angeles regions. And called down there to see if there is any scab writing jobs, you know.
Kirsten: I’m sure of that.
Justin: Like come on, I mean I know none of the late night talk show hosts make up their own or maybe Conan because he use to be a writer. But the other guys don’t.
Justin: This got to be just they need people that get down there and do some good writing for them.
Kirsten: Yeah. But that was great. It was wonderful to get a disclaimer from a minion.
Kirsten: It doesn’t happen that often. Last year we had a…
Justin: We have disclaimer contest.
Kirsten: Yeah. That was fun. Yeah. But if you want to TWIStribute a disclaimer or a science story, no more than a minute and half long, email to email@example.com with TWIStribution in the subject line, please. And we’ll see what we can do to put it on the air.
Kirsten: But you know, it has to be what I think is interesting.
Justin: Or what I think is, it can be what I think is interesting too.
Kirsten: It could be what you think is interesting. But I’m the only one who listens to it. All right, we have a great show for you all today, This Week In Science. We are here until 9:30. We are — let’s see, it would be 9:30 right now, if the clock’s hadn’t been turned back.
Kirsten: Yeah. Fall back, you know. We’ve gone back in time this weekend. What do we have? I have a bunch of stuff about China and their space program that I want to talk about today. I’ve also got stories about the brainbow, people out there have probably heard of the brainbow already but we have to talk about it. And doping of Olympic athletes from the 70’s and 80’s…
Kirsten: …in Eastern Germany. Yeah. So, those are some of my top stories today. What do you have?
Justin: I got a smattering of (this is) and (that is). All kinds of – I have a printer strike on top of the writer strike that’s going on. My printer wouldn’t – there’s like an empty line. Look at this, an empty line in the middle of all my text.
Kirsten: It is.
Justin: How’s that?
Kirsten: An empty page.
Justin: Not that it’s out of ink.
Justin: It’s just gets rid of the line down the middle of each word.
Kirsten: It’s like I’m going to mess with you Justin. That’s all.
Justin: Feelings of futility and finding balance between biofuel and feeding families fans flames of a future food fight over ethanol’s inflationary effect.
Justin: Attempt to reduce US dependents on foreign oil by adding more ethanol to its gas tanks are driving up food prices while delivering very little real energy benefit.
Kirsten: Right. Right now, ethanol and biofuels are still – there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done to get good efficiency out of these fuels and they take a lot of space to grow.
Justin: And we’re not using enough of it to actually wean ourselves…
Kirsten: Off of gas.
Justin: …off of gasoline (at which).
Kirsten: Right. That’s a good point.
Justin: And the thing is corn prices have already jumped by 60% over the last two years. So, here’s what’s a little wicked about corn which you think, “I don’t have to eat corn.” Who eats corn on the cob that much, right?
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: Well, it’s in everything now. I mean that’s like one of the main feedstock for livestock. So, even if you’re just a straight Atkins beef-eating junky, your beef prices are going to go up because the feed prices are going to go up to feed those darn cows and chickens and whatever other animals you might be eating.
So, this is like not a huge effect that we can feel right now. But the scary thing is when this starts to go into other countries, there’s countries like Thailand, Uruguay, Ghana are ones that they have pointed at that are very likely going to be places where a lot of these corns and (unintelligible) in the future.
Kirsten: Central and South America also.
Kirsten: We’re going to be looking at basically third world nations bowing to the needs – the gas needs of the first world nations.
Justin: Or even their own as their production as they become industrialized and don’t have access to oil because it’s too expensive and we’re gobbling it all up.
Kirsten: Right, which reduces, but the whole thing is that it’s going to end up reducing the amount of land used for food. We’re going to start seeing land being clear cut from more farm lands. So, we’re going to start losing more of our tropical jungles, our rainforests than we are already.
And it’s just – the whole cycle, I’m actually pretty negative when it comes to the whole biofuels issue. I hate to say it.
Justin: And the biofuels does have less greenhouse gas effect. But it isn’t healthier for people. It’s still has carcinogenic effects.
Kirsten: And it still releases carbon dioxide.
Kirsten: The by-products are still greenhouse gases.
Kirsten: So, it’s not as though we’re decreasing the release of greenhouse gases, the benefit. What they’re saying is that it basically keeps everything in a loop.
So, instead of taking carbon that’s been sequestered away for millions of years or hundreds of thousands of years, whatever the time length that happens to be, instead of taking it out of the ground where it’s been put away and locked away out of the atmosphere for a really long time, we’re actually keeping it within the systems.
So, it’s basically carbon dioxide comes out of the atmosphere to feed the plants. They produce more oxygen, the plants are growing and the carbon dioxide that gets released is probably no more than what they…
Justin: What was there to begin with.
Kirsten: Right, maybe slightly more from what was taken out of the Earth in the growth process. But that’s all basically within the biospheric loop already. So, it’s not as though we would be anything new to it, which is the problem with natural gas, petroleum and coal.
Justin: So, not quite the solution yet. I don’t like the idea of the world – I mean if you could convert gasoline into food and it was a lot cheaper, would anybody do it?
Kirsten: Gasoline into food?
Justin: Or into like oil. You can turn into a type of food that was cheap, would you do it or would you sell your oil as oil for the big bucks? You’ll sell it as a big bucks. And the reverse is going to happen to the food, as soon as you can sell food for oil prices, why in the world would you make like corn flake cereal?
