The Mystery Of The Isdal Woman

On November 29, 1970, a body was found on the side of a mountain near Bergen, Norway. She has never been identified. Known only as The Isdal Woman, the trail she left behind and weird clues to her life have left investigators and the public searching for answers for 50 years. Who was this enigmatic woman, and what led to her bizarre death?

TRANSCRIPT:

Bergen, Ulriken, and IsdalenBergen, Ulriken, and Isdalen

Bergen, Norway is surrounded by mountains. How many mountains depends who you ask.

Seven is the popular number, probably because there were Seven Hills of Rome.

Though, there seems to be disagreement on which mountains make up the seven. Every list is a little different, but every list includes Ulriken (over footage)Its snow-caped peak tops out at 643 meters above sea level, and it’s visited by thousands of hikers every year. Some take the long way around the mountain, others ride the cable car to the top, where waiting for them is one of the most amazing views in all of Norway— other sources say Ulriken is tallest, but hikers report at least two higher points

But those who really want to rough it head to the north face of Ulriken – the face away from the city. It’s a rugged and picturesque landscape that’s not for the casual hiker. Though it’s relatively safe… in the summers. In the winters, things get a bit more dangerous.

After all this valley is named Isladen – Ice Valley. Many hikers have died on this face of the mountain, and there’s a particular section of it that has a reputation as a popular suicide spot. This led the locals to call this section of the mountain by a different name – Dødsdalen, Valley of Death.

The Body

And it was in this valley where on November 29th, 1970, a middle-aged professor and his two young daughters were taking a hike. It was cold and wet that morning, and as they entered a dense forested area of black spruce trees, one of the girls saw something that made her stop in her tracks.

It was the badly charred body of a woman sprawled amongst the rocks. By the way, if you think that’s the kind of thing that might scar a child for life.. You would not be wrong. The two girls refuse to talk about that day even now as adults.

According to the police reports the woman’s right arm hugged her chest, and her left was extended, as if to ward off a blow.

This is what’s known as a “boxer pose” or a “pugilistic stance”, it happens because of contraction in muscles that dehydrate as the tissue burns.

I suppose I should do a content warning. I don’t normally do those but there’s some graphic stuff to talk about here.

The body was naked, though police thought she was clothed when she caught fire. Her skin was red and charred and sooty, and her face was unrecognizable.

So the police turned to her belongings to figure out who she was and what happened. And this… was not helpful.

At the Scene

The complete list of items found at the scene include:

  • Cuffs on the arms of synthetic material
  • The blackened remains of textiles on stomach, crotch, hips and left knee
  • The remains of dark blue stretch trousers and a stocking on the right foot
  • Matching left stocking nearby One rubber boot, of the type known as seilerstøvel, or “sailor boot”
  • Outline of a rubber sole on the right knee
  • Plastic remains of a bag or purse
  • Wool from a sweater
  • Skeleton of a blue nylon lady’s umbrella
  • Mostly empty bottle of Klosterlikør liquer
  • Two bottles with carabiner hooks, one partially melted, found to contain water
  • One partially melted plastic white cup Shapeless remains of a plastic spoon
  • One partially burnt, round, plastic lid One green, checked, woolen scarf with burnt end
  • https://bg-bg.facebook.com/groups/deathinicevalley/permalink/599870630382823/
  • quoted nearly verbatim from translated Kripos report
  • A wristwatch found under her knee whose plastic cover had melted, freezing the hands at 12:32. And the remains of a matchbox,  Burnt bread or crackers,  And a fur hat that smelled of petroleum.

But that was the only evidence for any fuel for the fire, there was no wood, no charcoal, no container of flammable liquid. But there was a container missing.

The partially melted plastic white cup I mentioned earlier was the type that comes with a thermos. Which was not found nearby. A 1970 thermos would have been made of plastic or metal, with an inner layer of glass, so if it was full of gasoline, it might have melted completely.

Or… Her killer took it away. So police set out to figure out who this person was, and whether her death was suicide, an accident of some kind, or murder.

The Forensic Examiner concluded that the body had been dead for about 6 days before it was found, which corresponded to eyewitness accounts of smoke in that area at 12:05 on the 23rd.

But the rest of the report from the forensic examiner’s office… was not helpful.

Cause of Death

Because the cause of death was a combination of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is expected with a fire, and 50 to 70 sleeping pills.

It was a drug called Fenemal. It was a barbiturate that was often prescribed for epilepsy, insomnia, and anxiety. It was also, unfortunately, a popular pill for people use to commit suicide at the time. It’s recommended dose is 30 to 320mg per day.  The pills she took were 60 milligrams each, at 50 to 70 of those would have been 3000 to 4200 milligrams.

That’s more. Twelve pills were undigested in her stomach, which means she took them close to her death. She probably took the first handful a couple hours before.
So, did she take all those pills at the hotel and then head out there? Chances are she would have had a lot of trouble walking at that point, especially on the rough terrain.

Unless… Someone was helping her.

There were no cable cars until later that afternoon so she couldn’t have taken one of those. And there are roads on the mountain, but even if she was driven partway, she had to descend a considerable distance to where she ended up.

It’s kind-of hard to imagine after taking that many sleeping pills that she would be coherent enough to get to that spot, much less to set herself on fire once she got there. And why would someone take that many sleeping pills, easily enough to kill you, and then set themselves on fire. Sounds like overkill to me.

The Suitcases

The police struggled to find an answer, but then three days after the discovery of the body, they caught a break. A coin operated storage locker at the Bergen train station had expired, and the station attendants had found two suitcases inside.

This got the police’s attention because the bags had been put in there on the morning of the 23rd, just a few hours before the woman died.

In one of the suitcases was a pair of glasses that had a very clear fingerprint. These prints matched the Isdal woman.

So these were her bags, this was a huge clue. And what they found in the bags… Was not helpful.

The listed items found in the suitcases include…

  • 500 German deutschemarks
  • Several pairs of shoes and boots
  • Two bags from different shoe stores
  • A number of clothing items, with the labels cut out
  • One steel soup spoon with engraving One bottle of perfume
  • One package of a clay-like substance
  • One scalpel-like knife
  • One map of Southern Scandanavia
  • Three detailed road maps of Norway, all marked “16/6” in pen, one with a list of train stations in pencil
  • Multiple hats, including a Cossack hat of beige sheepskin A wig, made in France, described as “mahogany brown”
  • Prescription exema cream with all the identifying information scratched away.
  • And two notebooks, one blank but with some pictures stuffed inside including:  A picture of the Madonna with child Postcard of religious scene Postcard of a horse-drawn sleigh.

The second notebook though… It was very much not blank.

On one page of the notebook were four tables of numbers in a sort of code.

Clean PIC of codes here 

Full code sheet, with fingerprints

The Code

Nobody knew what this code meant, it didn’t have an obvious cypher to it, and the entries were too brief to find any patterns. The cops were stumped. So they called in the experts. A specialist in the Norwegian Military Intelligence Service looked it over and figured it out pretty quickly. Turns out it was barely a code at all. The codebreaker said it was some sort of travel record. The numbers are dates, the first letter after each number a month, and letters at the end of a column stand for cities.

For example when you look at the first column, second entry, you see the code “11 M 16 M L” According to the codebreaker, this means that from March 11 to 16, the writer stayed at a city whose name begins with “L”

Witness Sightings

This combined with the items in the suitcases, let investigators start to piece together this woman’s movements. Remember the shoe shop bags I mentioned earlier? One was from Rome, Italy, the other from a shop in Norway Police interviewed employees and got a description of the woman who bought a pair of “sailor boots”

From the interviews, police learned that the woman was a foreigner, though there were different ideas about where she came from.

One described her as a young American tourist, one said she was French, others described her as Jewish, Slavic, or Asian. So not super helpful.

At least two hairstyles were mentioned by witnesses, one of which matched the wig in the suitcase, the other might have been her natural hair. this was what police used in 1970 — the colored pencil sketch on BBC pages is recent

Her teeth were distinctive, with several gold crowns and a gap in the front. And she was described as slim, with wide hips.
A taxi driver went so far as to call her sexy.

Many Cities

Using these descriptions and the coded notebook, they were able to track her signature to hotels in at least five Norwegian cities. And while the coded travel record matched her movements closely, it wasn’t perfect.

There are discrepancies between the recorded dates and some of the known arrivals and departures in some of these cities. But, was it a diary, written down after the fact, or an itinerary, written in advance? We don’t know.

The code is mostly deciphered but there’s still some that haven’t been figured out. Rome seems to have been an important spot for her because she went back there often.– undecoded cities: L, G, R, F, V, W, N, A, M

Many Names

But all in all, they found nine hotel registries and four travel forms showing ten different names in her handwriting. All the names were checked by investigators, along with past addresses and passport numbers. All of it was made up.

Whoever this woman was, between the secret codes and disguises and fake names, it seems she had done everything possible to hide her identity. Combine that with the mysterious and unexplained way she died and you’re bound to get a ton of wild theories. So let’s consider those.

Spy Theory

Theory #1: She was a spy.

You probably saw this coming a mile away. Makes sense, considering all the secret identities and codes and whatnot and also, this was the height of the Cold War, and Norway was pretty close to the Soviet Union.

Well, on the podcast Death in Ice Valley, which is a great series all about this one story, they interviewed Norway’s most famous spycatcher, Ørnulf Tofte (EARN-uff Tuff-tuh), and he didn’t think this was a spy situation.

He had actually investigated this story back in 1970 and felt that it wasn’t consistent with other murders of known spies, his theory was that a can of hairspray exploded, though no can was found nearby. Death in Ice Valley also consulted former KGB officer and current British journalist Alexander Vassiliev. And he saw inconsistencies as well.

He said that a Soviet spy would only have 1 or 2 fake identities, each of which backed by a wealth of fake documents establishing a “legend” for that persona. That wasn’t the case for The Isdal Woman – she went by 10 different names, but had no documents or “legend” for any of them, besides some fake passports.

But even those are spurious. Only one hotel manager claimed to have seen a passport, and even that one may have only seen the cover, not the inside.

Vassiliev also made the point that a Soviet spy would also have done everything possible to avoid attention. And the Isdal Woman didn’t really do that… As investigators tracked her movements and talked to hotel managers, they started to see a pattern of very strange behavior on her part.

She had a habit of switching hotel rooms, and of moving the hotel furniture around, sometimes putting them out in the hallway. (Maybe because she was worried the furniture was bugged?)

It seems like whatever hotel she was in she was, “that guest”, the one you have to deal with, so she stood out to the hotel staff, which made them notice other things about her.

Like the fact that she spoke little to no Norwegian, instead usually speaking in German, English, or French.
And then there was the smell.

Witnesses at the shoe store and hotel reported an odor around the woman, something like garlic and BO, some witnesses described it as nauseating. The KGB expert said a female spy from Russia would have smelled like Chanel N°5, and concluded she was probably not a spy from a major Cold War country, though she might have been a spy for a smaller country with an unconventional intelligence service.

By the way, if you’re hearing all this and thinking why would a spy be hanging out in Bergen Norway, like if that feels like a random thing to assume, it’s actually not.

Bergen was kind-of an espionage hotbed in 1970, specifically because of missile testing nearby.

A guided missile known as Penguin was developed in Norway from the early 1960s to 1972. It’s actually still in use by several countries, including the United States.
)But yeah, the area they were doing this testing was near Bergen, so it wasn’t unusual at all to hear about spies around the area.

And there’s one eyewitness account that may corroborate that she was there to get missile intelligence.

In December 1970, police heard the story of a fisherman who thought he saw the Isdal Woman near a Penguin testing site. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penguin_(missile)
He apparently saw her talking for some time with a naval officer.

WHERE THE FUCKING BATTERIES RAN OUT

Now, if this was really her, that still brings up a lot of questions, could that officer have been an embedded foreign agent? And would this make her a courier, a spy who mostly carries messages from other spies?

