Nov 20, 2007

Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!

On this day before the day before the day of giving thanks, This Week In Science would like to thank the men and women of science, past, present and future, for their hard work and fearless application of brainy dedication to the uncovering of the unknown and for pushing back the veil of intuition so that we can see beyond the ways of chance and firmly place ourselves on the shores of possibility.

While the University of California, Davis, KDVS and its sponsors don’t necessarily represent the views of this show, we would still like to thank them for providing us a home, a place to ponder, wonder and explore the world of science out loud. If not for that generous commitment to public affairs programming, you wouldn’t be about to hear This Week In Science, coming up next.

Kirsten: Good morning, Justin.

Justin: Good morning, Kirsten.

Kirsten: How’s it going today?

Justin: Going good. I’ve got – if we didn’t have Stebbins in the second half hour, I think we would still need three half hours with this…

Kirsten: To finish all the news.

Justin: …to get through all the science news that’s out there this week. Big week.

Kirsten: No, I know.

Justin: Huge, all kinds of stuff from every direction.

Kirsten: I know. It’s pretty exciting there’s lots of physics news out there and chemistry female reproduction.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: I know for a fact we’ve got this week in The End of the World. And…

Justin: Yes, lots of that.

Kirsten: …this week in World Robot Domination.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: Do you have any of those?

Justin: No.

Kirsten: You don’t got it?

Justin: No. There was the whole DARPA thing but, robotic cars taking over the world. I’m all for the…

Kirsten: Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. Have you considered moths?

Justin: Robotic moths?

Kirsten: Well, how about a robot that’s controlled by a moth brain? But we’ll talk about that maybe, maybe if we get time for it.

Justin: If there is. There might – this show might leak over into the after hour show which doesn’t exist yet.

Kirsten: Oh, but I’m making it happen.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Oh, yes.

Justin: With your utterances?

Kirsten: With my utters, that’s right.

Justin: I thought there was a cow reference first. And then I was like, “Oh no. I get it because it’s really you’re uttering a little…” Now, I understand.

Kirsten: Yes. But the website – the program that makes it possible over the website it’s and I’ve used their technology to be able to put new utters on our website. So throughout the week, I will be doing short utters.

Justin: or

Kirsten: Exactly. So you got to go to the website to be able to hear little things throughout the week.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Lots of science brought to you all the time.

Justin: That’s huge.

Kirsten: I know.

Justin: I’ll be doing traffic reports on place where you don’t live.

Kirsten: That’s great.

Justin: On the road you’ve never even heard of, let alone driven on. But I’ll give you detailed information of up to the moment traffic reports.

Kirsten: Awesome.

Justin: Just so you’d feel like you’re getting all the info.

Kirsten: I’m looking forward to it. Well, we’re here for the better part of the next hour. We have Dr. Michael Stebbins at the half hour to bring us hopefully, some things to be thankful for in Washington.

That’s what I’m looking forward to. There’s got to be something. We’re going to give thanks today. Today is a day of thanks for science. Thanks for everything we’ve got. That’s what our week is. Lots of thanks, right?

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: That’s what it’s all about. So on with the news, yes? You got anything good?

Justin: Climatia, Climatia. Climatia, Climatia. Climatia, the tattooed lady. No matter how you spell it, pronounce it or intend it, Climatia is on the rise and nowhere is the hockey stick of ick more on the up tick than right here in the US of A.

Two new reports this week lay our claim to the title of number one in the production of Climatia or Climatia or…

Anyway, an online database compiled by the Center of Global Development, CGD, an independent policy and research organization has ranked the CO2 output of nations, states, counties and even individual power plants, so very specific to how much carbon is being produced per plant.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: The national big winner, you guessed it because I alluded to it earlier, United States of America produces the majority of CO2 emissions worldwide. Now, to be fair, the United States would actually come in second to China if the CO2 output of Hong Kong were combined with that of the CO2 of China.

Then again, so much of what is manufactured in China and Hong Kong is either being made by our four companies and consumers in the US could still be considered the catalyst. Still the pointing of fingers is pointless at this point. The important thing is that we’ve both been diagnosed as Chlamydia carriers and need to seek treatment immediately.

In other conflagrations of worldly connotation, the CDC division of sexually transmitted disease prevention…

Kirsten: Yup.

Justin: …has reported that over 1 million new cases of sexual Chlamydia have been reported in the US in the last year, breaking previous records and further establishing the US as a major contributor to the irresponsible ickyness of the world.

Kirsten: So we’ve got like double whammy ickyness going on.

Justin: We’ve got Chlamydia no matter how you spell, pronounce, or intend to use the word. Lots of it.

Kirsten: Great. Well, another this week in The End of the World news, do you ever why – well, I guess we’re on the West Coast here.

Justin: Yes. I have wondered you. I don’t know what the question is but I’m sure I have wondered why.

Kirsten: Do you ever wonder why…

Justin: I’m positive at this point.

Kirsten: Over here on the West Coast, we don’t really get as much of that fall color foliage as, the East Coast of the United States who’s famous for…

Justin: We’re not Vermont.

Kirsten: But in England, they have a lot of trees that undergo that very similar changes in their foliage. However, over the last 30 years, the date of that color change has shifted later in the year. And the correlations have been made that in the springtime, the change is in budding and fruiting of trees have been – they’ve been correlated to changes in temperature. But the stuff going on in the fall has had a much weaker correlation to temperature.

Some researchers at the University of South Hampton, they took patches of poplar trees. And they basically, subjected them to higher levels of carbon dioxide as they were growing. So one patch of tree has had normal ambient carbon dioxide in the air and the other patch of trees, they increased it to what the levels of carbon dioxide are expected to be in 2050.

They found that the leaves of these trees got red later. They continued to stay green until later. And what they concluded was going on is that the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was allowing the leaves to take in more carbon dioxide than create carbon based compounds within the leaves that actually lead to – that help the metabolism of the leaves and leave to longer longevity of the leaves of the trees so that they don’t go into senescence and they fall off the tree.