Kirsten: Why in the world would you want to feed people?
Justin: Why would you make cereal? No, really.
Justin: I mean it’s going to be an economic decision that’s going to be…
Kirsten: Yeah, farmers are going to end up making those decisions. And it’s going to also depend on where the subsidies go.
Justin: Yeah. And then, there you go. Now, we have energy subsidies that are going to farming, which I think is brilliant because we should be doing that. But we should be doing it for solar. We should have a farm subsidy that would allow you to put solar panels all over your farm land and harvest sun.
Justin: That makes sense to me. This is like a back door approach that they’re doing which is accomplishing the same goal but not as friendly.
Kirsten: Yeah. If you’re interested, I just watched this wonderful video last night on the internet’s cornguy.tv.
Justin: Careful how – make sure your filters are on for that one before you start searching.
Kirsten: It’s pretty funny, actually. I think they only got like two episodes out so far. But it’s basically about the uses of corn as a fuel source, food versus fuel. And so, it is done in a very interesting way. I liked it.
Justin: I think it’s a good thing to put them to (unintelligible).
Kirsten: This month that the most recent episodes, yeah.
Justin: I’m talking about all the things you might accidentally find while looking for corn TV guy. It could be bad. Make sure…
Justin: Is the actual website. Don’t Google it. Some things you just don’t want to Google in.
Kirsten: Oh, my goodness. So, recently, in the news, well actually, I only heard it whispered along the news wires – whisper, whisper, whisper. China has sent a satellite to the moon.
Justin: China on the moon.
Kirsten: Yeah. They’re not on the moon yet. But this was the first of three missions that they are heading up over the next 20 years in plans to get a man on the moon, to get a taikonaut on to the moon.
Japan last month sent a satellite to the moon. China’s original plans have been to get, I think was to get the satellite launch in April but things happened and they didn’t quite get it off the ground.
So, I think about a week and a half ago, they launched on a long march missile. I think they launch their satellite up into the orbit of Earth. It spun around Earth a few times. And then, it was sent off to the moon, powered its thrusters and went to the moon. And it’s now in orbit around the moon taking 3D satellite imagery and surveying the surface and beaming back patriotic songs to Earth.
Kirsten: Yeah. It’s great. I think this is a really important…
Justin: People’s republic of space.
Kirsten: But I think this is a really important story that has been glossed over a lot in the national news, I think. And I’ve heard it here and there but not really – I think this is really important.
China has finally become an independent space power. They are on their way to not relying on other nations. They are not in cooperation with the United States right now. They are starting to move on to cooperating with Russia on future launches towards Mars.
This is something that I think that the science that’s going on could be used as a point of cooperation between nations as oppose to a point of contention. And it could also be used as a – I mean, the word “space race” the phrase have been used in the past. Why not use it again? It promoted research during the 50’s and 60’s. It boosted our space program. Why don’t we want to see that kind of boost here and now?
Justin: Well, we do. And that would be great. But it’s not going to come through cooperation so much as competition.
Kirsten: Right. And healthy competition is always good. You know, I think one of the scary things is back in January. China decided to show off their might and use a ground based missile and anti-satellite missile to blow up one of their aging weather satellites.
Justin: Wait, are you sure?
Justin: I thought they launched it from a satellite and blew up another satellite?
Justin: I thought they had a satellite that blew up a satellite.
Kirsten: No. actually, it was a ground based missile.
Kirsten: Yeah. And that’s the big thing. United States and Russia have also done anti-satellite testings.
Justin: That’s a hard hook up.
Kirsten: Yeah. The fact that it was from the ground…
Kirsten: …is what is the most outstanding thing. It shows that they do have some pretty long-range missile capabilities.
Justin: Well, if you can get a satellite, you can go inter-continental ballistical…
Kirsten: Right. Yeah. But one of the things is, is like they left a huge pile of junk in the air.
Justin: In the air? What about in air?
Kirsten: That’s the big object. This is like a lot of little tiny bits of pieces. It’s like rubble. It’s exploded rubble from the satellite in space in orbit around the planet that is now created a hazard for any nation trying to send anything up into space.
So, United States has a map of anything that’s – a debris that’s like golf ball sized and bigger. In the past, when the Chinese put a taikonaut into space for the first time, or in other launches, they have used United States data on the debris that’s in space. Right.
And so now, here they have just without any regard just put a bunch more junk up there. And they’re going to come back be like, “Can we use your data again?” It’s like, “Can I copy off your test again after you (unintelligible)?”
Justin: But here’s a solution maybe.
Kirsten: Yeah. There needs to be rules of the road for space that everyone follows.
Justin: We launch a giant magnet. We have a giant magnet satellite that just circles around collecting the junk up into one big ball.
Kirsten: And satellites and like whatever else is out there.
Kirsten: That’s a great idea.
Justin: All right here, back to plan B which is the giant vacuum cleaner…
Justin: …that we send up into space to vacuum up the debris.
Kirsten: Yeah. And I think the fact that China’s up in space, they’re doing, they’re going, they’re moving. They have plans to put a man on the moon and they might get there before we do again.