There’s a lot of twists and turns here but the question of whether or not she was a spy is still up for debate.

Prostitute Theory

Theory #2: She was a sex worker.

There is the possibility that the Isdal woman was a high-end prostitute and the coded travels could have been an itinerary from her… employer. (a beat) Are they still pimps at that level?
Or a log sheet, like that was how she reported back to her employer.

What she was doing was illegal, that would make sense that she would avoid getting caught and use different identities, maybe the wig was in case the clients wanted a brunette?

There were some eyewitness reports of men visiting her in the rooms, others were seen eating with her or shopping with her.

None of this of course tells us anything about who killed her or why.

Theory #3:  There Were Multiple Women

The American Woman

When you have so many threads around one person, at some point you have to consider the possibility that it’s not just one person. It’s possible that some of the reports and eyewitness accounts the investigators tracked down were about more than one woman.

That’s the theory of another author who has looked into the case, a criminologist named David Morgan. He wrote a book called Isdal Woman: A New Perspective, I’ll put the amazon link in the description, but he was kind enough to respond to our emails on this.

So in David’s investigation, he focused on a young American woman that was sought by police. Early witness reports made her seem like a good fit for the Isdal Woman, but there were some issues with her. For example, one employee at the shoe shop described her differently than others.

The customer described is a bit taller than usual, and no mention is made of her teeth.

And she carried a bag with “California” printed in large letters, which appeared in other descriptions, she also had the apparently noteworthy BO. Police at the time ruled out the American woman because some friends of hers received a card postmarked two days before the body was found, which would have been at least three days after the woman died.

But… someone else could have sent that postcard.

Bottom line is, as if this case couldn’t get more complicated, there may be multiple suspects thought to be the Isdal Woman.

Theory #4: The Serial Killer Theory

Serial Killer Theory

2 years after the Isdal Woman was found, in September of 1972, something else happened in Bergun. Another young woman, similar in age and general physical appearance, was found murdered. But at least in this case we know who she was.

Her name was Mariann Thunestvedt, and her death also went unsolved. Her murderer was never found.

Some have suggested that this could have been the same killer who took out the Isdal Woman, and that there may be others out there that he’s killed that we don’t know about yet.

There is a tiny amount of connective tissue between Mariann and the Isdal woman. Mariann’s mother Edith was a maid at the last hotel the Isdal woman had stayed in and had given detailed descriptions of her to the police.

Could it have been another guest in the hotel who came back through town and stayed at the same place? Or, as Edith had wondered, could it have been some kind of revenge against her for all the information she gave the police?

Perhaps this guy had murdered multiple women, but the Isdal Woman just happened to be weird enough to draw a lot of attention. This theory is very much up for debate.

Why We Try

The story of the Isdal Woman is so convoluted and has been around for so long that we’ll probably never know the truth. Not that that stops us from trying. And we try because… well, we all love a good mystery, but as we get so wrapped up in trying to solve it, it’s important to remember that this was person.

Tourist, spy, or prostitute, the woman found on that cold November morning was a human being. And her death was tragic. And horrific.

Even though she had taken so many sleeping pills, we know she was alive when she caught fire.

Soot was found in her lungs meaning she literally choked on smoke from her own burning flesh. This was someone’s daughter, maybe sister, or friend. Someone out there is seeking closure after all these years.

Death in Ice Valley And maybe they could still have that closure.

Podcasts like the Death in Ice Valley podcast I mentioned before are still researching this story and finding new clues that they couldn’t have found back in the 70s. For instance, tests on the Isdal Woman’s teeth detected chemicals that suggest she came from an area near Nuremberg, Germany.

Other tests say she was older than she claimed on forms, maybe 40 or 45, which would actually contradict most of the witness testimony that put her in her 20s or 30s.

Maybe she used a lot of moisturizer? Or maybe the tests were wrong. Some argue that the teeth had been washed with a substance that removes DNA and invalidated the age test. And that the chemicals that tied it to Nuremberg can be found in lots of places.

Just like everything else in this story, there are multiple explanations.

Another group that’s looking into this is the DNA Doe Project.

DNA Doe has identified numerous John and Jane Does since the group formed in 2017.

The most famous is a formally unknown victim of the Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy.

As of June 2019, Colleen Fitzpatrick of the DNA Doe Project was starting legal proceedings to request access. Here’s hoping that this will be another of the Project’s success stories.

The Funeral

On February 5, 1971, the Isdal Women was buried at the Møllendal cemetery in Bergen. Based on items found in the suitcases, they chose to have the service conducted by a Catholic priest.

It was attended by a handful of police officers including the Chief Detective. And she was laid to rest in a zinc coffin. This is common for unidentified people, because they can be hermetically sealed to preserve the body.

The hope, in 1971, was that relatives of the deceased would come forward and claim the body and relocate it to her homeland. So far this has not happened. And so she remains in Bergen, waiting for someone to figure out exactly what happened that morning in Ice Valley.

Skinwalker Ranch Is A Grift. There, I Said It.

Skinwalker Ranch is touted as one of the most active paranormal hotspots in the world. It’s also one of the most lucrative. Let’s talk about what’s really happening (and not happening) at Skinwalker Ranch.

 

TRANSCIPT:

Growing up, my grandparents had a ranch. They raised and sold cattle, harvested oats and hay, collected farm dogs by the dozen. It wasn’t anything fancy but it was a pretty cool operation.

They weren’t alone either, there are over 2 million farms and ranches across the United States as of 2019 anyway. Most of them you’ve never heard of.

Some are more well known for being historic or just for being huge like the XIT Ranch and the King Ranch here in Texas.

And then of course there’s ranches like Skywalker Ranch, home of Lucasfilm, and Southfork Ranch, home of the Ewing family from the show Dallas.

And then there’s Skinwalker Ranch, home to… well, according to legend, scary humanoid creatures, mutilated livestock, ghosts, giant unkillable wolves, electronic disturbances, and UFOs.

It’s almost like an amusement park of the paranormal. Or about 15 X-Files episodes in one spot.

But if we’re being pedantic, it’s not famous because of what’s happening there. If you’ve heard of Skinwalker Ranch, it’s because at one point or another, you’ve run into the endless barrage of media about this place.

Books, movies, feature documentaries, podcasts, several episodes of popular TV shows, and starting last year, a reality show that’s now finished its second season on the Ancient Aliens channel. Sorry! The History Channel. I keep forgetting they still call themselves that.

And that show is super popular, its finale ranked number one for that time slot.

Without a doubt, Skinwalker Ranch is a valuable commodity at this point. Regardless of what’s actually happening there, it is pulling in tens of millions of dollars.

And of course, I’ve received tens of millions of requests for a video it.

Because my UAP video was… Universally beloved.

But you know what, it is an interesting story. And if nothing else this has become a pop culture phenomenon and I kinda want to know how we got here. So how did we get here?

All good mysterious places have a mysterious backstory. It’s kinda like architecture, you need a good foundation you can build the spooky on top of.

And Skinwalker Ranch is a place that seems ready-made for the spooky.

Skinwalker Ranch is located in northeast Utah in the Uinta Basin.

It’s close to Ballard, Utah, and consists of 2.1 square kilometers (512 acres), though some sites list it as 1.9 square kilometers (480 acres) in size.

It was owned by the Myers family from the early 1930s to 1994.

They sold it to cattle ranchers named the Sherman family, and in fact the property is sometimes still referred to as Sherman Ranch.

The Shermans only lived there for two years before selling it to billionaire businessman and aerospace executive Robert Bigelow. Bigelow is famously a believer in UFO phenomena and wanted to study the area after hearing about some of the Sherman’s experiences on the property.

Bigelow owned the property for twenty years, during which time the land was investigated by his group, the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS).

But in 2016, Bigelow sold the property for $4.5 million to a shell company called Adamantium Real Estate, who immediately shut down all roads to the ranch, lined the property with barbed wire and installed security cameras around the perimeter.

But maybe the most telling clue about what their intentions were with this ranch was when they trademarked the name, Skinwalker Ranch, in 2018.

Within a year a feature documentary about Skinwalker Ranch was released and production had begun on the now wildly popular – and lucrative – History Channel series.

Could I sound any more cynical right now?

All right, now would be a good time to disclose that I am severely biased on this subject.

I’ve been pretty open about my disdain for reality shows and the manipulation of reality that they engage in, I talked in a very early video about Duck Dynasty and how the guys in that show were non-bearded middle-class dudes before they got cast in this show, and then got rich selling a bunch of merchandise.

That’s the grift. And it’s happened with a lot of reality shows. So yeah, the fact that this has a reality show around it immediately sets those alarm bells off for me.

But… Is that true here? Is the guy behind Adamantium Holdings running a grift? Well let’s look at the guy behind it.

His name is Brandon Fugal, and he’s a real estate mogul and VC investor out of Utah.

Fugal had a religious upbringing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is a fancy way of saying he grew up Mormon, and according to interviews with him, this is what spurred his interest in the paranormal.

The idea that he could have proof that there’s more out there in reality and in the universe than what we can see, this would be the ultimate validation of his faith.

But he’s an interesting guy, he owns a huge movie memorabilia collection, is passionate about 80s music, and collects supercars like Lamborghinis and Porsches.

He has also joined an investment group that plans to resurrect the wooly mammoth.

Fugal told Utah Business in 2020 that he purchased the ranch as a skeptic, believing that there would be natural explanations for all the strange activity.

But, “What we are witnessing could be evidence that we live in a multi-dimensional universe,” he said. “That we are not alone. That we may be interacting with other entities, other intelligence.”

Fugal hopes that discoveries on the ranch prove that we humans are part of a greater plan, that we’re not just a random event and that there is meaning to our lives and existence.

And you know what, honestly, if he’s sincere about that, and he seems to be… Hell, I’m down for that, that sounds great.

The question becomes, how does making a lucrative reality show out of this further that effort? Is it just because it generates interest that might bring in more researchers? Do they plan to reinvest the money being made on it back into the research? Is it a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too kind of thing?

I want to note that we did reach out to Mr. Fugal, who responded at first but when we asked him that specific question, we didn’t get an answer. He may have gotten busy; I’m sure he’s a busy guy, don’t want to make wild accusations, I’m just letting you know we did try to cover our bases and get his side of the story.

All right, so let’s talk about the Ranch itself, what’s the deal with this place?

The Uinta Basin is the geological remains of the prehistoric Uinta Lake that formed in the late Tertiary period about two million years ago.

The basin is surrounded by the Uinta and Wasatch mountains and the Roan and Book cliffs.

It is up to 10,000 feet above sea level and covers more than 9,000 square miles.

Prehistoric sites show that it was inhabited thousands of years ago by the Archaic and Fremont peoples, and then more recently by the Ute tribe.

Fathers Dominguez and Escalante were the first Europeans in the area when they traveled through in 1776.

Brigham Young sent out a small party to explore the basin in 1861 as a possible place to settle, but the party reported that the area was valueless.

Abraham Lincoln created the Uintah Indian Reservation that same year, and gilsonite, which is a kind of asphalt was discovered in the basin around 1888.

The land contains oil, too. It has more than 8,000 gas wells and 2,000 oil wells, with mineral rights being the primary income source for the Uintah and Ouray (you-ray) Indian Reservation.

Then there’s fracking, which has been occurring there since the 1960s. And this comes with a few issues.

A Rolling Stone article in 2015 concluded that the ground air in the basin was “fraught with carcinogenic gases like benzene, rogue emissions from oil and gas drilling.”

The high levels of volatile organic compounds has been floated as an explanation for the number of livestock that get sick and die in the area.

Even Fugal is cautious about the emissions, saying

“I have four kids but they have never been to the ranch,” he told Utah Business. “The danger is real and we have to approach the ranch with a degree of reverence and caution.”