Yes, well, you think, “Oh, that’s not so bad.”

Justin: Good for trees.

Kirsten: Yes, good for trees. They’re adopting. They’ve got these things, going on in their systems that allow them to survive in the changing environment. They that’s fantastic.

Justin: I take your prolonged up tick to me and that there maybe a potential downside to this.

Kirsten: Might be one…

Justin: So let’s even go, higher. Oh, no. This really bad.

Kirsten: It’s not terrible. But what — they continue to photosynthesize but what they’re not doing, I mean which is great because they are offsetting carbon dioxide. Trees are good for that. They are making carbon dioxide…

Justin: Somewhat.

Kirsten: …internalize to them, getting carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. That’s a good thing.

Justin: They still put a lot back out. It’s not that…

Kirsten: Not so much.

Justin: Not that big.

Kirsten: Not so much.

Justin: Because it’s through the roots system – they’ve (unintelligible).

Kirsten: But that goes into the soil and that’s good.

Justin: But then it comes back again still…

Kirsten: Not as much.

Justin: …because microorganisms break it down.

Kirsten: Okay. That’s not, that’s not…

Justin: They found that there’s not as much of a – (unintelligible).

Kirsten: We’re not going there right now.

Justin: Okay.

Kirsten: One thing that the tree is not doing if it’s photosynthesizing is it’s not setting itself away for the winter. So if the tree is in an area that experiences cold, freezing winter temperatures and the tree hasn’t prepared itself for that experience and it’s been lapping up the carbon dioxide, it will get damaged and the possibility of it not making it through the winter to the next spring is increased.

Justin: Oh, wow.

Kirsten: So even though these trees are adopting in a positive direction for increased carbon dioxide levels, it’s not necessarily going in a positive direction along with what’s happening with the winter climates.

So unless winters get much, much milder around the world, there’s going to be some kind of a shift in what populations of trees are surviving. Unless we just start planting different trees.

Justin: We might need new trees.

Kirsten: Let’s just go different trees.

Justin: Because there’s some key findings you have got that were summarized by the Associated Press, key findings of United Nation’s Intergovernmental panel on climate change, they’ve gotten away from the previous reports which left people room to interpret what the meaning was and called – and basically say globally warming is unequivocal. But they shouldn’t have used that word because most people won’t know what that means.

They have report…

Kirsten: No, they shouldn’t use global warming, they should say climate change.

Justin: Yes. They should say the End of the World or Climatia. But, that’s – not parse with the UN. Temperatures have risen 1.3ºF in the last 100 years. Eleven of the last 12 years among the warmest since 1850, sea levels have gone up by an average of 700ths of an inch per year since 1961.

Twenty percent to 30% of all plant and animal species faced the risk of extinction if the temperature increase is by 2.7ºF. Human activity is mostly responsible for the warming. Global Emission Greenhouse grew 70% from 1970 to 2004.

Wow! The concentration carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was prior higher than the national range over the past 650,000 years. Climate change will affect poorer countries most but will be felt everywhere.

Extreme weather conditions would be more common, tropical storms more frequent, and intense heat waves and rain. Heavy rains will affect some areas raising the risk of wild fire, spread of disease. Elsewhere, drought will degrade crop lands as well the quality of water resources.

That’s another thing that noticed is that the water table inland will be much heavily intruded upon by salt.

Kirsten: Salt.

Justin: So, even if greenhouse gases are stabilized, the earth will keep warming, sea levels rising, more pollution will bring an abrupt and irreversible change such as loss of ice sheets at the poles and the corresponding rise in sea levels by several… oh, man! Oh God! Oh! But, you know what?

Kirsten: We’ll survive.

Justin: Yes. I will, I know.

Kirsten: I know.

Justin: I don’t know about the rest of you but I’ll be alive.

Kirsten: But there’s always the question of well, okay, naysayers and doomsayers and are we going to survive? What are we going to do about it? So something’s going wrong with the environment. Are we going to do anything about it?

Some researchers in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have proposed in the December 15th issue of environmental science and technology, it’s going to be coming out in December, to build upwards of 700 plants to be able to offset carbon dioxide emissions by pumping CO2 into the oceans.

But part of the – the people have said, “Well, if you put CO2 into the oceans, there’s an acid based reaction that occurs. And the oceans will acidify if you add carbon dioxide.”

Well, what their plants would do would remove hydrochloric acids from the oceans at a rate equal to the pumping in of carbon dioxide so that it would neutralize the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and would not add any new acid to the ocean.

And this process, they say, is similar to natural reactions that occur in silicate rocks and – but it’s much faster because it’s an industrial plant. And so, they’re proposing that 100 plants could cause a 15% reduction in emissions over years but 700 plants could offset all emissions.

Justin: Interesting. I kind of – I’m a little leery of that idea just because I think that means they have to put the power plant right next to the ocean or right close to…

Kirsten: They do. They do. They do.

Justin: There’s something – I don’t have it.

Kirsten: You’re getting all (nimbi) on me?

Justin: Well, no there’s a – yes a little bit but there’s a National Geographic out now. I think it’s National Geographic that does a whole thing on biofuels. And one of the neat things I’ve seen in there is they have this algae that they’re growing.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: And that they’re using the emissions from like a coal powered – fire powered power plant to feed these algae which grows exponentially and can actually be converted into other fuels.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: And it’s such a neat idea. And it shows these great green bags of algae hanging everywhere. And it’s just – that’s amazing…

Kirsten: They take the carbon emissions from those plants and they actually create…

Justin: It’s the nutrient.

Kirsten: …biodiesel there and then what the algae create – you’re not to kill the algae for it but what they create is biodiesel and ethanol.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: And so, it significantly reduces the CO2 output…

Justin: That, to me, is the most…

Kirsten: …and carbon monoxide as well.