You know, they’re really pushing it. And we aren’t quite pushing at them as much as we use to. So, they might get there before we do. And it’s just going to be interesting to see what happens when that happens how we as Americans respond to that.
Anyway, we think we’re so big and bad.
Justin: I’m all for the Chinese being on the moon.
Kirsten: No, I don’t mind it. I think it’s great.
Justin: I think that’s cool. I think we should set up like – well, I think when they make moon base it should be like just a visitor center…
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: …you know, regardless of what nation you come from going to the visitor center, like take turns in the sauna.
Kirsten: Welcome to the moon. Insert $0.50 into the optical telescope, look at Earth. Oh, my goodness.
Justin: All right. This is a green roof thing. This is just a small thing I crossed over – I don’t know.
Article of November 2007 issue of Bioscience describes the history and summarizes the benefits and challenges of having green roofs or roof where you’ve got like – they’re actually growing a lawn on your roof. Or you’ve got like a wildflower garden up there something like that, like a sod roof basically, all right.
Kirsten: Not just weeds that we’re growing.
Justin: Not just weeds in your gutters.
Justin: But actually a sod roof.
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: Although they are more expensive to construct, it says that the green roof can reduce energy cost during a building’s lifetime, controlling storm run-off, providing havens for wild life so you can have lots of birds and stuff surviving up in there. It’s something like a good place for rats too for some reason, I don’t know why unless you have birds of prey.
Kirsten: Maybe squirrels.
Justin: Squirrels. Anyway, not very common United States and Japan but European countries most of Germany are really urging the widespread adaptation. Wow!
So, this is kind of an interesting. So, in the long term, there are cost benefits to this. There’s a photograph of this, where is that magazine again, the Bioscience Magazine, November 2007 issue that shows the California Academy of Sciences building in San Francisco that’s got almost now complete green roof on the new structure.
Kirsten: Probably allows a lot of insulation and I imagine it would help to regulate the building temperature quite a lot.
Justin: Yeah. And it seems like an interesting idea. I just don’t – you can never like mow it.
Justin: It couldn’t be grass. Because like what you said, it will just turn into like a weed thing. And San Francisco is always moist. Like around here, anything would drop and then you have a fire hazard on your roof, first 4th of July, going up in flames.
Kirsten: Oh, my goodness. Doping, doping, doping.
Kirsten: Doping, doping. This isn’t very green. And it wasn’t very green. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, East Germany had a program of systematic doping of its Olympic athletes.
Athletes have stated that they did not know that the vitamins that they were taking were anabolic steroids. But they took them anyway because that was the vitamin they were supposed to take.
Justin: I didn’t know what kind of steroids they were.
Kirsten: So, the study – it was a two year study of 52 – stop it. Two years study of 52 Olympic and elite former East German athletes and their 69 children. It’s interesting, the results are really, really striking and interesting. Among the children, there’s a high rate of physical and mental handicaps. And more than a quarter of the children have allergies and 23% have asthma.
Within the athletes themselves, there was a higher rate of depression and suicidal tendencies and the need for therapy for psychiatric issues than the general public.
There’s also a higher rate of cancer among all of the individuals within the study. So, it turns out that there’s just an – and within although it’s a 32 times the rate of stillbirths with among the athletes as well.
So, it’s just all these things that have gone wrong with the athletes and their children and it just goes to show that even though you might think, I can do whatever I want to myself for the short term gains, you possibly are going to be affecting the future generations.
I mean, I’m going to go with the concept of epigenetic to explain what’s happening with the offspring of these athletes, that there’s probably some change in epigenetic controls that’s leading to all these problems. There’s so much that, drugs steroids, whatever happens to be that can lead to not just problems within your life span but beyond.
Kirsten: Yeah. It’s a really, really quite a striking study in my thoughts.
Justin: Got an email from a minion here. The title is TWIS A Man Ahead of His Time.
Kirsten: Oh, yes.
Justin: “Guys, love the show, listen to your podcast every week. You are my religion.” Religion? (Short trip) TWIS.
Justin: Say ten disclaimers and you will be forgiven.
Kirsten: Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer.
Justin: Just a head’s up in case we haven’t seen this, another of Justin’s ideas, getting exploited for the greater good, and other people making money aren’t maybe.
Dynamos have been installed in the internal generators of the cycling, elliptical and stair master aerobic machines at a bunch of California fitness machines and one of the 23 Hong Kong gyms, powering lights and TVs.
Kirsten: You came up with that idea awhile back and told someone to come up with it? And while it might not have been enough electrical power for one person in a household…
Justin: Yeah. A gym!
Kirsten: …has do a lot. And a gym, full of bicycles…
Kirsten: …and tread mills.
Justin: This is the thing…
Kirsten: It’s great, rowing machines.
Justin: Maybe it’s enough to pay your own bills but if everybody does plug in, the communal effect are going to be huge.
Justin: Why waste all that energy?
Justin: And another in this, also there’s a ticket gate built by the East of Japan Railway Company, they’ve installed the mini-generator pad under the ticket gate. So, every time somebody steps on the pad, it creates 100 milliwatts of energy which is very, very little.
Justin: Enough to light a hundred…
Kirsten: One 1000 of a second?
Justin: For 100 watt light bulb. But you know, maybe 50 watt light bulb, that’s two 1000 – it’s a one 1000 of 100 watt bulb for a second.