A lot of the lore around Skinwalker Ranch comes from the indigenous tribes that inhabited the area for hundreds of years.

The Uintah and Ouray Reservation stretches across three counties in the basin. It’s the second-largest Native American reservation in the U.S., covering 4.5 million acres.

Anthropologists say the Utes migrated to the northern Colorado Plateau between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago.

The Utes are talented artists, specifically known for their religious and ceremonial beadwork and leatherwork.

In their religion, they trace their origin to a half-man, half-wolf god named Sinauf (sin-oy-uff). They also believe that all the physical elements and features in the world are spiritually alive.

Their oral history includes sightings of strange creatures in the basin, and they take the area very seriously.

According to UFO investigator Junior Hicks in an interview with George Knapp in 2002,
“They think the Skinwalkers are powerful spirits that are here because of a curse that was put on them generations ago by the Navajos,” “The Utes say the ranch is ‘the path of the skinwalker.’”

So what is a skinwalker exactly? Well, according to lore, skinwalkers are malevolent witches who can transform into a wolf, bear, coyote, bird, or other animals.

They’re known to the Navajo as Yee Naaldlooshii (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yWRGakALps), which translates to “with it, he goes on all fours.”

Legend says that skinwalkers are often shamans who have crossed over to the dark side by participating in forbidden rituals and ceremonies that summon evil forces.

So I guess if shamans were the Jedi, Skinwalkers are the Sith.

Belief in skinwalkers is still pretty strong among the tribes in the area, in fact, most won’t talk about them because it’s thought that saying their name kind-of invokes them. They’re kind-of he whose name shall not be spoken.

With that history and legend behind it, the list of unexplained phenomena that has been reported at the ranch is quite extensive, including…

– Cattle mutilations
– Sightings of strange, humanoid figures
– UFOs
– Light beams hitting the basin
– Poltergeist phenomena
– The appearance of portals
– Balls of light
– Radiation blasts
– Electronic malfunctions

While claims of UFO sightings in the Uinta Basin go back to the 1950s, most of what we think of as the Skinwalker Ranch phenomena started when the Shermans took it over in 1994.

For example, the Shermans found a dead cow in a field after one of the UFO sightings on the ranch.

They told the Deseret News in 1996 that there was “a peculiar hole in the center of its left eyeball but was otherwise untouched with no trace of blood.”

There were no traces of footprints, predators, or tire tracks. A chemical-like odor was also present.

Another dead cow with a similar hole in its left eye was found later. There was also a 6-inch hole about an inch deep carved out of the cow’s rectum, along with the same chemical smell.

What is up with aliens and butts?

Anyway, cows began disappearing, more were found mutilated, crop circles were discovered, metallic sounds were heard at night, strange creatures were consistently seen, and orbs darted around the property.

For example, Terry Sherman saw a blue orb moving across a field. His dogs chased after it into a thick grove.

He heard the dogs yelp and then silence. He went back in the morning to look for the dogs and saw three spots of dried grass. A greasy, black lump was in the middle of each spot, looking like the dogs had been incinerated.

If you’re interested in reading more about their experiences, I’ll put some links down below.
https://www.deseret.com/1996/6/30/19251541/frequent-fliers
https://studylib.net/doc/6968873/article-in-spirit-magazine-terry-sherman-speaks
https://rense.com/general32/strange.htm
https://rense.com/general32/utah2.htm

So as a guy with two dogs, I think if something like that happened I would want to get the hell out of there, and it seems that was true for the Shermans too. Which is why after only 2 years on the property, they sold it to Bigelow.

Which makes you wonder, if the place was so freaky that the Shermans yeeted out of there after only 2 years, what did the Myers family see? They owned the property for 60 years.

And the answer to that question is where things get really weird because what they saw… Was nothing.

Kenneth John Myers and his wife Edith sold the land to the Shermans and they’re not with us anymore but Kenneth’s brother, Garth Myers, claimed that they never saw anything paranormal there.

He spoke to Frank B. Salisbury, PhD, who published a book called The Utah UFO Display, and said, “There was nothing, unequivocally, absolutely nothing that went on while [Edith] and my brother lived there”

And he claims that after the Shermans sold the ranch, Bigelow called Garth and asked him why he never told anyone about the UFOs. And according to the book, he responded by saying, “I told him they [the UFOs] didn’t get there until [the Shermans] got there.”

Yikes.

So look, the skeptic in me sees a ranch with the Myers family living there for 60 years, nothing happening, just an old family ranch, and then the Shermans come in and suddenly there’s all these random stories of paranormal events going around, they get tied in to ancient native lore, they use this to get an eccentric billionaire to buy the property, making a huge profit, and later Adamantium comes along and does the same thing, just generations of people profiting off of this story.

But… the wrench in that theory is that the Shermans only sold the property for $200,000. It’s actually less than they paid for it, they took a loss on this.

They moved away and have refused to talk to anyone about their time there. Possibly because of a non-disclosure agreement they signed with Bigelow.

And there’s nothing really from their past that would indicate that they would do something like this.

Terry Sherman was a well-respected breeder of top-quality and high-priced cattle in New Mexico before buying the ranch in Utah. He never lost more than one percent of his animals per year until he moved.

This loss of cattle hit the family’s finances pretty hard. And whatever else was happening caused them all psychological stress.

Now if you wanted to double down on the cynicism you could argue that Terry Sherman wasn’t doing quite as well breeding cattle as he had been and his reputation and pride were taking a hit so he conjured up these stories as a way to sort-of save face.

But it is weird that the people who set this whole scheme into motion according to the “grift theory” are the people who profited the least from it.

One more thing worth mentioning is the issue of digging on the ranch.

This is something they talk about in the series, they have an aversion to digging because apparently, digging disturbs the entities on the property, causing all sorts of physical phenomena to occur.

But could the no-digging suggestion stem from something more mundane?

Remember that the Uinta Basin is loaded with fossil fuels like gas and oil and asphalt, well according to Garth Myers, the real estate contract stipulated that the previous owners retained oil rights on the property.

In other words, if someone were to dig around and find a bubblin’ crude, that would belong to the previous owners. So… They don’t want you doing that.

Again, that’s Garth Myers’ theory, another one has to do with the high level of VOCs in the area I mentioned earlier.

It’s possible that digging may release them and may even be the cause of some of the claimed medical issues seen on the show.

Yet another reason one might not want to dig is because there may be radiation in the soil from the nuclear weapons tests in Nevada between 1951 and 1962.

It’s thought that fallout from those blasts landed in Utah, specifically in that area.

So yeah, digging might stir up some ancient spirits… or radioactive dirt. Neither of which sound like a fun time.

So we’ve talked about the Myers’, we’ve talked about the Shermans, and the current owner, now let’s talk about the one, the only, Robert Bigelow, paranormal gigolo.

For the record, I like Robert Bigelow, I think he’s got some cool ideas. A little kooky, but that’s fine.

So Bigelow bought the ranch in 1994 and then set up the National Institute for Discovery Science in 1995, specifically to research this place.

And they did so for 20 years. So what did they find?

One thing they experienced was an ice circle that mysteriously appeared in 2002.
The circle measured five feet nine inches in diameter and was found in an irrigation canal. The circle was 1/4-inch deep.

Shavings around the circle indicated that it had been etched into the ice. There was no evidence of melted ice.

There were no markings, tracks, or prints in or around the circle, either. The case went unsolved.

And there were some other things they ran across like weird bits of metal and electronic disturbances and stuff, I’ll put a link in the description to an archive of their findings, as well as things they investigated outside Skinwalker Ranch.

But I actually kinda lied just a second ago when I said they investigated for 20 years. Technically that’s not true.

NIDS was actually disbanded in 2004. But it was replaced with another group called the Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, which was an even more secretive operation.

And nobody really knew what they had going on until this year.

Remember back in the Spring of this year when all the UFO stuff came out about the secret government program investigating aliens and whatnot?

That program was AATIP, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, and a smaller part of that story if you followed it much was that Robert Bigelow was working with them in some way.

Which wasn’t a surprise to me, he’s super into that stuff, but this was what he was doing for that program, he was investigating Skinwalker Ranch.

Also Harry Reid, the senator who pushed to fund the program, he’s a friend of Robert Bigelow.
(Maybe put in a caption on screen AATIP was budgeted at $22 million and lasted from 2004-2012)

Bigelow’s advanced space studies operation lost its funding in 2012 when the Defense Department shut down AATIP.

So Bigelow’s researchers had government funding for 8 years to study Skinwalker Ranch, and it would be great to know what they found… But it’s classified.

And after that research kinda stalled. He just kinda owned the land for a few years. Until, it seems, somebody got an idea for a TV show.

So look, here are the prevailing theories around Skinwalker Ranch:

– A shaman is trapped in an alternative timeline and is causing havoc.
– The ranch is a portal for interdimensional travel for beings and UFOs to pass through into our world.
– The U.S government made contacts with extraterrestrials, but they’re trying to cover it up.
– It’s a spot for extraterrestrials to study us and our reactions to their presence.
– It’s a scam perpetrated by the Shermans, Bigelow, and Fugal to make money.

 I mean… Uh… Scam is a big word.

Bigelow has been researching this kind of stuff for a long time, he’s legitimately interested in this kind of thing, and talks about it all the time. He’s risked his career publicly talking about it.

And it’s very possible Brandon Fugal is exactly the same. He may legitimately want to research this stuff, but research costs money, and he wants it to be well-funded.

So, we’ll make a reality show out of it. It’s compelling stuff, people would want to watch it. He’s not wrong about that.

Maybe this is one of those cases where the scammy thing to do and the smart thing to do are the same thing.

Hell, maybe he was inspired by the Mars One program.

Mars One was a privately funded program to take people to Mars and the way they were going to pay for it was by making it into a reality show.

The idea was people would do research and establish the Mars base and do all the science stuff but they’d make a reality show at the same time.

It… didn’t work out very well.

But being a businessman, I’m sure he was able to run the numbers and see that this would have a better chance of success than Mars One. Despite what you may have heard, it is easier to get to Utah than it is to get to Mars.

But yeah, we’ll make a TV show and do all the stuff you’ve gotta do on a reality show to keep people watching, but we’ll do some real research while we’re at it. And who knows, maybe we find something, that would be huge!

I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe that’s exactly what Fugal is doing. I’m still not sure if it’s the best way to go, but at least his intentions are pure.

I guess we’ll just have to see where all the money goes.

But you know what, it’s well done. They did a great job with it. It’s fun.

And I mean, reality shows aren’t my thing, but a lot of other people enjoy them. In fact, I’m sure this show was a nice escape for a lot of people over the last couple of years. When we all kinda needed one.

Man, I can’t believe I’m defending the Skinwalker Ranch reality show. I really didn’t think I’d land here. Shhhhhhhhit.

Honestly, I came into this video really ready to throw down, this was going to EXPOSE THE FRAUD. And here I am. Defending it.

Ultimately, they’re making entertainment. And on the off chance there is something really funky going on there, it increases the odds of finding it.

So I don’t know what do you think? Good thing? Bad thing? Dumb? Any favorite scenes from the show? Discuss your favorite theories in the comments.

Biomimicry: Why Nature Is The Ultimate Innovator

Humans have been designing and innovating for 100,000 years, but nature has been doing so for 4.5 billion years. Turns out we still have a lot to learn from nature, and biomimicry is the science of using nature to inform innovative design. Here are some great examples of this new and maybe world-changing design philosophy.

TRANSCRIPT:

I live a little less than a mile away from some train tracks. Which means from time to time I get to enjoy a nice train rumble in the background.

It’s not a problem or anything. It doesn’t happen very often, and when it does it’s just a light background noise. But that’s not true for the people who live right next to it.

I always wonder how loud that must be. But even that is nothing compared to some people in Japan in 1989.

Japan is a world leader in high-speed trains, especially maglev trains that cut down on friction and travel at hundreds of miles per hour.