Justin: …brilliant biofuel I’ve seen yet because algae…

Kirsten: Yes, using microbes is really great idea.

Justin: This is another man ahead of his time thing. Me and my friend (Jared) for years are trying to figure out a way – well, he’s the scientist so I was telling him to come up with the way – of making, algae into an organic solar panel so you can have these floating pools of algae. And he worked out some pretty neat ideas for it.

Kirsten: And they’re doing it now.

Justin: And they are actually doing that now. But this one seems like much more productive because they’re saying that the growth rate, when you put all this carbon through these filters where the algae is just – they just go wild.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: It’s just absolutely start reproducing.

Kirsten: Yes. There’s a story out this week also in nature that is talking about some research that was done in the Fjords of Norway.

Justin: Fjords.

Kirsten: Fjords, my peoples have been experimenting with plankton.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: Yes. Actually, it’s an international of group scientist but they took advantage of the unique system of Fjords to be able to create 27 what they call – or actually nine mesocosms.

Justin: Mesocosms.

Kirsten: Mesocosms. They used special synthetic material to be able to create an isolated environment, nine isolated environments within the Fjords. And then what they did. It’s similar to the tree experiment, they increased. Three of them had normal carbon dioxide levels. Three of them had the levels that will be expected in 2100. And three of them had what would be expected in the year 2150.

Justin: Way into the future.

Kirsten: Way into the future. So I mean it’s pushing way out there but they just wanted to see what would happen. They found that the plankton in those water filled sacs within the Fjords really, really increased their uptake of carbon dioxide, up to 39% increase.

And so, they incorporated that carbon dioxide into themselves in the process of photosynthesis. Then they wanted to know what happened to plankton after they’ve incorporated all the carbon dioxide photosynthesized for their lifetimes and then died. What goes on? What happens?

Well, the plankton fall to the bottom of the ocean. So…

Justin: Perfect place to hide.

Kirsten: Perfect place. It’s so – what they’re saying is that these plankton really do have a huge effect on the global climate system because of the amount of carbon dioxide they could potentially take up and offset from our emissions. And it creates what “conveyor belt”, a biological conveyor belt.

There is – there again, there are a few downsides to this. So we shouldn’t go like seeding the oceans with more plankton.

Justin: Sounds like a good idea. I’d say we just move forward with it before we hear the bad news.

Kirsten: Just go.

Justin: Come on. Go with the good news first.

Kirsten: Yes. So it could, because you’re transporting more carbon dioxide to depths, it could have some amount of acidification of the oceans because of the – what is the other one – the decomposition of the plankton after they get down there and the metabolic processes of the organisms that feed off that matter, there will be the release of the carbon dioxide and the consumption of the oxygen in the process.

And that – so if there’s a lot more plankton, it could dramatically reduce the amount of oxygen at the bottom of the oceans which could detrimentally affect the life forms that already live down there.

And then they checked to see what happened to crustaceans — let’s see if I can get the word out – crustaceans that were fed with CO2 enriched algae and they found that those crustaceans displayed slower growth weight rates.

So down the food chain, or it’s up the food chain, it had somewhat of a detrimental effect on the organisms that are feeding on the original photosynthesizers. So it’s really interesting.

Justin: If you just hadn’t read the second half of that, we’d have the solution.

Kirsten: If I just went in, I know everything would be fixed right there. But it is something that we can expect to act as something of a dampener as things move ahead.

Justin: Well, the thing is overall…

Kirsten: So all is not lost.

Justin: Overall, the earth, it’s pretty much a closed system. Pretty much. We’ve launched a couple of little things out, you know.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: But for a big part of it, there’s a lot of it that’s a closed system.

Kirsten: Thank goodness, I don’t want my oxygen heading off into outer space.

Justin: No.

Kirsten: I know. I don’t want to end up like Mars. Come on.

Justin: We’re going to have – it’s all going to stay here anyway, we just got to figure out ways to recombobulate our atmosphere.

Kirsten: Well, I’m about this combobulating.

Justin: Small, fast moving carnivorous dinosaurs like velociraptor had air sac respiratory system similar to modern day penguins and other diving birds. This is something that I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t…

Kirsten: All birds have air sac respiratory systems.

Justin: I didn’t…

Kirsten: They’re lungs are air sacs.

Justin: Yes. This ones – but it’s most similar to like the modern day penguins and diving birds. And I guess it has to do with the length of the ribs or something like that, the length of these liver bones called the uncinate – come on, uncinate.

Kirsten: There you go.

Justin: Uncinate. The uncinate process which upgrades via small bones, that these levers to move the ribs and stern them during breathing as opposed to the mammalian diaphragm for inducing air intake.

Kirsten: Cool.

Justin: And there’s other differences too to the lungs. So I didn’t realize they have almost like don’t have like the same – they have completely different lung system.

Kirsten: Completely different structure, yes.

Justin: I didn’t realize that.

Kirsten: Yes. Birds have a very different lung structure from humans.

Justin: Wow. So…

Kirsten: Or from mammals in general. Yes.

Justin: Yes, wow. So again, this is just sort of more evidence that suggest that dinosaurs descended from birds as though feathers and the…

Kirsten: You mean the other way around.

Justin: Huh?

Kirsten: Dinosaurs descended from birds.

Justin: Oh, no, yes. The other ways around. Birds descended from dinosaurs, you know. But yes, they’re finding velociraptors now, same lung system, same – it was the bone structure before it was similar in like the hips and stuff. And now, that, they found some feathery evidence…

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: …too. But this is also they looked at the archeopterics has the same…

Kirsten: (Unintelligible).

Justin: I understand this is because they’re running bird and they’re probably much bigger that they had the uncinate system that was similar to penguins and diving birds but I like the idea.