Justin: But with 700,000 people using the station everyday, I don’t think like – we’ll just see what happens. Maybe we can keep a light bulb on all day.
Kirsten: All day long. Go on vacation. Take a lot of photos, nice 2D images that you take home. Well, some researchers at the University of Washington are taking images off of Flicker, the online photo sharing website which now has more than 1 billion photos in it’s library, have looked for landmarks and are making 3D images of well-known landmarks that people take photos of all the time using composite photographs of the people have taken on their vacations.
The way that it works is basically taking multiple viewpoints from a scene and finding the same point between each of the different viewpoints and correlating depth and size from the different view points and the common point.
Yeah. So, what they’re hoping to do, they’re building these 3D reconstructions of individual buildings. They have done the statue of Liberty, Notre Dame, Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
They’ve done 3D reconstructions of all these buildings. It’s the first step in trying to actually recreate an entire city. And so, they actually be able to 3D render a city based on photographs.
Justin: Okay. There’s a Spiderman game that’s out for the Xbox 360 that’s supposedly does like Manhattan properly. Like if you live on a street in Manhattan, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that’s actually the building that I live in.”
Kirsten: That’s neat.
Justin: It actually looks like that. It’s not many stories has that many windows. Kind of crazy.
Kirsten: It’s getting there. So, it’s maybe in the future, you’ll have like some kind of more 3D realistic video game effect based on actual photographs.
Justin: One place we can hide when the robots take over.
Justin: The water, right?
Justin: Thanks to TWIS minion (Jayson Athregen), (David Morgan) who’s both separately sent me a link to the popular mechanic story. The 21 foot long interceptor can travel at 55 miles an hour. It’s designed to be both piloted remotely and autonomously.
Yes, a robot boat that is now going to be patrolling waters of – well so far, Israel looks like the British have purchased some, Singapore has got them in their navy.
It can be mounted with a machine gun, possibly other weapons. One of the things they’re thinking they can use this for, the Barbary Coast where we’ve been getting lots of reports of pirates.
Kirsten: Pirates, yes.
Justin: Kind of a hard area to patrol for any nation state because all the naval super powers aren’t really located in the area, they just sort of travel through.
Kirsten: So, robots.
Justin: So, robots.
Kirsten: Why not water bound robots?
Justin: Patrolling the waters.
Kirsten: I love it.
Justin: That means they can shut down all sea travel. That means no more lead-filled toys for our children from China if the robots take over the – wait a second.
Kirsten: Speaking of robots and children…
Justin: Huh? Robot children?
Kirsten: Not robot children but robots and children. (Adam Hinterhower), a freelance science writer I met at the Science Writer’s conference who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, he sent me a story about real life robots, a state of the art humanoid robots called Sony QRIO that was used in child care situations by a group down at the University of California, San Diego.
They had these robots that react to facial expressions and respond to touch. So, they’re very interactive robots and they don’t just do a program set of maneuvers. They actually react to what you’re doing.
They tested these toddlers in this child care room at the University and for 45 sessions, averaging about 50 minutes each and the kids loved it. They like interacted with the robots in the same way they would have interacted with another child.
They liked playing with the robots more than they did say, a teddy bear. They would beat up a teddy bear but they would touch the robots gently. So they actually treated the robots as if they were alive almost.
Then, for a few sessions, they downgraded the robots’ performances. So that the robots just did pre-program sets of maneuvers and didn’t respond and were not interactive anymore.
And the toddlers totally lost interest. They were like, “Okay. I’m bored with you now.” And so the toddlers will go off and play with their teddy bear because that’s more cuddly and nice or they’d find a new toy to play with.
Again, they tried more sessions with these kids. Made the robots interactive again, and once again the children decided – what was that?
Justin: It’s a bomb that’s about to go up in the background.
Kirsten: There’s something going on in the background. You know, I think it’s probably my cellphone.
Justin: How did you have a signal on there? What kind of…
Kirsten: I have no idea.
Justin: …thing running off plutonium or something, radium phone?
Kirsten: I don’t know.
Justin: What do you got? And get a signal on…
Kirsten: Anyway, these robots and toddlers were in the printed in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it’s very close. This technology is close to get into a point where we might be able to interact very closely with robots. Maybe they’re going to evolve soon.
Justin: Well, it kind of makes sense. Like the kids can interact very well and play very well with robots that just a little bit interactive. It doesn’t have to talk or anything like that. It’s like, I watch my four and half year old play with my eleven month old.
And yeah, the 11-month old, she can’t talk, she can’t walk, quite on her own yet. She’s not didn’t have all the skills a four and a half year old used to playing with.
And so, he compromises. Okay, she can’t talk. Okay, she’s not mobile, we can’t run around. All right, we’re going to sit in one place. We’re going to put these blocks together. He likes finds out what it is they can do interactively together and that’s how they’ll play.
Same thing with the robot, they’ll just downgrade to an extent. But if the robot is just not showing any interest or not playing or paying attention that the robot has done.
Kirsten: Yeah. I think, it’s going to be an interesting test to discover, you know. So right now, toddlers are interacting with robots on an interest level. How much further do robots have to advance before humans will adult humans will – as if toddlers aren’t human, what am I saying?
Justin: Adult human beings?