So fast, in fact, that they were causing a kind of sonic boom.

Okay, not like a real sonic boom because they were breaking the speed of sound or anything, but when the trains exited tunnels, they were moving so fast that they compressed the air in front of the trains, causing them to explode when they exited the tunnels.

So yeah, imagine living in an apartment right next to the opening of the tunnel and basically hearing a cannon go off multiple times a day.

People complained – obviously – and the trains were forced to slow down, which totally defeats the point of a high speed train.

Engineers set forth working on the problem, most of which required redesigning the tunnels which would have been massive construction projects.

But one engineer named Eiji Nakatsu had a different solution. Turned out that he was also an avid birder, and one of his favorite birds was the Kingfisher.

Kingfishers eat fish – hence the name, and they do it by flying over the water, finding a school of fish, zeroing in on the one they want, and then dive-bombing into the water at full speed. It’s actually kind-of insane.

And these birds are designed to do this, and create as little splash as possible to make this hunting more effective. And Nakatsu recognized that these birds are kind-of doing the same thing that these high-speed trains were doing. They were moving from one medium to another.

Birds obviously were going from air to water but the trains were moving from low pressure to high pressure; similar idea.

So he used the shape of the Kingfisher’s beak and used that as a model to redesign the nose of the high speed train. And it worked. Not only was it quieter but it was 10% faster and 15% more efficient.

This an amazing example of lateral thinking but it’s also a prime example of a design philosophy known as biomimicry.

If you think technology is advancing at a rapid pace, you’re correct. In fact, we’re experiencing a technological revolution that begin a few hundred years ago.

Just looking at just what humans have created since the Age of Enlightenment is mind-boggling.

 

Some of the engineering and technological feats include

  • Telescope (1608)
  • Submarine (1776)
  • Interchangeable Parts (1797)
  • Coffee Pot (1806)
  • Plough (1814)
  • Sewing Machine (1833)
  • Power Tools (1837)
  • Skyscraper (1885)
  • Television (1927)
  • Artificial Heart (1982)

We could spend all day listing inventions since the 1600s. In fact, pretty much everything around you as you’re watching this could fit in this category.

Once again, I’ve made the argument that the singularity that we keep hearing about is happening right now. Has been for a couple hundred years.

That especially makes sense when you consider that homo sapiens have been on Earth for about 300,000 years. This all happened very suddenly.

Whatever innovations we’ve created, from fire to file sharing, are just a blink in the eye to nature, which has been testing and refining itself for billions of years.

Earth has existed for around 4.5 billion years. Life first appeared on our planet around 3.5 to 4 billion years ago.

Multicellular organisms began to appear approximately 610 million years ago, and plants and fungi showed up around 500 million years ago.

After that came anthropods (400 million years ago), amphibians (300 million years ago), mammals (200 million years ago), and birds (150 million years ago).

Then us, of course. We’re just little babies in the history of life on Earth.

During all these millions of years, nature has been doing its own research and development, engineering solutions to help it survive and thrive.

There’s just no way we can compete with this knowledge, this deep level of trial and error nature has conducted on itself.

Whether you believe in a creator who intelligently designed the universe and our planet or believe it’s just a process and time is the ultimate creator, we can learn a lot from it.

This is the basis for biomimicry, which is a way for us to find solutions through nature.

Or, “the practice of applying lessons from nature to the invention of healthier, more sustainable technologies for people,” as defined by the Biomimicry Institute.

“Learning about the natural world is one thing,” said biologist and the institute’s co-founder Janine Benyus. “Learning from the natural world—that’s the switch.”

So, when it comes to designing solutions for our challenges, it seems wise to consult with the greatest innovator we have: nature.

There are several examples of nature-influenced innovations. Here are a few of my favorites.

 

Velcro

Let’s let’er rip and start with one that is kind of…. sticky.

I’m talking about velcro, which Swiss engineer George de Mestral invented and patented in 1955.

He was hunting with his dog in the Swiss Alps about 10 years earlier and noticed burs sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur.

Taking the burrs home, he studied them under a microscope and noticed thousands of tiny hooks that could bind themselves to any fabric or fur they came into contact with.

Eventually, he created a way to mass-produce the hooks and found a company to produce the fabric they would bind to.

And thus, Velcro, which is a portmanteau of “velvet” and “crochet” (“hook” in French).

 

Velcro wasn’t an immediate success.

But when NASA came along looking for a way to keep objects attached to the walls of its spaceships while in orbit, it was suddenly cool.

So cool that French fashion designer Pierre Cardin became obsessed with it, incorporating Velcro into many of his outfits.

And of course they’re quite popular with the sneakerheads as well.

 

While they often instill fear in swimmers and may cause the need for a bigger boat, sharks have inspired technology that helps reduce the spread of bacteria.

Dr. Anthony Brennan is a materials science and engineering professor at the University of Florida.

In 2002, he visited the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor to help the military find new antifouling strategies for its ships and submarines.

He noticed one submarine returning to port covered in algae and said it looked like a lumbering whale.

Brennan then asked which slow-moving ocean animals don’t attract algae. There was only one: sharks.

He took an impression of shark skin, specifically the dermal denticles, and discovered that they’re arranged in a diamond pattern with tiny riblets.

These riblets are rough and help keep microorganisms from attaching themselves to the shark’s skin.

Like most organisms, bacteria look for the path of least energy resistance when trying to establish biofilms on surfaces.

The shark’s skin pattern requires too much energy for bacteria to take root.

Sharklet Technologies is one company that has created products based on this natural innovation.

The company’s research has shown that its antibacterial film inhibits the growth of S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, E. coli, and other microbial species that may cause illness or death.

Sharks. Saving lives since 2002.

Maybe the newest example of biomimicry is microfliers.

A paper published in the journal Nature just a couple months ago in September proposes flying microchips the size of a grain of sand.

It was proposed by engineers at Northwestern University, and the idea is that these microchips can be carried by the wind to monitor things like pollution levels and airborne diseases.

And they based their microfliers off of the maple tree’s propeller seeds.

These propellers cause the seeds to spin like a helicopter through the air before landing. And these microfliers do the same thing.

“Our goal was to add winged flight to small-scale electronic systems…” John A. Rogers, who led the device’s development, told Northwestern Now. “We were able to do that using ideas inspired by the biological world. … We borrowed those design concepts, adapted them and applied them to electronic circuit platforms.”

There are two parts of the microfliers: millimeter-sized functional electronic components and the wings.

As it falls, the wings interact with air to create a slow and stable rotational motion.

The electronics’ weight is distributed low in the center of the flier to help prevent it from losing control and tumbling to the ground.

The engineers didn’t just turn to nature for inspiration. They also found it in children’s pop-up books.

They fabricated precursors to flying structures in flat, planar geometries before bonding them onto a stretched rubber substrate.

When the substrate relaxes, a controlled buckling action happens and the wings pop up into precise 3D forms.

And if you’re worried that all these microfliers will create a lot of electronic litter, don’t be.

Rogers and his team are working on a way to have the microfliers harmlessly degrade and dissolve into groundwater over time.

Speaking of wind, let’s talk about humpback whales. Wait, what?

Humpbacks have little bumps on their flippers called tubercles, and it’s thought that they help make the fins more efficient in the water.

To test this, a West Chester University biologist named Dr. Frank Fish put a four-meter-long flipper from a dead, beached whale in a wind tunnel.

 

Anyway, Frank Fish found that the flipper was fairly aerodynamic.

Those bumps on the flippers help the whales catch bigger and faster prey by channeling the water over the flipper to prevent the loss of forward movement.

This helps the whales turn and move quickly underwater.

 

Interesting finding. But what can you do with that?

Well Fish and his team realized that they could use this same property to build more efficient and quieter wind turbines by reducing vortices and increasing lift.

So they tried it, and it turns out wind farms can produce up to twenty percent more power and twenty-five percent more airflow when using these blades.

According to MIT, the blades help generate the “same amount of power at 10 miles per hour that conventional turbines generate at 17 miles per hour.

 

But it’s not just engineering and structural challenges that may benefit from modeling nature. There’s also a lot we can apply to society in general.

For example, we can better understand traffic flow by watching ants.

A study published in eLife in 2019 showed that ants adjust their behavior based on their circumstances when moving along a path.

They speed up at intermediate densities, avoid collisions at large densities, and avoid entering overcrowded trails,” the researchers wrote.

Mimicking their strategies may help us better optimize self-driving cars so that we can avoid having traffic jams.

With bees, we can understand more about social learning.

When worker honeybees find a new food source, they return to the hive and perform a “waggle dance.”

This dance communicates where the food source is and works to influence the other bee’s behavior so that they’ll try the new food source.

Another larger group of bees will explore the new source, and they’ll return to the hive and do the dance, too.

The cycle happens a few times and reaches a tipping point where the whole bee colony makes a decision and moves together toward the food source.

This strategy suggests that social consensus accelerates and influences learning.

“Adopting habits is a very conservative process that seems to be driven very largely by social learning, by seeing other people doing the same thing,” says MIT professor Alex Pentland, author of Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread — The Lessons from a New Science.

Because the bees in the hive are open to the idea of where a new food source is, they’re able to continue growing the colony.

The “waggle dance” isn’t just entertainment. It’s survival.

Bees, ants, and even fungi can teach us about elections and democracy, too.

Our governmental system in the U.S. is based on hierarchy and helps maintain the status quo. It doesn’t lead to much flexibility, resulting in the dreaded “red tape.”

But for organisms like fungi, flexible intelligence has helped them adapt and survive for millions of years.

Fungi decisions are made from a bottom-up approach, responding to real-time conditions and actively seeking out diverse information.

“Collective intelligence and distributed leadership are evolutionarily proven strategies for success,” evolutionary biologist Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker wrote in an article for the Biomimicry Institute. “Diversity and independence, networked by transparent and truthful transactions, allow the wisdom of the crowd to go to work. With flat networks, we can innovate better, make more accurate decisions, and enjoy far greater resilience.”

But maybe the biggest lesson we can learn from nature is that it wastes nothing.

Nature is the definition of sustainable. Our current way of living is the definition of unsustainable.

Maybe by taking some cues from nature, we can design a society that will last indefinitely into the future.

One of the goals of biomimicry advocates is for designers and engineers to first ask, “How would nature solve this problem?”

And I think that’s a smart approach. Nature has been here far longer than we have. We have a lot to learn from it if we want to be around along with it.

Who Owns Space? | Answers With Joe

With more countries flying to space than ever and a private space race in full swing, the legalities around space and space resources are still very much up in the air. There are currently only a few treaties that guide space activity and they are woefully outdated. So that begs the question – who owns space?

Back in August I did a video about moon mining and how it’s very likely to become a thing and what kind of resources we could find and use there. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. It’s a banger.

But many of the comments touched on a very important issue, which is that we as human beings… suck.

Since the very beginning, we have taken this planet and put lines around it, and then defended those lines with countless human lives.

Sometimes we kill each other to push the line a little further just to make our slice of pie bigger, sometimes out of petty spite and politics but more than any other reason, we’ve fought over resources.

Oil, clean water, fertile land, minerals, gold, if it’s got value, we will find a way to get it. Usually through massive amounts of human suffering.

So yeah, now we’re tiptoeing off of this planet and finding new resources out in space, and it begs the question, how are we going to draw those lines? What comes next? And most importantly, is history about to repeat itself?

All right, so if we’re going to be talking about space resources and lines, let’s just start with the line that divides Earth from space. It’s a line you’ve heard about a lot lately with the Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic launches, the Karman Line.

This is usually talked about as sort-of a petty, arbitrary thing, like it’s what determines whether or not you get a pin with astronaut wings, but in the discussion of who owns what in space, it’s actually somewhat consequential.

Consequential… But still arbitrary.
It’s considered the point where our atmosphere “ends” and space begins, and it lies at 100 KM (62 miles) above Mean Sea Level.