Now, considering velociraptor…

Kirsten: If they’re running birds, they should compare them against something like a roadrunner or the type of bird that actually has that same behavioral aspect.

Justin: Yes. But they say it looks more like diving birds and penguin.

Kirsten: That’s fascinating.

Justin: So I’m like what if velociraptor was a diver?

Kirsten: Well, they would have probably found evidence of webbed feet or some other aspects.

Justin: It could have been pre-webbed feet, you know. These things take time, Kirsten.

Kirsten: Yes, okay.

Justin: You can’t put the webbed foot before the air sac uncinate process. Come on. I think that’s completely wondering…

Kirsten: Okay. Okay.

Justin: …that if it might be. But that’s really – I had no idea that birds don’t have lungs.

Kirsten: Don’t they do – well, they’re different. They have air sacs, yes.

Justin: They have air sacs. That’s and a lung. In my book, that’s not a lung. It’s – no, it’s very different.

Kirsten: It’s an air exchange system.

Justin: But it’s not even…

Kirsten: It’s a lung. It’s an air exchange system.

Justin: It’s not a lung. It’s – well, if you want to call it that.

Kirsten: Oh, I don’t know what to do next. I’ve got so many stories in my hands and I just…

Surfer physicist, should we get to him before the break? I’m sure everyone…

Justin: I have genital arousal disorder.

Kirsten: I don’t have that. Sorry to say.

Justin: Wait no. Wait no, not personally. It’s a story on a piece of paper in front of me, not my own. Oh, gosh.

Kirsten: I do have a story that’s published in the Journal of Prodium Research in December – it’s going to be coming out December 7th. Researcher Alireza Fazeli, he’s done research on the mammalian female reproductive system looking in pigs to see if there was any kind of a change in the reproductive tract or oviduct system with the introduction of sperm.

Forever, there’s been this whole idea of sperm natural selection so whichever sperm swims fastest is the one that – if that’s the select selecting factor that determines who is going to get their genetic material passed on.

Justin: First come, first served.

Kirsten: Exactly. But it turns out de looked at protein changes in the fluids in the oviducts before and after sperm were introduced to the system. And they found that the female oviduct system actually changes in response to the sperm.

So there’s some kind of a warning system or a system that says, “Oh hey, turn down the immune system so that we don’t attack these guys.” Because there is some of that going on because I mean the sperm are these invaders. And the female system should be attacking them and killing them. But for some reason, it doesn’t.

Why doesn’t it? Well, maybe these changes are allowing the sperm to actually exist inside the female’s body. Additionally, it could potentially allow for a female to “choose” which male sperm is actually going to be the one that makes it to the egg.

Justin: Yes. It’s not – it’s a sort of large swath selection process. Sort of like going to a club and getting passed the bouncer and finding yourself in line for another doorman and yet another doorman and another doorman. And then crowd that finally gets in there. Then it’s first come, first served…

Kirsten: Exactly, yes.

Justin: …or sort of because there’s still another doorman.

Kirsten: Yes. But they’re very excited about these results because nobody – with all IVF research, with all animal cloning research, animal reproduction research to try and get more animals for the people that eat the meats.

All these research does – they do a lot of like of fertilizing eggs outside the female’s body and then putting the egg back inside. But they don’t actually…

Justin: Oh, eliminating the natural selection.

Kirsten: But they haven’t – right. And so, they haven’t actually considered what happens within the female’s…

Justin: And why.

Kirsten: …tract and why. And so, maybe there is something that we could do in IVF that could actually assist the process by stimulating the female’s oviductile system in a very similar manner to – and then maybe that would allow the egg to survive better.

Justin: Perhaps.

Kirsten: And maybe it will allow it to grow better. I mean who knows? These are…

Justin: Or perhaps were naturally being selected as weaker and dimmer.

Kirsten: Possibly.

Justin: I mean that’s also the…

Kirsten: You never know. But these are things that the research still has sas out.

Justin: Sas out. Sas…

Kirsten: Yes, that’s my like…

Justin: Is sass a real word?

Kirsten: Yes, in England.

Justin: Oh. That Sussex angles.

Kirsten: Yes. I worked with some Brits for a while and so, I incorporated a little bit of their…

Justin: Sassing things.

Kirsten: (Unintelligible) they sas all the time.

Justin: Genital arousal disorder adversely impacting women’s lives. And this research says that woman suffering from persistent genital arousal disorder, PGAD, condition marked by unprovoked, intrusive and persistent sensations of genital arousal that are unrelieved by one or even several orgasms are likely to experience a variety of associated psychological conditions. This is another thing that I did not know existed.

Women who have this rare and often distressing condition offering experience related to depression, anxiety and panic attacks. This is – they did an online survey on a number of women’s health related websites inviting women who had experienced symptoms of persistent genital arousal to respond.

Information concerning correlating psychological, medical and pharmacological factors was then able to be identified. What they’re finding is maybe this isn’t as rare as they thought.

So – I mean I’m not looking to make light of any medical condition but one solution is just like to get a group together. And I would be willing to sponsor different – no.

I mean actually, the empathy in me though is saying, “What if I experience this? Like – and guy because of our listenership is guys. Based on the survey, we’ve got like 80% male listeners, imagine if you had uncontrollable aroused state frequently enough and that couldn’t be relived by orgasm, that would actually be very intrusive.

Kirsten: It would be.

Justin: That would be difficult to – I mean how do you pick…

Kirsten: It would be. It’s your hormonal system, your – just everything, it would be very difficult to go about your daily life. Yes, it would be difficult.

Justin: That would be awful. But they don’t have any solution to it yet. They’re just saying they’re actually sort of rediscovering it. It was considered very rare but based on their survey, they’re saying it may not be that rare and they’re looking for more information.

Kirsten: That’s fascinating. There’s a condition for everything these days.

Justin: Isn’t that really.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: I have restless brain syndrome.