Kirsten: Adults will interact with robots on an equal level or on a level of continued interest.
Justin: I’m telling you the first…
Kirsten: That will be interesting to see what has to come about in artificial intelligence and robot technology to do that.
Justin: That first pirate that steps on to a robot boat and is surprise to find no crew and no booty and nothing but robotic arms, that’s going to be our first real (unintelligible) interaction.
It’s pirates versus robots in the open seas. What year is this?
Kirsten: I don’t know but it is really…
Justin: This is some sci-fi drama.
Kirsten: I don’t know but that was definitely this week in robot domination for sure.
Justin: My goodness.
Kirsten: We will back in just a minute. Must take a short station break and when we return, we’ll be back with Dr. Michael Stebbins, the Weird from Washington. Stay tuned.
And we’re back.
Justin: More on This Week In Science.
Kirsten: That’s right. And on the line, we have Dr. Michael Stebbins from the Federation of American Scientists and Engineers for America. And let’s bring him on the line.
Justin: The Weird from Washington with Dr. Michael Stebbins.
Kirsten: How are you today?
Michael: I’m well. Thank you. How are you?
Kirsten: Oh, fantastic. We’ve got great weather here. It’s like 80 degrees.
Justin: That’s nice.
Kirsten: Do you guys have the cold?
Michael: It is getting a little dreary here. It’s starting to feel like fall. So, there you go.
Kirsten: Yeah. The California thought it would dry that for like a week and then it was like – no, never mind.
Michael: That’s okay. I’m actually heading off to Ireland next week which is actually going to be from what I hear, wet.
Kirsten: It’s always wet in Ireland, yes.
Michael: Yup. Speaking of fabulous weather and global warming though…
Michael: Yeah. Of course, we can launch right in and say, “Nice (trying this and that).”
Kirsten: Perfect segue.
Michael: So, last week, actually it came at the week before last, Dr. Julie Gerberding of the Centers for Disease Control was giving testimony in front of the Senate. And as it turns out, a lot of her testimony had already been redacted so to speak by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
So, what we expect to happen is that when all of these came out that’s Dr. Gerberding would be a little upset at the Office or that she would come out and say that, “Well something very important about of the actual stuff that was redacted.”
But what she did was actually came out and said that, she was upset with the press for covering the fact that her testimony had been edited.
Michael: Yeah. So, going so far to say but that she felt that was the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.
Kirsten: Yeah. Because…
Michael: And she’s correct. I mean, the story really should have been about the potential for disease spreading in new regions and health implications of heat waves and drought.
The discussion of what vulnerable citizens would actually might have to go through. But we did actually get quite a bit of pressed on the fact that it was edited out.
Now, it’s true that the Office of Management and Budget are actually really can edit the stuff out normally and actually does quite a bit of a time. But they deleted half of her testimony.
And so that shouldn’t be a big problem that they do the editing. Removing half is very interesting and is a new story.
Michael: And that the edits themselves actually are don’t happen in a bubble.
Kirsten: What they took out. Yeah.
Michael: This is all part of a much larger problem that’s been going on. Now, the story actually got more real, it’s not because of the fact that it was edited but because of the White House Press Secretary’s response to the edits themselves where she actually made the claim that there are public benefits to global warming.
And she said, “And so, the decision on behalf of the CDC was to focus to a testimony on public health benefits. There are public health benefits to climate change,” which of course, Dr. Gerberding did not focus on in her testimony to her credit.
Justin: Something to look on the bright side of life. Hey, you know…
Kirsten: There is somebody out there. There is a guy out there from England who’s written a book all about like the bright side of global warming or a climate change.
Justin: I don’t often give financial advice or investment advice but housing in Greenland is still dirt cheap. Well, they don’t have dirt but it’s still cheap.
Michael: See? See? Well, there’s dirt and I’m going to call that ice.
Justin: Some rocks. There’s not a lot of like soil.
Michael: Yeah. That’s true. So, in context of all this, actually the BBC did a poll as how much people would be willing to sacrifice to curb climate change? Now, they actually pole 22,000 people in 21 countries.
Kirsten: That’s a lot.
Michael: What they found is that four out of five people said that they were prepared to change their lifestyle even in the US and China.
Michael: The world’s two biggest emitter of CO2. So, over all, about 80% of Americans actually responded and say they agree that individuals would definitely have to make lifestyle changes to reduce the amount of climate change and gases they produce.
So, this is actually good news.
Eighty percent of Americans are actually cool with changing their lives. However, when you actually say who would support a higher tax in favor of raising – in order to support new types of energy development and encourage individuals and businesses to use last the numbers drop significantly…
Michael: …to around 45%. So, we’re going to change our lifestyles not just pay more.
Kirsten: Right. People want to have control over the actions that they take. They don’t just want their money to go off and do something.
Justin: Here’s an idea though.
Justin: Why don’t we educate people? Why don’t we go backwards in time to the history books and the accounting books of previous administrations and look at money we invested in research and development and then show people where those dollars ended up creating.
I mean cellphone…
Michael: It’s funny you should say that.
Michael: Actually, that’s precisely what has been done on several occasions. And in fact a report from the National Academy of Science estimated that 80% of new jobs in the last century were direct result of new technologies. At some point, someone had to invest with those technologies.