But if I may “Well Akshually” myself, the Earth’s atmosphere technically extends way beyond that, as far out as the moon, this is known as the “geocorona”

So yeah, this is just an imaginary line. We consider it the boundary between the disciplines of aeronautics and astronautics.

But it’s also another kind of boundary, at least it was meant to be.

Theodore von Karman, who the line is named after, said (paraphrased) the air above a country for 100km belongs to them, and above 100km is something akin to international waters.

Like you always hear about how a plane has entered another country’s airspace, well here is where that airspace ends. Because there’s no more air. There’s just space.

But yeah, space and the ocean are vastly different obviously but it’s helpful to think of it like that, legally space, meaning the area above the Karman Line, is basically international waters.

Following rules set up in the 60’s via the International Space Treaty, planets, satellites, and asteroids are claimed as neutral or Common Heritage, that they belong to all peoples of Earth.

Which is a beautiful sentiment. Almost Star Trekkien. Star Trek-ish? Of course Star Trek also had the Eugenics wars taking place in 1992 so…

The treaty also prevents the use of nukes or weapons in space, which is being tested quite a bit lately.

But the point of The Outer Space Treaty was, if we are going to space, we are going to space as a species, together. No nationalism in space.

And this is a rule we have always abided by.
Except… you know… Always.

But let’s talk for a second about Common Heritage. Common Heritage is the idea that there are some things that belong to all of us as a species, and inherently should not be controlled by any particular country.

Like the human genome, for example, the human genome is all of ours, we all own it. No nation or corporation can own the human genome. Doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

Looking at you 23 & Me…

And there are lots of areas on planet Earth that are considered Common Heritage, including
– International Seabed
– Under the International Seabed
– International waters above & below
– International Airspace

And this was the idea behind the Outer Space Treaty, that space would be categorized as common heritage, something we all own.

But maybe because we’ve learned a lot more about what resources exist out there in space, this idea has been withering away for a while now.

To that end, many parties to the Outer Space Treaty have been trying to alter it, none more so than the good ol’ U S of A.

Because everybody having something? That’s socialist. So we passed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act or – because everything has to be an acronym – the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act.
(a beat)
You know, if congress spent half as much time governing as they do creating clever acronyms, we might actually get–

This act paved the way for companies like SpaceX and Boeing to privately ferry cargo and crew to the International Space Station and eventually, Boeing might actually do it.

But part of the bill specifically addresses the use of space resources, aiming to quote:

“…promote the right of United States citizens to engage in commercial exploration for and commercial recovery of space resources free from harmful interference,”

So of course, the hypercapitalist United States, (US flag) with our hypercapitalist president (Pic of Trump), is breaking with international Common Heritage treaties.

Oh, actually it was this hypercapitalist president. It was signed in 2015.

To be fair, there was more to that quote from the bill:

“…promote the right of United States citizens to engage in commercial exploration for and commercial recovery of space resources free from harmful interference, in accordance with the international obligations of the United States and subject to authorization and continuing supervision by the Federal Government.”

So, technically these private companies should be acting under the auspices of the international treaty but… some companies were working on this before the SPACE Act was signed.

One of those corporations is Moon Express, which has the simple mission of mining as much water on the moon as possible and selling it.

Bob Richards who owns Moon Express referred to water as the “oil of the solar system” and he’s not wrong. We’ve talked about this in various videos but water can be used not just for drinking but also fuel and oxygen.

In the far future as we expand into the solar system, the ownership of those water compounds will be a source of giant amounts of revenue.

Which is why, in 1979, the international space treaty was amended to include a section specifically about the moon.

In the Agreement Governing The Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, set forth by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, it states this about moon resources:

“An equitable sharing by all States Parties in the benefits derived from those resources, whereby the interests and needs of the developing countries, as well as the efforts of those countries which have contributed either directly or indirectly to the exploration of the moon, shall be given special consideration.”
Article 11 (7) (d)

Now if you think it’s hard to believe that the United States would sign on to this and agree to share moon resources with other countries considering we were the only country that had gotten to the moon, that’s because we didn’t sign it. We are not a party to that treaty.

One way to look at how we’ll probably approach space resources is analogous to the fishing industry.

If you are a shipping vessel you fly your country’s flag and must obey your country’s laws and whatever fish you get, you get to keep.

So Space Law is basically Fish Law. With just a touch of the Homestead Act of 1862.

Hashtag Spacefish.

So space resources are one thing. Space weapons are something else altogether.

First of all, space warfare is still going to take place here on Earth. Should we get into any real squabbles over space resources, we won’t be doing that fighting in space.

It’s just too expensive to fight in outer space (for now).
We can barely get a gallon of water to space cheaply, let alone a moon tank.

Who else wants to see a moon tank?

So I suppose it’s possible that as we get deeper into space resources, the US and the rest of the world will sit at the same table and work out a policy that will bring us all together to work for the common good. That would be nice.

Or we can do our own thing and start drawing invisible lines on regolith just like we’ve done here on Earth, which never really ended well.

Looking at you all the wars ever…

But the trend currently is toward something maybe even messier. And that’s private corporations mining and exploiting space resources.

Then we could get into hyper-megacorporations formed out of a Neo-Manifest Destiny.

Expanse much?

Because international law on this kind of thing is still stuck in the Cold War space race. There is no real enforceable legal framework behind this new private space race in terms of resource exploitation.

As we head back to the moon and set our sights on Mars and the asteroid belt, we’ll also be building a legal infrastructure as well. There’s gonna be a LOT of lawsuits going around.

And if lawsuits are what determines the future of space, I’d say Blue Origin’s got a leg up on the rest of the industry.

AY-OH!

Seriously, if someone asked me what field of law they should go into, I’d say space law. It’s gonna get crazy in the near future.

By the way, one of the top schools in the world to learn air and space law is the International Institute of Air and Space Law in Leiden, in the Netherlands.

Just saying.

So, who owns space? Nobody… For now. And that’s okay… For now.

But as this major leap forward in space travel continues, and space resource technologies get proven out, it’s going to require some very difficult discussions about just who we’re going to be over the next couple hundred years.

Are we one people, one species? Are we a collection of countries and cultures? Or are we cogs in the wheels of galactic megacorporations? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Conversations With Joe – Andy Weir on Project Hail Mary

Today I catch up with friend of the channel, Andy Weir. We talk in depth about his latest novel, Project Hail Mary. MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING – If you haven’t read the book and want to go in blind, you might not want to listen to this. But if you have, and you want some serious behind the scenes on the science behind the story, we get into it here.

Will Tesla’s FSD Rollout Kill People? (And Other Questions) | Lightning Round

Today I tackle questions from viewers on Patreon about Tesla’s Full Self Driving and the future of autonomy, why dogs tilt their heads when you talk to them, our place in the universe, the gulf stream, and the craziest way to terraform Mars.

Hey everybody, today’s gonna be a little bit different.

In the early days of my channel, I answered questions from my audience, hence the name Answers With Joe. I got away from that over time, but there is a level in Patreon where the perk is you get to have a question answered in a video.

And I’ve been TERRIBLE at doing that.

So today I’m going to answer questions from people like you on Patreon. These are going to be shorter answers than usual but if there’s one you really want to see me expand on, let me know in the comments. It might become a full video.

Anyway, that’s all you need to know, gonna be a little bit different but it’ll still be fun. Let’s get to the questions.

 

John Regel –
Does having a sense of the true size of the universe through the AWJ subject matter make you feel more or less significant?

A:
I’m not going to lie… It messes with my head.

My worldview has changed a lot in the time that I’ve been doing this channel, just by learning – not just learning different things but learning how much there is to know about things.

It’s that whole Dunning-Krueger effect thing.

No matter how narrow and specific the topic might be, I’ve found there’s always a rabbit hole.

And part of that is coming to grips with the fact that we are just very temporary occupants of this thing we call existence and ultimately nothing we do matters.

And that’s not a fun thing to think about.

Though it does make me think of the meme with the existentialist decrying the fact that nothing matters and then there’s the nihilist celebrating because nothing matters!

It’s simultaneously the best and worst news you can hear.

Because yeah when I’m having a particularly lovely panic or anxiety episode, thinking about that is a real bummer, but those late nights when I can’t sleep because I’m cringing about that dumb thing I said to that girl in 9th grade, it’s rather reassuring to think that none of it matters.

It and all the other dumbass things I’ve said and done.

I want to be careful to make sure I don’t sound like I’ve got this all figured out because I very don’t, I struggle with it quite a bit, but one way of framing it that helps me sometimes is to think of it almost like quantum reality vs. macro reality?

Like there are different levels of reality that only vaguely interact with each other and work off of totally different rules but are equally valid.

So no, the problems you and I deal with in our daily lives don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things, but down here, in this little micro reality what we do and how we treat each other and how we live our lives matter a great deal.

And maybe that’s enough.

By the way, this is a good opportunity to promote my new audio podcast because I ask this very question to someone who has spent a lot more time than me thinking about this kind of stuff, so check that out if you haven’t, I’ll put a link down in the description.

John Regel –
Why do dogs tilt their head when you’re talking to them?

A:
Because it’s cute and they’re manipulating us. They’re in charge, you know.

I’ve heard it’s because when they hear something that catches their attention, they turn their heads to kinda recalibrate their ears.

It’s almost like echolocation, they pivot their heads and their radar-dish ears to give a slightly different angle and by comparing those two angles it gives them a more accurate reading on it.

That of course is unconscious and instinctual, it probably goes back to their hunting origins, which would explain why Zoe pretty much only does it when I mention food.

Mike Reed – Will Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) Beta kill people or save lives? What is the future of autonomous cars? Will humans drive at all in 30 years?

A:
I’ll make a prediction real quick. Tesla’s Full Self Driving cars are going to lead to some deaths. I have no doubt about that. You know what’s also going to lead to a lot of deaths? All the other kinds of cars.

According to NHTSA 38,680 people died in car crashes in 2020, that’s about 108 a day. Thats with humans driving the cars. So that’s how that’s going.

So obviously the question isn’t will it kill people, it’s whether or not it will kill less people. And I think that over the long run, yes it will.

For the simple fact that a self-driving car can see in all directions at once and never gets distracted. It’s almost unfair to compare the two because humans just can’t do that.

Of course humans have intuition and the ability to navigate unfamiliar spaces and predict what another human being will do in ways that I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to teach a computer.

Self driving cars can also record massive amounts of data and will be able to show in accidents who is at fault, the computer or the other driver?

As the systems get better, I really think it’s the insurance companies that will spur mass adoption, because they’ll be able to show who is at fault in accidents.

Like I think a point will come where it just costs more to insure a car that doesn’t have self-driving or at least the safety systems that come with self-driving, and that’s going to change things.

So I think it will be cracked, the self-driving car thing. There’s just too much money in it. And I do think Tesla is ahead at this point. But I’ve also been more cynical than other people about how fast it’s going to happen.

Like at this point, I would chalk up any FSD accidents to driver error. And with very few exceptions, I’ve always chalked up autopilot accidents to driver error too, I use auto pilot and I’m sorry but anybody who does that sleeping in your car thing while it’s going (I don’t even know how that works with the wheel needing to be turned constantly), that’s just irresponsible driving. Which is the same thing that causes accidents in regular cars.

And look, I’ve seen the videos of the new FSD system and what it can do, Gali Russel has a lot of them and it’s super impressive, like they are super chipping away at the problem, but the gulf between, “hey this is impressive” and “I 100% trust this car with my life” is big. It’s the whole string of nines thing, it has to be 99.99999% safe and that last little bit is the hardest part.

There’s been a bit of a rumor since the last Tesla earnings call that the next car, the $25,000 car that we’ve all been calling the Model 2 this whole time, that it’s going to be called Robotaxi. And may actually not have a steering wheel.