Kirsten: Restless brain. I know. I had that last night when I was trying to sleep. Sleeping didn’t work well.

An exceptionally simple theory of everything.

Justin: Perfect. That’s what I need.

Kirsten: And who better to come up with an exceptional – exceptionally simple theory of everything than a surfer.

Justin: Oh, yes.

Kirsten: Riding on the waves all day, you and the water.

Justin: Sharks.

Kirsten: And the sharks. Right. Recently, an…

Justin: Fine line between fearless and just plain dimwittedness. Very fine line.

Kirsten: A man who is known more as a surfer than a scientist has come up with – has written up paper called an exceptionally simple theory of everything that is a new explanation that potentially could supplant string theory.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: It puts together the standard model of physics which binds together our three –of the forces of nature, the electromagnetic force, the weak force, and the strong force. The first force that is not taken into account by most theories is gravity.

But this guy Lisi, his model takes gravity into account. And earlier this year we’ve reported on a group of people, a group of mathematicians that have worked out the math behind the representations of all of the structural points of one of the most complex patterns in nature. It’s called the E8Group.

And it’s this one of a group of shapes, geometrical shapes that are all known as Lie groups that were invented by a Norwegian mathematician back in the 18th – no, 19th century.

And these Lie groups, they have characteristics of symmetry. So spheres, a ball, it’s symmetrical, any way you cut it. A cylinder, a cone, any of these kinds of simple shapes are very simple Lie groups.

This E8group, however, is way more complex and it actually took 77 hours for the mathematician’s computers to be able to actually get wrapped its little computer brain around it. Okay.

So this guy, Lisi, the physicist, surfer, he does have a graduate degree in theoretical physics. So he’s not just coming out of the blue. But he left academia in order to pursue…

Justin: Surfing.

Kirsten: …surfing and snowboarding and hiking and generally nice life. But these have bothered him. And so, he’s been working on this and he realized that his math, one day that he s looking at a paper on the E8 structure, he realized his math for the theory of everything matched the E8 structure.

And so, he has mapped his theory onto this structure. And so, what it is a 248.8 dimensional object that he’s been able to place all of our known elementary particles on those 248 points within the structure.

And so, that leaves 20 points that are still unknown. And so, now, he’s trying to determine what the weights of those particles will be so that he can…

Justin: So these can predict the compound based on his theory that doesn’t exist yet.

Kirsten: The Large Hadron Collider when it comes on line could potentially detect these particles. And so, he’s actually got something that could be testable and predictable which is better than string theories as of this point because that’s not testable yet at all.

So it’s great to hear about a new idea on the forefront of physics.

Justin: Yes because this is the…

Kirsten: But additionally – because string theory has held ground for so long. It’s…

Justin: The only thing I find troubling about this is that…

Kirsten: It’s neat that it comes from a surfer. Everyone love that side of the story.

Justin: No, this is what troubles me actually. It’s the idea that he went to school and then he left because apparently had enough – was wealthy enough to surf and hike and snowboard for living.

Kirsten: I think he was pretty poor.

Justin: And then comes up with this groundbreaking – potentially groundbreaking new theory that could ratify everything in science.

Kirsten: Is that a problem?

Justin: I just hope he’s not good looking too because then I’m really just – I’m going to be better. I’m going to be just better. You can’t get all that. You can’t get all.

Kirsten: Hey, Justin. Hey, Justin.

Justin: Nobody can have it all. It’s not fair.

Kirsten: You should be better.

Justin: Yes. Anyway, I guess we’re at the break.

Kirsten: We’re at the break. We’ve got to go give Michael Stebbins a call and come back.

Justin: Go compose myself.

Kirsten: Yes, get it together, dude.


Justin: And we’re back of more of This Week In Science.

Kirsten: More of This Week In Science. We have Dr. Michael Stebbins on the phone so…

Justin: Queue the theme song.

Kirsten: Queue in the theme song.

Justin: The Weird from Washington with Dr. Michael Stebbins.

Good morning, Michael.

Michael: Good morning, good morning. How are you?

Kirsten: Great, how are you?

Justin: Welcome to This Week In Stebbins. I mean wait.

Michael: I don’t get that much time.

Kirsten: You got a good amount. What’s going on in Washington?

Michael: I know. I got a great amount of time on this show. It’s wonderful.

Kirsten: Yes. We let you – we let you talk a lot about that stuff.

Justin: It’s what I call my me time. I put my feet up, take the headphones off.

Michael: Are you saying I talk too much?

Justin: No, no, no, no. It’s like your show into itself.

Michael: (Unintelligible).

Kirsten: Bring it.

Michael: All right. So the big news this week, well last week actually was that the President vetoed at the Education, Labor and Health spending bill. This is the bill that fund is being national institutes of health for example.

And so, when we take a look at this bill, we – and actually all the spending bills realized that the difference between the president’s budget and these bills is a total of $10 billion difference which sounds like a lot of money unless you contrast that against the $196 billion which he has requested to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And when you contrast against the fact that an analysis by citizens against government waste estimates that the earmarks and that the takes issue with and this budget are actually down by 33% from the $29 billion in the earmarks in the ’06 budget.

Now you remember there was no ’07 budget because the last congress didn’t actually pass spending bills so they punted on it.

Kirsten: That’s right.

Michael: So when you look at this bill more closely, what you realize is that the single biggest earmark in the bill is actually belongs to Senator Richard Shelby, a republican from Alabama who won a $9.3 million earmark for the University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa.

And the second largest was by the minority leader in the senate, Mitch McConnell from Kentucky who won an $8.4 million earmark for the University of Louisville research foundation.

And when you also compared to some of the earmarks as well which are the $24 million for the Laura Bush 21st Century Library Program and $8.9 million for the Points of Light Foundation which is obviously the themed Thousand Points of Lights that his father started.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Michael: Now…

Justin: So we could even bribe them in the passing of health bill?