Michael: Now, what we haven’t figured out is and which is difficult to do is actually figure out which parts of those technologies were actually from federal funding.
Michael: But we know is for sure that the biotech industry alone was – see the script right on the back of NIH funding. And that the discoveries that were made with NHI funding led to a large number of the companies in the biotech industry they formed.
Kirsten: Yeah. Well, I do know that the proportion of where money is going has been changing. So that it’s basic research is not being funded as much as it once was. And now, it’s much more application driven.
So, there has to be some kind of application for what you’re doing before you get the money. And there’s like a big push towards the commercialization of research so that anything that, I guess, the technology transfer is the term that people are calling it.
Michael: Correct. And a lot of this is a result of the Bayh Dole act which actually encourages researchers who use or get federal dollars to actually take their invention to discoveries. And it allows them to capitalize them. And actually that also was credited with a lot of the bar tech boom.
Michael: Now, speaking of funding, actually, it’s appropriation time of year.
Kirsten: It is.
Michael: And so, we actually figure out what we were going to get next year.
Kirsten: Is it Christmas time? Do we get stuff in our stockings?
Michael: It just like Christmas except for the president try to veto most of the bills. But when we actually break down the senate versions of the spending bills and the president’s request particularly when we’re talking about the health in human services budget, we actually see that’s for example, that the president is well-below the senate and house numbers on funding Medicare Parts B and E, Medicaid.
The National Institute of Health is actually a significant change where the senate budget proposes reducing the – actually the president’s budget proposed is reducing the National Institute of Health budget by $310 million which is about 2%. The senate version were boost NH funding by $1 billion which is 3.5%.
Kirsten: Wow! Yeah.
Michael: So, there’s a little bit of a discrepancy. Now, the NH increase would pay for an additional $400,000 compared with fiscal year 2007 and $700,000 more than the president’s budget when you break it down.
So, even the Senate’s increase wouldn’t keep pace with biomedical insulation rate which is about 3.7%. So, it’s still not keeping up with the joneses.
Now, the NHI needs $1.9 billion, that’s the estimate, or 6.7% annual increase from 2008 to 2010 to restore it to the spending ability it had in 2002. So, the president is starting to veto 10 of the 12 spending bills and this of course one of them.
Justin: So, let me get that right. One week in Iraq would pay for the entire scientific budget of the United States?
Michael: Well, actually the difference in all of the spending bills combined between what Congress is proposing and what the president requested was $20 billion. But most of it was offset. But you can in fact contrast them that against the president’s $200 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, it’s a 1/10 of the budget request for the war is the difference and the president is going to veto them. So, that’s sign sort of certain startling.
Michael: Now, there’s all sorts of other areas too where there’s major differences, what’s called Title VII, Student Loan Assistance? The president proposed the budget being $10 million and of course the House and Senate were a $1.89 and $228 million respectively.
So, there’s a huge a gap there. You know, where the senate house are actually looking to funds student loan assistance are a much higher level than the president would like.
Justin: I feel like my four and a half year old…
Kirsten: Everyone needs to do what they can do themselves.
Justin: I feel like my little boy, Sebastian right now, like when he was looking at me when I was trying to explain money to him. Like why we couldn’t just go to the bank and get more money to buy that car that he saw. I’m like, “No. They don’t just give you money.” “What?”
Kirsten: I just don’t understand.
Michael: They do kind of give you money. It’s just you have that they argue about how much they’re going to give.
Michael: And actually the discrepancy of $20 billion sounds like a lot. But in relation to the rest of the budget and what we spend on other things is really very small.
Michael: And it certainly isn’t one we think is not enough to shut down the government which is you know, something that is a distinct possibility.
But really what’s going to probably happens is will be a continuing resolution and we’ll be actually go with that will mean since we’re going to continue in resolution now, is that actually – our government will be working off a budget in 2006. Okay, so, we’ll actually be two years behind.
Michael: Yeah. So, the continuing resolution basically says, “Okay. We’ll say use the numbers from last year.” So, we’re doing that now because the republican house and senate in 2006 punted on all of these spending bills and basically said, “Okay. We’ll deal with it next year.
Michael: And now, we’re looking at there being a problem getting all of this through the senate. The House has actually made their way to all of them. So that’s where were at with that.
Kirsten: Good times.
Michael: I know.
Kirsten: That’s great. Well, we can just hope for the best, hope that science gets a little bit more funding in its pocket.
Justin: Science needs to earn it though.
Michael: Do you want a funny one before I go?
Kirsten: One funny one. Yes, please.
Michael: Because there was a funny one. Okay. So, in October 9, in UN conference, Christina Rocca was the US Representative to the UN conferences on disarmament, claim that the US nuclear forces are not and have never been on hair-trigger alert.
Kirsten: Yeah. I know the story, all right.
Michael: Right. Which is…
Kirsten: We never have been.
Michael: …completely untrue, 100% untrue. We have nuclear weapons on alert right now. And it’s very, very odd and she of course knows this. So, it’s a very, very strange claim to make. And of course, she was corrected and everyone in the room sort of like sat up straight with, “What?”
Justin: I think they have an air base around here that used to be continually flying with the different kinds of weapons on board ready to go somewhere.
Michael: We have no weapons.
Justin: Weapons of mass destruction, no, we have none.