That sounds… optimistic. I mean we’ve been hearing predictions about “feature ready” FSD happening “at the end of the year” for a long time now.

But knowing Tesla, this car might be unveiled in 2022 or 23 but not hit the roads until 2025 or 2026.

It has been 4 years since the new Roadster was unveiled. And if you remember, it was called the 2020 Roadster. Just saying.

So I don’t know, considering the pace of advancement in FSD, maybe that’ll be the case, it would definitely fit with Tesla’s pattern of reducing stuff on the steering column.

But ultimately, I think self-driving cars will be safer, especially as more cars on the road become self-driving, especially if they can communicate with each other. I really think humans are messy, distracted, irrational, and unpredictable and the more computers driving that are none of those things, the safer it will all be.

Having said all that, people love driving. Driving is kinda synonymous with freedom itself. A lot of people won’t want to give that up. So yeah, it’ll be interesting.

But it’s going to be a long time. I would say probably 20 years before self driving cars become the norm.

So spaketh Joestradamus.

Brian Beswick – Question:

If the US or other large country were to change our building codes to require white roofs, how much of an impact of climate change could we make through increased albedo?

Purdue University has developed a super white paint that can actually reduce / eliminate a buildings need for air conditioning.

A:
Okay, I might be going on a rant real quick.

It has always bewildered me why of all the colors of the rainbow, that we use super dark colors on our roofs here in the US.

I mean I get it if you’re up north and it’s cold and you want to absorb heat, but down here in Texas? We spend all this money putting insulation and radiant barriers in our attics and then put the most heat-absorbing tiles we can find above it, I don’t get it.

I feel like there are so many passive heating and cooling techniques that we’ve lost over the years and we’ve opted to just brute force cool and heat our homes by throwing as much electricity as possible at it, maybe it’s time we relearn some of that stuff.

ANYWAY…

To answer your question, I don’t think it would make much difference on the scale of climate change, just because it’s such a small percentage of land area it’s unlikely to make a difference.

I found an article on Quora that used a report from the National Renewable Energy Lab that calculated around 5,000 square kilometers of rooftop space in the U.S., that sounds like a lot but the total area of the US is about 3.8 million square kilometers. That’s like .13%

And that’s not nothing, it might make a tiny difference but keep in mind, the US isn’t the rest of the world in fact most of the world is… WATER

Though it might make a difference to the heat island effect you see in large urban areas, so on a microclimate level, sure, maybe.

But, it’s still an interesting question because a more reflective roof might lower the temperature of houses and reduce the amount of AC needed to stay cool in the summer.

In fact, Brian referenced this new paint created by Purdue university that has beaten the record for most reflective paint in the world.

So yeah, if we put that paint on every home and building in the US and it drastically cut down on the amount of AC needed to cool it, that would be a huge energy savings, would reduce strain on the grid, reduce the amount of carbon emissions from power generation, so in that sense it might make a difference in regard to climate change.

You could probably determine a percentage reduction in energy use from that paint on rooftops and then calculate the exact amount of energy that could be saved… But I’ll let you guys do that in the comments because I’ve got to get on to the next question, which is…

Mark Hoffman – In the context of a billion+ years from now; If whatever became of us were able to become a Type II civilization, what might the viability be of using Mercury to attempt a Theia type collision with Mars?
Could Mercury, given its abundance of iron, with just the right impact angle and velocity, create a planetary core capable of producing a protective magnetic field? Might such an impact also be able to form a satellite coalescent accretion disk to help stabilize axial rotation?

A:
This is the most “Bruh” question I have ever heard.

Can we terraform Mars by smashing Mercury into it? I mean… Sure! What could go wrong?

So first of all, let me start by saying that if we did ever become a type II civilization, Mercury is toast. I think we can all agree with that.

I think I talked about this in my Dyson Sphere video? Because the structure would have to be utterly massive and the only place to get all the material would be to dismantle a planet and let’s just be honest, Mercury’s not bringing much to the table as a planet.

But smashing it into another planet to try to recreate what happened here on Earth… Bruh.

First of all, the axial rotation thing, it seems to me that it would be a lot easier to just collect asteroids from the asteroid belt and form an accretion disk from that, or clump them together to create a moon-like gravity well.

But yeah, to get a magnetic field working on Mars, I see what you’re saying, you’ve gotta rearrange the guts a bit to get a spinning inner core.

This by the way is arguably more important than the accretion disk or the moon bit, because without doing this we can never develop a thick atmosphere on Mars, because the solar wind would keep eroding it.

A more practical approach was suggested a few years ago at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 workshop by the Director of Planetary Science at NASA, Jim Green. He suggested putting a giant magnetic dipole at Mars’ L1 Lagrange point.

This would block the solar wind enough to keep most of it from hitting the planet, possibly enough for the atmosphere to thicken.

This is still a massive project that we don’t quite have the technology to do yet, but maybe in another 50 years or so?

We would still be unprotected on the surface from cosmic rays and whatnot, but there could be similar solutions on the ground to create artificial magnetic shields.

As for if it would work… I would imagine a species advanced enough to even try this would be advanced enough to make sure it worked… that the speed and angle are right and whatnot.

And the mass… So they would probably have to reduce the mass of Mercury because they say that Thea was roughly the size of Mars. And I looked this up, Mars is about 15% the mass of Earth, at 6.4185 x 1023 kg

Mercury is 3.285 x 1023kg which is 51.2% the mass of Mars so they would probably need to whittle down Mercury to get the ratio right.

Anyway, they would have to be much smarter than me but like I said, if they’re advanced enough to try it, I’m guessing they could make it work.

What the probably couldn’t do, which is the major Achilles heel of this whole idea, is make the planet habitable again for literally billions of years.

Which, if making it habitable is the point, that is pretty much the craziest possible way to do it.

Fun thought experiment though.

Cole Parker – How about this: why the hell isn’t Scotland freezing. It’s seems to be the same latitude of northern Maine or southern Sweden. Sure “gulf” stream. But how is that even a thing. And how fucked are they if it ends.

A:
Someone’s salty today!

You seem really upset that Scotland is not a frozen wasteland. What did Scotland do to you?
Point on the doll where William Wallace hurt you.

I actually have a video on the way about this. Not on the way necessarily but on deck. I’m thinking about it.

Yeah, the gulf stream is interesting and it is weakening, and if it were to collapse… it would be bad.

I think that was the premise behind The Day After Tomorrow, highly regarded as the most accurate climate change movie ever made.

But yeah, ocean currents are weird and super complex. I mean it’s fluid dynamics. It’s literally chaos.

I do plan on fully covering this topic in the somewhat near future so I’ll just kinda give a quick overview here.

The ocean currents, including the gulf stream, are thermohaline currents, thermohaline standing for temperature and salt content.

They’re influenced by a variety of things, wind, the Coriolis effect, tides, but most importantly, density.

Cold water is more dense than hot water and saltier water is more dense than less salty water. Thermo – haline.

And denser water sinks below less dense water, which is why you can have surface currents of hot water and deep ocean currents of cold water.

So the water from the tropics get a lot of sun and warm up. The winds create a current that moves that hot water north along the east coast of North America, and as it moves into the north Atlantic, there’s less sun, the air gets colder so the water gets colder.

It’s also thought that the winds evaporate the water and make it more salty.

So this now colder, saltier water sinks in giant columns of water like underwater waterfalls. Apparently more water flows through this column than all the rivers in the world.

This is actually known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

This creates the cold deep ocean current, which flows back toward the tropics, and the cycle repeats itself.

The heat this system brings to Europe is as much energy as a million nuclear power plants. I read that somewhere.

And of course climate change is messing with this because as the arctic ice melts into the ocean, it’s changing the salt content because all that ice water is fresh water, so it’s diluting the ocean, right in that important spot.

So yeah… that’s not great.

We’re already seeing some signals that the current could be slowing down, the fear is that it could completely collapse, which would plunge northern Europe into a kind of ice age.

Yes, ironically global warming could trigger an ice age, but only in Europe, it would have far ranging effects on climate systems around the world, making some areas uninhabitable from the heat.

So Cole, I guess if things keep going this way you’ll have your wish and Glasgow could be totally under a glacier. Live your dreams kids.

But that’s all the questions for today, thanks to all my patreon members for supporting the channel, I hope to do more lightning round videos like this going forward.

Forget Yellowstone – These EIGHT Supervolcanoes Could Destroy The World

Supervolcanoes are bigger than you think, and there are more of them than you think. There are, in fact, eight supervolcanoes around the world that have changed the geography of continents and caused mass extinctions. What are these volcanoes? What causes them, and most importantly, could we survive one?

Today we take a deep dive into one of the most destructive forces on the planet. And if you think that supervolcanoes have been over-hyped… trust me, they haven’t.

TRANSCRIPT:

The Minoans

3800 years ago on the Greek island of Crete, the Minoan civilization was one of the most powerful kingdoms of the bronze age.

In fact, Minoan culture was once so dominant that given a few hundred years, we might have been calling all of Greece Minoan.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, they disappeared from the region and from the historical record. So much so that we don’t really even know what they called themselves. The name “Minoan” refers to their ruler, King Minos.

And we only knew of King Minos in 1878, when his palace was discovered and excavated on Crete.

It was only after this discovery that more sites were discovered on Crete and nearby islands and we got an idea of just how extensive this civilization was.

What happened to the Minoans is still a bit of a mystery. But most agree it had something to do with this:

This is the Greek island of Thera, also known by its Latin name, Santorini. Today it’s one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, known for its distinctive architecture, dramatic 300 meter tall cliffs and stunning views of the Mediterranean.

But it didn’t always look like this. As you’ve probably already figured out, Thera is an active volcano. In fact it’s had minor eruptions 3 times in the last 100 years. But it was the eruption that occurred sometime between 1600 and 1700 BCE that reshaped not just the island of Thera, but the entire Mediterranean region.

It was an explosion that turned a giant mountain sticking out of the sea into this, a caldera, basically a sink hole.

This was basically a mountain that just blew up. Estimates say it exploded with a force of over 100 atomic bombs.

Recent estimates say the eruption could have ejected 60 cubic kilometers of rock and ash, with samples found up to 30 kilometers away.

Krakatoa, Tambora, and The Year Without a Summer

For comparison, the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa and the tsunami it created killed 36,000 people. Thera was 4-5 times more powerful than that one.

The tsunami from Thera would have devastated the Minoan’s coastal settlements on Crete and wiped out their navy.

Not to mention put enough ash and dust into the air to cause a global drop in temperature, much like the Tambora eruption in 1815.

This would have caused years of poor harvests and food shortages while the Minoans were still recovering from the damage done by the tsunami.

They didn’t vanish overnight, but they were weakened to the point that when conquerors from Mycenae came calling, the Minoans didn’t stand a chance.

They were crushed and within a few hundred years they were culturally assimilated, and then forgotten to time.

Not to mention the knock-on effects of the Thera explosion may have played a part in the entire collapse of the Bronze age around 1177 BCE.

The Thera explosion was truly epic in scale and influence, maybe one of the most consequential volcanic eruptions in the history of our species. And yet… When you set it next to the Yellowstone caldera, it looks like this.
(show pic)
Awe… That’s adorable.