Michael: Apparently not but has actually said that he is looking to veto all of the spending bills if they come over the budget. But it’s actually – what we’re looking on this is one spending bills that are actually have less earmarks than what the president passed previously.

So, not so much.

Justin: That’s weird.

Michael: Hey, it’s tricky week. And so, and with that, comes the busiest travel day of the year.

Kirsten: Oh, yes.

Michael: So we take a look at the Associate Press reporting that NASA has refused to release the National Aviation Operation Monitoring Service survey data. Now this project was an air safety survey of 24,000 of the nation’s air pilots conducted over a number of years. So that cost of about $11.3 million.

So they actually shut the survey down after the results started coming in. And NASA refuse the freedom of information act request for the data sighting that it quote could materially affect the public confidence in and the commercial welfare of the air carriers.

Kirsten: Doesn’t that – don’t you think that that would mean that the data should be released so that we can do something about things if there’s something…

Michael: One would think so the house committee on science and technology investigations and oversight subcommittee, chairman Brad Miller from North Carolina recently said that “I want to know why the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service was shut down after we spent $11.3 million in tax payer money and 24,000 pilots voluntarily took a 30 minute survey.”

Kirsten: Yes.

Michael: “So before learning what the pilots had to tell us about aviation safety.” Thank you, Brad. Me too.

Kirsten: Thank you. Yes.

Justin: Yes, yes, very much so.

Michael: That would be fine, people. So moving on, so – but, it’s not like anyone would agree with the survey anyway. And the reason we know this is because Americans are reading less than they’re reading – and their reading proficiency is declining at troubling rates says the new report from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The trend could have a profound negative effect on the nation’s economic and civic’s future, they say. Great.

Kirsten: Right. It’s because everybody is reading text messages these days.

Michael: Exactly.

Kirsten: l8r.

Michael: The 15 to 24 year old spend just seven to ten minutes a day voluntarily reading anything at all.

Kirsten: Oh my goodness.

Michael: So, I guess that includes the text messages. And also between 1992 and 2003, the percentage of college graduates who tested proficient in reading prose decline from 40% to 31% and that 38% of employers rate high school graduates as deficient in reading comprehension. And 72% rate them deficient in writing.

Kirsten: Man.

Michael: I know.

Kirsten: This bodes not well.

Michael: So, (unintelligible)…

Kirsten: I’m going to go to my thanksgiving celebration and I’m going to go read with my nephews.

Michael: See, there you go.

Kirsten: Yes.

Michael: Yup. Though I suspect that they’re probably not the problem anyway.

Kirsten: Yes, I don’t know.

Michael: (Unintelligible).

Justin: We haven’t met her family.

Michael: …your zip. Okay, so…

Justin: I don’t know why you said that.

Michael: Oh, my.

Justin: It just cause problems.

Kirsten: It was not (unintelligible)…

Justin: Her family listens to this show…

Kirsten: I know.

Justin: …which is a very nice family, everything Kirsten’s ever told me. And right before you have to go (unintelligible).

Kirsten: Oh, they’re smart kids.

Michael: Hey, I’m staying in DC for thanksgiving.

Kirsten: Yes?

Michael: Yes because the tourists aren’t here.

Kirsten: No, that’s right. They’re not coming there.

Michael: Yes, absolutely. So, now, last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – I’m launching into anther one, very smoothly – so the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California struck down a White House back fuels standards for SUVs, minivans and light trucks which is great, arguing that the new rules are inadequate and in part because they fail to properly assess the risk of global warming.

Now, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Rules require that SUVs and light trucks increase their fuel efficiency from 22.2 miles per gallon to 23.5 miles per gallon by 2020.

Kirsten: Oh my gosh.

Justin: One mile per gallon.

Kirsten: That’s nothing.

Justin: It’s all we ask.

Michael: Not surprisingly (11th page) for environmental groups New York City and Washington DC filed a lawsuit arguing that the rules were far too lenient.

Kirsten: Yes.

Michael: And of course the court agreed with them. And so – and there’s actually a pending energy bill in congress which was mended at mile per gallon standard by 2020.

Kirsten: Which would be better?

Michael: But that’s across all cars.

Michael: And it’s still less than the…

Kirsten: Regardless.

Michael: …California – what California wants to do.

Kirsten: Yes, California is leading the charge right now.

Justin: We rock.

Kirsten: But there are other states out there that are – I think the way it works is going to work is that states are going to have to individually make their own regulations and then hope that they can get past all the federal bruhaha.

Michael: Well, they can’t actually because of the Clean Air Act. The only state that actually has a ability to make their own regulations outside the act and request an exemption from the act is California. Now other states can then pick whether they want the federal rules or the California ones.

So really is incredibly important that California – that the rule that the governor is suing the government over now is passes because if it does not, then actually all the other states that have taken up those same rules and there’s like a dozen of them now including Vermont…

Kirsten: Right.

Michael: …which we spoke about before.

Kirsten: Yes.

Michael: We’ll not be able to actually make any changes. And so, then we’ll be relying on congress to actually do it which is not so great. So…

Kirsten: Yes. And that’ll take like 40 years.

Michael: So let’s finger cross them with lawsuit or the EPA actually coming through and granting their request. So we’ll see what happens.

Justin: Well, on the upside of all this, though gas prices are extremely high right now so driving is becoming prohibitive.

Michael: No doubt.

Kirsten: It is.

Justin: So that’s great news for the environment, really.

Michael: And it’s going to get worst. Yes. The – certainly, as we go into the winter season, generally, gas prices go up and we’re looking at the estimates now are about 24% increase in fuel oil for heating houses.

Kirsten: Wow!

Michael: So that’s particularly bad in some of the poor northern states. They’re going to get really slammed.

Kirsten: Yes.

Michael: So there’s one final thing which is really a good one. So the…

Kirsten: Okay.