Kirsten: But we do.
Justin: Send there inspectors to Davis California. They wouldn’t find anything.
Michael: That was a good one though. There you go. Thanks again, guys.
Kirsten: Fabulous news.
Kirsten: Thank you so much.
Justin: Dr. Michael Stebbins, author of Sex, Drugs and DNA in paperback now.
Kirsten: Have a great…
Michael: It’s getting less and less enthusiastic (unintelligible).
Kirsten: I know. Have a great two weeks and we will be talking to you again – oh, gosh – just before Thanksgiving?
Michael: I’ll try and give us something to thanks for.
Justin: Yeah. That’s a good one.
Kirsten: Give thanks, yeah. That would be fantastic. Take care. Bye.
Justin: That was the Weird from Washington, with Dr. Michael Stebbins.
Kirsten: And we have a little bit more yet to go. I’ve got some TWIStributors. Yeah, you don’t have to jump in the stories. Don’t worry I’ve got a couple of TWIStributors here.
The first is Sean Clark who gave our disclaimer…
Justin: Yeah. He was at the disclaimer today.
Kirsten: …at the beginning of the hour. And the second one is Michael Taylor who is a science and math teacher at Hercules Middle School and High School in Hercules, California.
So, let’s get on with it.
Sean: Complexity of microbial fuel cells be explained in 90 seconds? Sure, it’s simple. Microbial fuel cells work because oxygen sucks. Any chemical reaction is just a bunch of atoms fighting of whoever gets each other’s electrons.
In a battery, chemicals at one end or sucking electrons through a wire away from chemicals at the other end. In a device in the middle of the wire can use the force of the electron suckage to power electrical circuits.
A microbial fuel cell does the same thing with bacterial biochemistry. As bacteria break down the molecules in their food, they end up with left over electrons.
These extra electrons get used for a lot of things but the important one here is respiration where electrons are pulled through a series of biochemical reactions called the electron transport chain which uses the force of electrons being pulled through to regenerate use of biochemical energy.
In air breathing organisms, the ones providing the electron sucking force is oxygen which is the second most powerful electron-sucking element in the universe.
Normally, this all happens inside the cell. But some bacteria have ways of allowing the electrons to be pulled from outside the cell such as long electric reconducting proteins called nanowires.
To make a microbial fuel cell, we give this bacteria a carbon electrode to grow on in an oxygen free environment. Then, we run a wire from this electrode away from the bacteria and connect it to an electrode somewhere else where the oxygen is.
Like a glutton desperately sucking a milk shake through a crazy straw, oxygen can then suck electrons all the way from the molecules and bacteria shelf through the bacteria and at the wire providing the same kind of electrons sucking force that batteries do.
If you’ve enjoyed this explanation or even if you haven’t, please let me know at my blog at www.bigroom.org. Thank you.
Michael: Robotic cars attempted to perform various tasks on congested sea streets in the just completed 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. DARPA, the Defense Advance Research Project Agency, a department of the Pentagon sponsored a similar event in 2005 where unmanned autonomous robotic vehicles had to successfully navigate the Mojave Desert.
In that event, Stanley a modified Volkswagen engineered by Stanford University robotics team took the price. Denying their attempt, the young upstarts from Carnegie Mellon University with a financial assistance of such giant’s GM, Google, Intel and HP had their modified Chevy Tahoe nicknamed Boss, kicked some robot hinny.
Stanford came in second on the 100 kilometer course of real world complexity. All the cars made their own decisions, no remote operations was allowed.
A brash Virginia Tech team placed third behind CNU and Stanford to take home a piddling $500,000 in prize money.
GM which sells humvees to the military hopes the championship of their sponsored vehicle will demonstrate the ease of which their cars and trucks can be converted to autonomous control.
The Pentagon hopes to put such vehicles on the battlefield by 2015 to help automate many task that might normally put soldiers at risk of roadside bombs.
So, circle the year 2015 as the new official date of world robot domination as dictated by the US government. Although no firm time table will actually be given.
The sponsor, DARPA, was previously known as one of the key forces behind the invention of the internet. Sorry, Al Gore, you got your Oscar and your Nobel, be happy.
This is Mike Taylor signing off.
Kirsten: Thank you TWIStributors.
Kirsten: That was fantastic. In the colorful 2015 world robot domination.
Justin: I like the whole idea of cars driving themselves. It’s just the whole military aspect. The automated military still scares me, I mean.
Kirsten: Yeah. I had a good interview with one of the creators of Stanley from Stanford University at the last Triple S meeting this February. And he does the military stuff but he’s goal is to get cars on the highways in the public’s hands that are autonomous and…
Justin: Because more drunk drivers kill Americans than terrorists ever have.
Justin: Or probably even any war. We probably lost more people to drunk drivers than we have all the worst combined that we’ve been in.
Kirsten: I don’t know about that statistic.
Justin: I have a feeling.
Kirsten: You have to check that statistics.
Justin: I have a feeling that’s pretty darn and accurate even though I pulled it right out of my hat.
Kirsten: Yeah. You’re making it up. Researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts published in nature a pretty picture. They call it the brainbow.
Kirsten: Somewhere over the brainbow. I couldn’t help it. Yeah. These researchers have used transgenics or a knock-in technology to create neurons that express colors.