 

Supervolcano Defined
This is the difference between a volcano and a supervolcano. You literally can’t see a supervolcano from the ground.
The four, overlapping calderas that form much of Yellowstone measure 70 by 45 kilometers (43 by 28 miles) and some of that area is outside the park
Yellowstone qualifies as a supervolcano because two of the eruptions that formed its calderas were supereruptions
To be a supereruption, a volcano has to eject 1,000 cubic kilometers (240 cubic miles) of material into the air.
Would a thousand kilometers be a megameter? Megometer? It would be a megameter, right? How come I’ve never heard of a megameter? Is that a thing?
Anyway, whatever you call it, it’s about 17 times the ejecta of Thera.
You know, arguably the most consequential volcanic eruption in human history.
According to Jake Lowenstern of the U.S. Geological Survey, Yellowstone’s supereruptions ejected “enough material to bury the state of Texas five feet deep!”
When I read his quote on yellowstone.org, I couldn’t tell if he meant both supereruptions together or each separately and it turns out no, each eruption could have buried the entire state of Texas.
Eruptions are rated on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, or the VEI and supereruptions rate as a VEI Magnitude 8, or M8.
The ancient Thera and Tambora 1815 eruptions — both of which lowered global temperatures, remember — were rated an M7.
Which sounds pretty close, but the VEI Index is logarithmic, so Thera and Tambora were only one-tenth of the way to a supervolcano.
Luckily for us no supereruptions have occurred since prehistoric times. But… Yellowstone isn’t alone. There are several supervolcanoes around the world just waiting to end that streak.
So how bad would it be when – not if – that happened?
No Easy Answers
To answer that question, it might be helpful to know why supereruptions happen. And the short answer is — there are a lot of long answers.
Volcanology is a field of study that’s constantly shifting and eroding.
That’s a metaphor!
So most volcanic activity happens along tectonic plate boundaries. It’s the cracks in the pie crust where the filling oozes through. I’m a little hungry.
Thing is, not not all volcanoes are born at the edge of a tectonic plate. Some, like Yellowstone, form right in the middle.
So one theory involves so-called “hot spots” the Earth’s mantle. Also known as Large Igneous Provinces.
Hot spots melt rock into magma, which then oozes out or erupts. Makes sense, but what causes the hot spots?
Mantle Plume Theory
According to geophysicist W. Jason Morgan, they’re caused by mantle plumes.
In 1971, Morgan proposed that these plumes originate deep in the Earth as a bubble of hot material.
Like I wear this shirt a lot and this is how we normally see the layers of the Earth displayed but of course it’s not perfectly symmetrical and round, it’s loaded with bulges and mantle plumes. It’s got curves yo.
But that’s mantle plume theory, the Earth is a giant lava lamp and hot bubbles of magma rise through the crust, melting rock along the way, and the heat pressure builds up and explodes in a giant supereruption.
Plate Theory
The problem is, not all scientists are convinced mantle plumes exist.
According to Plate Theory, off-boundary volcanoes are the result of crustal extension, which is my new favorite science phrase.
This states that movements of the plates cause changes in pressure far from the plate boundary.
So if local mantle rock is close to its melting point, depressurization can heat it to a magma state.
Felsic Magma
What happens next depends on several conditions, one being the composition of the magma.
Large volcanic eruptions, including supereruptions, tend to be what are known as felsic.
“Felsic” is a combination of “FELdspar” and “SILicon” – the high concentration of silicon makes it more viscous, so it resists flowing slowly through cracks.
What it does instead is it builds up in large pockets, melting the rock around it, releasing gasses that build up pressure until there’s nowhere for it to go and then Boom.
What makes a supervolcano “super” is the amount of energy in its eruption. No matter where the magma comes from, supervolcanoes have much larger chambers to hold the flaming death they must hurl at the sky.
Over the past 36 million years, there have been something like 42 supereruptions.
That number varies because figuring the VEI of ancient eruptions is tricky, but let’s take a look at some of the best known supervolcanoes.
Yellowstone
Let’s just start with Yellowstone, because I was already talking about it earlier and like I said, it’s had a couple of supereruptions.
The biggest one was the Huckleberry Ridge Supereruption that formed the largest portion of the caldera 2.1 million years ago. The second one called Lava Creek, extended the caldera’s Eastern boundary some 640,000 years ago.
Both of these supereruptions ejected enough ash to cover most of what is now the Western United States.
But those two eruptions are only part of Yellowstone’s volcanic history, in fact there have been around 80 smaller eruptions since the last supereruption.
The US Geological Survey classifies these as “relatively nonexplosive”
“Relatively” is the key word here, apparently some were the size of the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 that killed 847 people and destroyed 37,000 acres of forests.
Thankfully nothing so destructive has been seen at Yellowstone in tens of thousands of years. In fact the last volcanic event there was 70,000 years ago.
La Garita Caldera and Wah Wah Springs
But Yellowstone isn’t the only supervolcano in North America, actually there’s… a surprising number of them.
At least seven supereruptions occurred between 36 and 18 million years ago that helped shape parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
This includes that La Garita Caldera in Colorado and Utah’s Wah Wah Springs Caldera which happened just two million years apart — a drop in the bucket in geologic time.
By the way, Wah Wah Springs may be a funny name, but it was a monster eruption, it’s estimated to have ejected 5500 cubic kilometers of debris.
Aside from the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, the Wah Wah Springs supereruption may be the most energetic single event to happen on Earth.
It dwarfs Yellowstone’s biggest eruption by a factor of five. In some places, deposits from the eruption are 13,000 feet thick.
Flat Landing Brook Formation
And believe it or not, even that might be beaten by another supervolcano in North America called the Flat Landing Brook Formation in Canada.
I say might because it happened so long ago it’s hard to tell if it happened in a single event or over multiple supereruptions.
All we know is that 460 million years ago, this formation deposited 12,000 cubic kilometers of material over the area.
It’s assumed this was an ongoing process over millions of years but if it did happen all at once and ejected more than 10,000 km-cubed, it would break the Volcanic Explosivity Index.
M8 is supposed to be the upper limit, but ten-times an M8 should be an M9, a magnitude that’s off the chart
Mount Toba
Finally stepping out of North America, Mount Toba in Indonesia is another supereruption that could break the scale.
I’ve talked about the Toba explosion before, it happened fairly recently, only 74,000 years ago and it’s been thought to have nearly wiped out early humans – though that theory is falling in popularity.
Anyway, it’s ejecta has been given a range between 1500 to 13,000 cubic kilometers, which would would dwarf Wah Wah Springs on the high end.
Lake Taupo
Then there’s Lake Taupo (Toe-paw) in New Zealand, whose supereruption named Oruanui turned Mount Taupo into Lake Taupo about 26,500 years ago.
This wasn’t the largest supereruption on record but it was the most recent, and it has some interesting features.
For one thing, it happened in stages, with long breaks between. Most supervolcanoes don’t work like this but it’s thought that it may have been drawing magma from another pocket along the Kaiapo fault.
This might have caused the pressure to build more regularly and explode in 10 different phases.
Over those phases it ejected 1170 cubic kilometers. Again, that’s on the low end for supervolcanoes but it was still strong enough to cover islands 1000 kilometers away in 18 centimeters of ash.
So even if you’re a megameter away, you can still get dusty.
On top of all these supervolcanoes I mentioned there’s also a couple in South America, including the Cerro Gaucha in Bolivia and the Andes Central Volcanic Zone in Chile.
Interestingly, more than half of all the supervolcano eruptions around the world have been in North America.
Mass Extinction
That makes for a grand total of 8 supervolcano sites around the world. And none of them have gone off in a while. (nervous) Which is a little unsettling.
But exactly how borked would we be if one of these bad boys blew its top? Would it be an extinction-level event? Looking back through history can give us a clue.
Because the largest mass extinction on record is thought to coincide with a series of volcanic events.
Assuming, of course, you don’t count the current anthropocene extinction event we’re currently seeing right now, in which the volcano… is us. Be the volcano.
The Permian-Triassic extinction event, dated to around 252 million years ago, took place at the same time as the formation of the Emeishan Traps in China and Russia’s Siberian Traps.
These “flood basalt provinces” were shaped by tens-of-thousands to a million of years of eruptions and lava flows that also released massive amounts of carbon dioxide, which changed the climate drastically. And killed 96% of marine species and 73% of terrestrial species.
Again, this took place over a length of time longer than our species has been in existence. A single supervolcano explosion probably wouldn’t be enough to totally wipe us out.
But… it wouldn’t be great either.
First of all there would be massive devastation anywhere near the supereruption site. Remember that a Yellowstone eruption could bury an area the size of Texas under 5 feet of ash and magma.
So you can pretty much expect the western half of the United States to be uninhabitable for a while. That alone would displace or kill between 100 and 120 million people.
Beyond the local area, we could probably expect worldwide food shortages due to a combination of cold temperatures and acid rain, which is another fun side-effect of volcanic gasses in the atmosphere.
The atmospheric problems would probably clear up relatively quickly, in a year or two. But if the Minoans taught us anything, it’s that nature is only one part of the equation. The rest is societal.
Because society will absolutely collapse. And here’s how you can prepare for that.
Worst Case Scenario
First of all, stock up on toilet paper.  Because we’ve all seen how fast that can disappear.
You’ll also want to stock up on shelf-stable food, any medicine you need, and supplementary vitamins
Gas masks are essential if you’re anywhere near the eruption because not only do they release toxic gasses but also a lot of CO2.
Giant pockets of CO2 passing over your town would be deadly if you don’t have access to an oxygen supply, so you might want to keep some extra oxygen tanks around.
And once you’re done hiding from gas clouds, you’ll be ready to hide from a much bigger danger. Your neighbors.
When the food starts going away, people get a little crazy. We saw some of this in 1816 after the Tambora explosion and crops started failing.
Hell just the several days of darkness as the ash spreads around the world would make some people go a little primal.
So it wouldn’t be the worst idea to have an underground bunker with an electric generator, because electricity infrastructure would be massively damaged and plants will start going offline.
Of course the generators would only last a little while. Chances are transportation corridors would be closed, so gas will eventually run out when trucks can’t get to the stations.
So you’ll want to have some source of localized power. Solar is good but limited as the ash has darkened the sky, so having some wind power would help out a lot.
Just be ready to defend that when the angry hoardes come calling.
In fact, some speculate that we can expect to see communities springing up around nuclear power plants because they would still be making energy for a long time after the eruption.
Humanity would recover eventually. Maybe with our current level of technology, we would have the ability to get back up to speed faster than the Minoans were able.
Luckily, all of these sites and large igneous provinces are being studied obsessively and nobody thinks there’s a threat of a supereruption happening anytime soon.
And even then only the worst of the worst case scenarios would end our species. But it’s possible. Maybe even inevitable.
And there are other threats besides volcanoes, asteroids and the like that threaten our planet; this is the reason many people argue that we should colonize the solar system.
Don’t put all your eggs in a basket filled with supervolcanoes.
We live on a dynamic and volatile planet. One guided by forces that we can’t control.  Supervolcanoes are a sobering reminder of that.
But, and I can’t repeat this too much, it could be thousands of years before another supervolcano goes off, and there are other threats that are a lot more immediate. So let’s focus on those.

Apparently “Mind Blindness” Is A Thing

 

What do you “see” in your mind’s eye? Is it as real as looking at a photo? Or do you not see any images at all? It turns out there are 3-5% of the population who don’t have the ability to form images in their heads. It’s a condition called “Imagination blindness” or Aphantasia, and it was only recently discovered.

 

Along with Aphantasia is the opposite end of the spectrum, Hyperphantasia, where the mind’s eye is so vivid, it’s hard to distinguish between what’s real and what’s imagination.

It opens up a lot of questions about how we see and perceive our world.

 

I want to start this video with a little exercise. So if you don’t mind playing along with me, here’s what I want to do…

I want you to imagine a dog. Any dog. Just whenever I say the word “dog” what comes to mind? And then I want you to go into the comments and describe what you see in as much detail as possible. Go ahead and pause the video, take your time, just what do you see when I ask you to imagine a dog.

 

Go ahead. (wait a beat. Eat something)

 

All right, so some of you will have described a very specific dog, specific color, hair length, size, age, maybe it’s even doing something like panting or sleeping or running.

A certain percentage of comments might describe it exactly like looking at a photograph or a video.

 

For others, the description might be of a vague dog, no specifics really but still a dog.

And of course most of those comments will describe your mom.