Michael: …Smithsonian has an exhibit. We’ve talked about this earlier in the air. The Smithsonian had an exhibit on the arctic at the National Museum of Natural History. And officials took steps to actually downplay global warming to avoid political backlash it turns out.

According to documents obtained by the Washington Post, government scientist actually complained about these changes. The documents actually show that the museum’s director Christian Samper ordered last minute changes to the exhibit script and to add scientific uncertainty about climate change.

Now, here, Samper replied to the charges saying that there was no political pressure, not for me, not from anyone. When you look at the documents that have really appears to be untrue.

The exhibit – now, the exhibit opened in the April 2006 and closed in November of the year. But Samper had actually put a hold on the exhibit for six months in the fall of 2005 in order the exhibit to undergo further review over and over again.


Kirsten: Wow.

Michael: And clearly, the e-mails that are coming from this review show that he was heavily involved and that the focus shifted from scientific content to political content in a lot of places.

So, the original name for the show was actually going to be – to explore the dramatic – it was going to be called arctic meltdown.

Kirsten: Well, that’s a little bit inflammatory.

Michael: It’s a little over the top.

Justin: It’s not – what a sec. How is that inflammatory over the top?

Michael: That’s like really…

Justin: No, no, no, no, no. I think that’s just telling it like it actually is, isn’t it? I mean it’s about the melting, right? That’s s big thing.

Kirsten: But not that…

Michael: Well, the whole thing was going to be about the arctic in general and the meltdown was going to be a part of it.

Kirsten: A part of it, yes.

Michael: Now, before Samper’s review, the exhibit introduction panel stated over the past 50 years, the average temperature across the arctic have risen by nearly twice as much as the global average. Now after Samper asked for changes, the entrance panel read, the earth climate is changing and it always has.

Justin: Oh, yes. As it always does, we’ve always been at war with global warming.

Michael: Now, Samper had to actually appear before the regents for the museum the other day. And the answer to the fact that there’s going to be – there was a $5 million donation from the American Petroleum Institution to fund the National History Museum’s ocean initiative exhibit hall and websites.

So we’ll see how that went. And I assume that they’ll be brining that little tidbit up as well…

Kirsten: Oh, I’m sure.

Michael: …or if they brought it up. So we’ll find out what happened there.

Kirsten: Good luck.

Michael: And that’s what I’ve got.

Kirsten: Well, thank you so much.

Michael: Thank you, guys.

Kirsten: Thank you in this week of thanks…

Justin: Thank you for thanking us for thanking you.

Michael: And happy thanksgiving.

Kirsten: Happy thanksgiving to you too. Have a great, great week in Washington DC and I guess we’ll be talking to you in two weeks.

Michael: Fabulous. Take care, guys.

Kirsten: You too. Bye.

Justin: Bye, Dr. Michael Stebbins, author of – where’s the (ultra) music?

Kirsten: Sex Drugs and DNA.

Justin: …Sex Drugs and DNA…

Michael: There you go.

Justin: …on paperback now.

Kirsten: We got it.

Justin: Got the production value going.

Kirsten: Oh I’m working on the production value. Just try and got to keep doing it. Keep producing, making it happen. Sugar magnolia. Do you know that song by the Grateful Dead.

Justin: Heads all empty and I don’t care. Met my baby down by the river, knew she had to come up soon for air?

Kirsten: There you go. Well, scientists in Illinois have been studying the effects of magnolia bark extract. Sweet magnolia. Sweet, sweet magnolia, if added to mints and gum can reduce the bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath and tooth decay by up to 60%…

Justin: Wow!

Kirsten: …within 30 minutes.

Justin: Almost as good as gargling with hydrogen peroxide.

Kirsten: Yes. They added this extract to some mints and then took saliva samples from volunteers following a regular meal. In the abstract, they called it Post Lunch.

Justin: Post Lunch?

Kirsten: Post Lunch saliva samples. Yes. The mints containing the extract killed more than 61% of the germs that cause bad breath in 30 minutes according to the press release and flavorless mints without the extract that were used as a control only destroyed 3.6% of the germs.

So this is an extract that could be added to pastes and mints and gums, in the – chewing gum, in the future that could help all of us have sweeter, fresher breath.

Justin: Yes. But then everybody around with the sweet breath is do – and that’s just annoying.

Kirsten: I just get (end of it). No.

Justin: It’s sugar flavored saliva. That’s what you get. You’re creating sugary saliva and you’re swallowing saliva like never before. What is it like…

Kirsten: And you’re killing bacteria if it wasn’t…

Justin: …leaders of sugary saliva for – when you’re chewing gum, it’s just disgusting.

Kirsten: (These couldn’t) be leaders.

Justin: It is like over the course of a day for like a gum chewer…

Kirsten: Oh yes.

Justin: …like you chew a pack of gum a day…

Kirsten: You really should…

Justin: …like you’re swallowing sugar spit on top of what you normally would.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: It’s just gross.

Kirsten: It’s great for suppressing the appetite, just hearing about this.

Justin: Speaking of surprising the appetite, I wish somebody could suppress the appetite of the Japanese hunger for whales.

Kirsten: All right.

Justin: Japan has begun its largest whale…

Kirsten: Whale hunt.

Justin: …expedition in decades, this time targeting humpbacks. The humpback, the friendly, happy…

Families wave little flags and blaze them with smiling whales. Crews raise the toast for bare cans, well brass band played the Popeye, the Sailor theme song. Officials told the (cod) that Japan should not give in to foreign militant activists and should preserve its whale-eating culture.

“They’re violent environmental terrorists”, said the mission leader. “Their violence is unforgivable. We must fight against their hypocrisy and lies.” This is his retort to people…”

Kirsten: Hypocrisy and lies?

Justin: I know. I don’t understand the hypocrisy, lies or the violence.