And basically, the way it works is like an RGB screen like a computer monitor or your television screen, different colors. So there are four genes, four color producing genes that produce yellow, red, blue or an orange or a green. And they’re controlled by a recombination system, a genetic recombination system called crelox, it’s C-R-E-L-O-X.
What happened is they put these genes into specific cells within the embryonic mouse. So, they’re placing it into the embryonic stem cells of little embryonic mice.
And as those mice grew, the cells would divide and different recombination would occur for each cell. So, different subsets of those four genes would end up getting expressed in each cell so that one cell might have yellow and blue and other cell might have yellow and green or red and blue.
And so, instead of four colors, the combination ended up being upwards of 90 colors. And so, when they slice through a section of one of these mouse brains, they were able to see basically a rainbow mishmash of colors of up to 90 colors of all sorts of different neurons. And it’s not just a pretty thing, you can go online and you can search for brainbow and images online.
Justin: This is a brain slice of a mouse. Isn’t just beautiful?
Kirsten: Exactly. It’s not just beautiful. It’s functionally significant. It’s going to allow researchers to get a lot more information on the interactions of neurons and how neurons connect to one another.
So, whereas before, you had a nasal stain which just stains everything kind of (purplely) color or you know, silver stain. You know, where everything is kind of a wash of one color or in the past, where they’ve been able to maybe get two colors like yellow and red or green and red to show up in a mouse’ brain.
Now, with all these different colors, they can actually differentiate specific neurons for links through the brain. So, maybe they can go through like for long distances within a mouse’ brain that’s less than a centimeter but they can follow a neuron over long distances and see how it branches and connects to other neurons.
So, what kind of interconnectivity there is? And so, it’s going to be really, really, amazing to see how researchers use this new technique to give us more information about the brain.
Justin: Very cool.
Justin: Researchers at the University of Manchester has developed their own high-fashion, high-tech battery powered textile yarns. It can be used to make clothing that will glow in the dark.
Yarns have developed by the William Lee Innovation Centre basically the universities school materials has potential to be incorporated into clothing worn by cyclist, joggers, children trick or treating, people at clubs, people just trying to get more visibility on the street.
So, this is a pretty wild light emitting fabrics.
Kirsten: Mm hmm.
Justin: So, if you can imagine putting on those jogging pants, forget the reflect because here’s one of the uses of it, one of example…
Kirsten: But (unintelligible) reflective fabric, it actually glows.
Justin: Exactly. So, say, you’ve got two people jogging at night wearing all the reflectors, reflective jacket, a little reflector hang up the neck, shoes has got reflectors taped to them, two joggers on a dark path at night, colliding because they couldn’t see each other. Why? Because nobody was emitting light for anybody else to reflect off of.
So this way, they’re actually putting out their own light. It’s just going to be pretty and I can’t wait. I really want to wear like…
Kirsten: That’s pretty cool.
Justin: …glow in the dark clothes.
Kirsten: Final quick headline so I can give a rapid run down, carbon nanotubes being used to with in conjunction with radio waves to zap cancer cells. A chemical called chloramphenicol is being used by researchers to get rid of a fungus called chytridiomycosis that’s responsible for killing 1/3 of all frogs since 1980.
Justin: Is that what’s been doing it?
Kirsten: It’s one thing. Yeah. And disappearing bees, we talked about colony collapsed disorder a lot this year. And awhile back we reported that a virus known as IAPV that is supposedly have been come from Australia is responsible.
Researchers from the US Department of Agriculture, the research laboratory went back to check on it again, looked at samples from 2001 and 2004 from here and the United States, Pennsylvania and Israel found that the virus has been here all along.
Justin: Not the virus.
Kirsten: So, it might not. And nobody has actually yet like – if no one has to…
Justin: No. It’s not killing bees.
Kirsten: No one has definitively shown that it does kill bees. It is in the populations that succumb to colony club to sort of more than not.
Justin: But this is the other thing, the bees aren’t dying. They’re not just dying at the colony, they’re leaving the colony. They’re flying away.
Kirsten: No, they’re dying.
Justin: No, they’re not. They’re not finding dead bees all over the place. They’re just taken off. And dying else or dying alone is not part of the colony. That’s what I’ve heard.
Kirsten: All right. Anyway, it’s the end of our show. I’d like to give a shout out to a dire first helping finding out finding outstanding stories for us, Herb Wood…
Justin: As always. He’s great.
Kirsten: Herb Wood in Sonora California, keep on drinking. And (JT) and (Marilyn) who informed us about the Hong Kong Health Clubs using Justin’s ideas. And (Robert) who wants us to stop saying, Al Gore won an Oscar. It was the film maker who actually won the Oscar. But it’s just fun to say that Al Gore is responsible for everything.
Justin: Al Gore gets to – I bet you anything, he’s got the Oscar in his ass.
Kirsten: Sorry about that. We are out. Out, out, out for this week. No more time left for us. We’ll be back next week with more science news for you and your friends and family and possibly an interview if I can set it up.
Justin: Somebody sat here and filmed us doing the show and they won an Oscar, I would still say, it was ours. If you learned anything from today’s show remember…
Kirsten: It is all in your head.
Listen to the Podcast here: http://www.twis.org/audio/2007/11/06/155/