 

But if recent studies are any indicator, there’s about three to five percent of you that weren’t able to visualize anything at all. Maybe didn’t even understand the question.

Because it turns out that some people don’t have a mind’s eye.

 

This inability to visualize in your mind’s eye is a condition called aphantasia. It’s also known as “image-free thinking.”

Those who have aphantasia are unable to create images in their minds of people, places, and objects.

 

On the complete opposite end is a condition experienced by 10 to 15 percent of people called hyperphantasia.

That’s when someone has extremely vivid visualizations in the mind’s eye.

https://aphantasia.com/what-is-aphantasia/

 

[Basic definitions:
Aphantasia = no ability to create visuals in your mind’s eye
Hyperphantasia = inability to turn off the visuals in your mind’s eye]

To be clear, it’s not simply that some people have one or the other and some don’t. It’s a spectrum.

According to Dr. Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter in Britain, “This is not a disorder as far as I can see,” “It’s an intriguing variation in human experience.”

 

And Dr. Zeman should know because he coined the term a-phantasia. Phantasia being the Latin word for fantasy or imagination. So, A-phantasia is someone who is without that.

He coined this phrase in 2015 after meeting a patient he named “MX” who could no longer imagine after undergoing heart surgery.

 

After telling the patient’s story to the media, people started coming out of the woodwork to say that yeah, they can’t do that either.

And this is when things got interesting because it turns out this is a relatively common experience, but people didn’t really talk about it because they didn’t realize their experience was any different than anybody else’s.

 

We just kind of assume that other people’s experience of imagining things is similar to our own, so we don’t question it. It kind-of took someone losing it for us to know that it was something you could be without.

 

Although it wasn’t totally out of the blue. British psychologist Francis Galton first reported similar cases way back in 1880.

He conducted a study where he asked 100 participants to imagine their breakfast tables. Twelve people claimed to have very dim mental images or no imagery at all.

 

But this research was practically ignored for more than a hundred years until Zeman came along with MX’s story.

Now even though the term “aphantasia” technically means “without imagination”, that’s not really what’s going on here.

 

People with aphantasia can still be imaginative and experience the world fully. They just don’t do it with what we might call a “mind’s eye”.

In fact, they’re probably really good at knowing facts, but struggle with episodic memory and remembering faces.

 

When asked to describe his fiancee, one person told the BBC in 2015 that he can think about her, that she’s brunette, and that she has her hair up at the back.

“But I’m not describing an image I am looking at,” he said. “I’m remembering features about her, that’s the strangest thing…”

 

In other words, some people with aphantasia can recall things they’ve seen, but it’s memory and not imagination.

Also, it’s not just visual images. Fairly recently it swept social media that some people have an inner monologue and some people don’t. That’s a kind of aphantasia.

For what it’s worth I don’t just have a monologue, I have a dialogue. Between multiple characters. My brain’s basically a Monty Python sketch. And I personally can’t imagine how someone could function without that, but a lot of people do and that’s super interesting to me.

 

Actually my writer Jason, when he was researching this topic, he found out that a member of his improv group has aphantasia.

He said that he kind-of has an inner monologue, but it’s just a string of words, unless he imagines it in like an actor’s voice, then it’s like his thoughts have a narrator. And as for images, he says he can remember a similar image and extrapolate from that, but to put it in computer terms, images are more like a database entry with various qualities of the image listed but the link to the image is broken.

 

And this is a common thing I ran across researching this, that people with aphantasia can recall various details of an image but it just doesn’t form an actual image in their minds. Now to switch to the other side of the spectrum for a second, someone with hyperphantasia might see pictures in their mind so vivid that they can have trouble telling the difference between imagination and reality.

 

In fact, for some people the visualization in their mind is more visceral and affecting than looking at an actual image.

The artist Clare Dudeney described this in an interview with Science Focus in 2019, saying, “When people describe some terrible accident, I visualise it so strongly that I feel it’s happening to me.” She added, “I can watch gruesome things on TV and be fine, but a passage in a book can bring to mind such vivid images that I faint.”

 

Honestly, I might be closer to that than I am to aphantasia. Sometimes I’ll be daydreaming and maybe I’ll imagine trying to catch something and I’ll knock things off my table. Happened a lot when I was a kid in school actually, I got stared at a lot.

 

[It’s not just a “some people have it and some don’t” scenario. It’s a spectrum and on one extreme is aphantasia and hyperphantasia on the other. Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

It was only given a name recently when (details in the TED talk) someone had a brain injury and they noticed they couldn’t visualize afterwards.
It’s not something that was understood to be a thing because people don’t question how they experience the world; we just assume everyone experiences it like we do. It took someone losing it to know what it’s like to not have it.

How people with aphantasia and hyperphantasia experience the world]

 

But like Dr. Zeman said earlier in the video, this isn’t a cognitive ailment by any means, there are pros and cons to both extremes of the spectrum.

 

Some of the positive traits for aphantasia include:

– High abstract reasoning
– Increased concentration skills
– Being more present in the moment

Some disadvantages include:

– Unable to dream in pictures
– Inability to imagine the faces of loved ones who have passed away
– Being lost when someone describes something you haven’t seen or experienced

For hyperphantasia, the pros may include:

– Seeing everything vividly in your head
– Ability to plan things in more detail
– Resuming dreams after waking up

And the challenges may include:

– Seeing everything vividly in your head
– Reliving situations over and over in your head
– Losing focus

 

In fact some have argued that people with aphantasia are better able to deal with traumatic experiences because they don’t recall it as vividly and immediately as other people do.

Whereas someone with hyperphantasia might be more prone to conditions like PTSD because every time they remember the trauma it’s like it’s happening all over again. So if you have aphantasia, you might be more likely to work in scientific or mathematical professions than other people, you might have a natural leg up in those areas.

 

Which might make you ask, where do you land on this spectrum, what natural abilities might you have because of it? Well, there are several tests to help determine that. British psychologist David Marks developed the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ) in 1973. Researchers refer to it most often when they study imagery extremes like aphantasia and hyperphantasia.

 

The test includes four scenarios in which you’re asked to rank how vividly you can see them in your mind. The scenarios include imagining a loved one’s face, a favorite store, or a pretty landscape. The one-to-five ratings go from “no image at all” to “perfectly realistic.”

 

Another evaluation is the Spontaneous Use of Imagery Scale (SUIS), which measures general occurrences of imagery in daily life. It consists of twelve scenarios and uses a five-point rating scale. A Dutch version uses nine scenarios.
https://psyarxiv.com/j2h8k/download

 

SUIS doesn’t measure the auditory part I mentioned earlier, the inner monologue thing, it only focuses on visual imagery. SUIS is concerned with the frequency and likelihood of mental imagery, compared to the VVIQ that focuses on the vividness and quality of mental images.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4538780/

 

There’s also the Object-Spatial Imagery Questionnaire (OSIQ), which was created to evaluate individual differences in visual imagery experiences and preferences.

 

It has two scales:

– Object imagery, which evaluates preferences for processing and representing colorful, high-res, and pictorial images of specific objects
– Spatial imagery, which evaluates preferences for processing and representing relations among objects, spatial transformations, and schematic images

 

Binocular rivalry is another way to measure mental imagery. This process investigates the neural mechanisms of perceptual awareness. Visual perception alternates between our eyes during binocular rivalry when we’re presented with two different fields of view. The back and forth of perception relies on the strength of inhibitory interactions between neuronal groups in the visual cortex.

 

Studies using binocular rivalry priming have shown that aphantasia is more due to a lack of sensory imagery and not a lack of metacognition. That was a lot of big words and I think it broke me. I’ll put links to all these tests down in the description if you want to go see where you lie on this scale.

 

Pros and cons of aphantasia and hyperphantasia

A few things that stood out was that it’s possible people with aphantasia might handle traumatic experiences better because they can’t visualize them whereas people with average or hyperphantasia relive bad memories over and over more vividly. However, being unable to visualize in your mind might make some types of work impossible (TED talk mentions architect)

 

Types of tests to see where you are on the mind’s eye spectrum:

VVIQ
SUIS
OSIQ
Binocular rivalry

 

But hold on a second, if we experience visuals in our “mind’s eye” so differently, does that apply to how we see things in general? Like how does our brain process visuals in the first place?

 

Here’s a brief rundown.

The optic nerve travels to two places, the thalamus and the superior colliculus, which helps determine where our eyes and head move. Visual input then travels to the visual cortex from the thalamus. The visual cortex is located at the back of our brains. It’s where the building blocks of vision are combined to produced perception.

 

Researchers believe that visual processing occurs through two information streams:

– Where Pathway – which deals with object movement and location
– What Pathway – which recognizes and identifies objects

 

But the visual cortex can be divided into several distinct sub-regions, with simple visual features located in lower areas and more complex features in higher areas. The primary visual cortex is at the bottom, and it’s sensitive to basic visual signals like object orientation and direction. The next area up responds to contours, textures, and if something is in the background or foreground.

 

After this area, the pathways carrying What and Where information split up into specific brain areas. For example, the inferior temporal cortex that represents complete objects is located at the top of the What hierarchy. There is even a part of this cortex called the fusiform face area that specifically responds to faces.

 

But this bottom-up approach to processing vision is slow. That’s why the brain also relies on top-down mechanisms to process visuals.

Since a lot of information gets lost by the time it reaches the brain, our brains construct reality for us based on past experiences and stored information. Top-down mechanisms affect things like attention, object expectation, scene segmentation, and working memory.

 

The entire visual pathway, except for the retina, is influenced by top-down mechanisms. Knowing this, how do we create images in our heads? In other words, how does imagination work in our brains?

 

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013 helps answer this. The study’s researchers analyzed multiple patterns of fMRI data and discovered it wasn’t just the visual cortex alone that contributed to imagination.

 

There were twelve “regions of interest” also involved. Brain areas like the cerebellum, the medial frontal cortex, and the precuneus helped create a “mental workplace” to create imagined people, places, and things.

 

People with aphantasia who have difficulty imagining things may have had it their whole lives, or it was brought on by a medical or psychological condition. Another reason people with aphantasia might not be able to visualize may be due to cortical excitability.

 

In other words, how sensitive the neurons are in your frontal cortex. In a study published in eLife in 2020, scientists discovered that the less excitable someone’s visual cortex is, the more vivid their mind’s eye. “When we found that cortical excitability was negatively correlated with imagery strength, we were at first surprised,” lead researcher Rebecca Keogh told Aphantasia Network. “But as all of the other experiments started to line up showing the same trend, we became excited that we had found a potential underlying mechanism that explains individual difference in imagery ability.”

 

The researchers conducted further studies and arrived at a theory that those who have hyperphantasia either have a not-excitable visual cortex, an excitable prefrontal cortex, or both. And those who have aphantasia have a more excitable visual cortex, a less excitable prefrontal cortex, or both.

 

And I said before, this experience varies across individuals. And it’s not one or the other, it’s a whole spectrum.

[Any research into how we create visuals in our brains (Reticular Activating System?) and why on a physical level some people can’t do it

Inner monologue similar – some people have it and some don’t.

My own experience (might do one of these tests on myself and see what I get. I feel like I lean toward hyperphantasia)]

 

For me this is just further proof that how we see the world is unique in so many ways. I mean we’re literally over here talking about how we visualize the world differently.

 

And maybe now that we understand the “phantasia” spectrum, it can open up conversations about how we see things differently. Maybe this is the beginning of a new era of understanding and celebrating our different worldviews.

 

Any day now. Any day now that could happen.

Victorian Medicine Was Completely Insane

Here we go again. I recently covered the Victorian Era but today I want to point out the incredibly weird health and beauty practices that Victorians were into back in the day.

As I say in the video, Victorian medicine was a mix of terrible old ideas and terrible new ideas, from people drinking radioactive water to eating ground-up mummies our transition to the modern medical system we see today hit some interesting bumps in the road.