Kirsten: By saying, “Please, don’t kill whales”…

Justin: That’s hypocrisy. Hey, dear hypocrite. You’re hypocrite because – because you’re hypocrite, because I say so. Whalers plan to kill up to 50 humpbacks. And where does they believe to be the first large scale hunt for this once nearly extinct species 1963 placed the moratorium on the southern pacific to give the giant merry mammals some international protection.

Mission also aims to take as many as 935 minke whales up to 50 fin whales is what Japan fisheries agency says that it’s largest ever whale hunt. Japan says it needs to kill the animals. This is the tie in with the whole the – (says) it needs to kill the animals in order to conduct research on their reproductive and feeding patterns and I guess thereby end them.

The scientific whale hunts are allowed by international whaling commission but critics say Japan is using science as a cover for the commercial whaling since they’re using – the whale meat gets sold on the open market when it’s returned.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: The hunt will put meat – yes, meat from the whales in the commercial market. This season are targeting over 1,000 whales but the focus seems to be on the humpback.

There are a few places that are allowed to currently to hunt humpback whales. Greenland Inuit and the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are allowed to catch humpback whales but under their aboriginal system in its program of the IWC. However, each one has caught one humpback in the last year. And the Japanese are going after 50 of them.

Kirsten: On a more positive note, researchers have enabled robot to move using the brain of a moth.

Justin: Oh.

Kirsten: They’ve incorporated…

Justin: Cybermoth.

Kirsten: It’s basically – yes, crazy cybermoth with big robot little brain. It is a step in the direction of cybernetics or even understanding the brain and possibly helping in the future to incorporate humans and robots.

But what this researcher at U of A, University or Arizona has presented at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, is that they have a moth’s brain with an electrode implanted in a single neuron in the brain that’s responsible for keeping the moth’s vision steady during flight.

That neuron fires, it sends a signal across the electrode into the mechanics of the robot and actually moves the robot in directions. So it say…

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: Yes, it says it’s a moth immobilized in a tube on a 6 inch tall robot. Yes. And so, they get the moth to initiate flight or imitate flight while it’s stuck in this tube with an electrode in its little moth brain. And the moth think its flying, it’s trying to imitate it and then because it’s doing that, it makes the robot move.

Justin: Yes. And what’s funny about it is that they’ve correlated it so that the robot actually does the Macarena when the moth is attempting to fly. It’s kind of cute.

Kirsten: It’s going to Macarena, Macarena.

Justin: You’ve got a fly that does the cabbage fat. It’s like, there’s going to be a whole series available. It’s going to be the hot – it’s going to be the “it” gift this Christmas season I think.

Kirsten: That’s right. Get one for your kids today.

Justin: Wow. So, oh, back to the – where the C02 output where they rated the

individual power plants in the states or anything. Number one, this is – I just saw this. Number one, in tons of C02 at 290 million is Texas is the biggest producing state of the union…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: …which is double almost double Florida which is number two at 157 million. So it’s almost twice that and it’s more than twice any other state on there. That’s just Texas. What’s up? Why are you going to burn stuff?

 Kirsten: Everything’s big there. Texas is the biggest state in the nation, you know.

Justin: Oh, yes. I guess that’s right. But however, the sugar plant in Juliette, Georgia is the most polluting power plant of the – all of the most polluting power plants or coal fired plants. But Juliette, Georgia, the sugar plant is the worst miller plant in Quinton, Alabama, the Bowen plant in Carnesville, Georgia. Georgia’s got two on that list. That’s pretty interesting there.

Kirsten: Fascinating. Ever wanting to trap a rainbow in a jar? Justin: No.

Kirsten: No? All right, well, physicists have kind of come up with a way to do this. They haven’t actually done it yet because the materials haven’t advanced to the point where they can actually do it. But researchers at the Advanced Technology Institute and Department of Physics at the University of Surrey and Salford University have come up with the technique that may be able to slow down, stop and capture light. Justin: Wow!

Kirsten: Yes, this report was from… Justin: How do you capture – I don’t…

Kirsten: … Justin: That can’t be right. There’s something wrong.

 Kirsten: Well, the idea is to be able to use photons to be able to store memory in, computerized devices or to be able to transport information. So say optical networks, the internet could go into optical directions. And one of the problems is that it’s been very difficult to slow down and stop light. But now, they’ve got – they are combining the worlds of meta-materials with negative refractive indexes which means that they are able to break down the component colors of light and trap them at different stages within the material. So it’s an optical – it’s getting towards an optical capacitor that could control and store photons and be used for data processing and storage.

 Justin: I just hope they don’t make things any smaller than they already are because things are – buttons are already getting…

Kirsten: I like small.

Justin: …a little bit ham-fisted, I guess. But I – the things are getting so small, they’re just unusable at this point. It’s like – I mean more capacity is great but I could use – I could actually use a larger cell phone. I mean it can store more…

Kirsten: All right. Justin: …that’s great but I – you know.

Kirsten: Go big. Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Go big. Justin: Let’s go big.

 Kirsten: We got shout outs today, Matt Green in Edmond, Oklahoma; Larry Schmidt in Auburn, Michigan; (Marci Malesky) in Pittsburgh; Daniel Camarillo in Kentucky; Scott Bishop, (Erin Zimmerman) in Charleston, South Carolina; (Jossa Farny), Bryan Oakley in Kingston, Rhode Island; (Tom Shadwark), Kalidasa. (Squat Ziegler), thanks for all your help last week and all my Twitter friends out there, what’s going on?

Justin: Holler at you, girl.

Kirsten: Holler back. It’s been great. It’s been a fabulous week. Check out…

Justin: Thank you all for listening to the show.

Kirsten: Yes, we’ve got our website. You can go there to our forums and also listen to others throughout the week at the website in addition to our pod casts, so.

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

Kirsten: It’s all in your head. Happy thanksgiving.

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