Month: December, 2021

2021 Year in Review | Answers With Joe

Well, 2021 is coming to a close, so let’s take a look back at some of the biggest science stories of the year – and look ahead at what to look forward to in 2022!


Well, we made it. 2021 is coming to a close and here we are. We survived. A little beaten, a little broken, but here we are.

I say we survived… Truth be told, I’m recording this early because I’d like to have a little time off for the holidays so hopefully we’re all still here and haven’t been destroyed by an asteroid or something worse…

So, this is either my swan song or my latest episode. Either way, let’s make it a banger.

This is going to be one of my more straightforward episodes. It’s basically a list of the science and technology accomplishments of 2021, followed by what we can expect to happen in those fields next year.

Let’s launch right into it.


First on our docket is space, our fascinating neighbor above our heads. Here are some highlights from this year.

NASA’s Perseverance rover landed safely on Mars in February. 

In April, a small helicopter that traveled with Perseverance named Ingenuity became the first powered flight of an aircraft on another planet when it hovered for 30 seconds above the surface of Mars. 

Also in April, SpaceX secured a $2.89 billion contract with NASA to build its next crewed lunar lander. 

And let’s not forget another news item from April when China’s Tiangong space station was launched with its first core module named Tianhe. 

On May 5, the Starship SN15 from SpaceX flew up to around 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), performed several maneuvers, and landed softly on its landing pad six minutes after takeoff. 

SpaceX’s Starship prototypes are around 46 meters (150 feet) tall, similar to the height of a 15-story building. Three Raptor rocket engines power each starship.

On July 11, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo carried Richard Branson and five other crewmates to 86 kilometers (53 miles) above Earth’s surface.

They experienced four minutes of weightlessness before gliding back down to the Spaceport America facility in New Mexico.  

On July 20, Blue Origin carried its first humans above the Karman line, the boundary between our atmosphere and outer space that is 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

Blue Origin’s founder Jeff Bezos, his brother, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen were on the flight.

Funk was 82 years old, and Daemen was 18 years old, making them the oldest and youngest people to travel in outer space at the time.

On July 29, an incident occurred on board the International Space Station when a Russian module fired its thrusters when it shouldn’t have, making the station begin to spin, but luckily flight engineers were able to bring the station under control. 

On September 16th, the Inspiration4 mission orbited the Earth for 2 days carrying an all civilian crew on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, making it the first all civilian orbital flight in history.

The crew featured Jared Isaacman, who also funded the mission, Sian Proctor, Christopher Sembroski, and Hayley Arceneaux, who actually just recently was hired by SpaceX so congratulations to her.

Astra Space’s Rocket 3.3 reached orbit on November 20 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska on Kodiak Island. 

In December, Rocket Lab shared details about its Neutron rocket that’s designed to carry satellites into space.

The rocket is made out of a special carbon, will be mostly reusable, and should touchdown on a landing pad after launching. 

Electric Vehicles

Up next, electric vehicles.

According to BloombergNEF, electric vehicles made up 7.2 percent of global car sales in the first half of 2021.

That’s up from 2.6 percent in 2019 and 4.3 percent in 2020.

Its data also shows that electric vehicles made up 3 percent of sales in North America in the first half of the year. 

Some of the new vehicles that went on sale or were planned to go on sale this year include the:

  • Ford Mustang Mach-E
  • GMC Hummer EV
  • Mercedes-Benz EQC400
  • Nissan Ariya
  • Polestar 2
  • Rivian R1T
  • Tesla Cybertruck
  • Volkswagen ID.4

In October, automaker Rivian reported that it had produced 180 R1T pickups and delivered 156 of them. 

Also in October, Lucid Motors started its first delivery of Lucid Air Dream.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certified that it can go 520 miles on a single charge, making it the longest range of any pure battery electric vehicle.

The vehicle was named MotorTrench Car of the Year that month, too. 

And in December, the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission requested documents from the company that relate to an investigation of its special purpose acquisition company merger with Churchill Capital Corp. IV earlier in the year.

No surprise, its stock shares plummeted by 10 percent when that news got out.

The Edison Electric Institute announced the new National Electric Highway Coalition in December.

The coalition includes more than 50 U.S. utility companies and cooperatives that have come together to help speed up the building of electric vehicle charging stations along the country’s highways.  

Tesla vehicles continued to be popular this year. In its third quarter that ended in October, its total production of its 3/Y and S/X models was 237,823, which is up 64 percent year over year.

Its deliveries for both models was 241,391, a 73 percent increase year over year. 

And in late October, Tesla’s market value hit $1 trillion after it made a deal to sell 100,000 vehicles to car-rental company Hertz.


Moving on. Next up: Healthcare and a couple of highlights from this past year.

Back in April, Neuralink released a video showing a monkey using the company’s brain chip to play the video game Pong telepathically.

The company also raised $205 million in venture backing over the summer.

It plans to start testing its brain chips in humans next year. 

Probably the biggest news in healthcare this year was the approval of the COVID-19 vaccine, which regardless of how it’s been weaponized politically, was a huge achievement and a major step forward in mRNA vaccines.

As of early December, more than 8.3 billion doses have been administered across 184 countries, including 476 million doses in the US. 

This is important because the more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, the better chance we have at overcoming the pandemic and helping slow down deadly mutations of the virus.


From your body to the world’s body, the environment.

At the end of COP26 in November, 151 countries submitted new climate plans to help cut their emissions by the year 2030.

In the fall, researchers at Linköping University in Sweden and Soochow University in China manufactured a solar cell using a solution with a high boiling point and without any toxic ingredients.

The cell’s energy efficiency is better than 17 percent.

Also this past fall, scientists at ETH Zurich in Switzerland built a plant that produces carbon-neutral liquid fuels from sunlight and air. 

In 2021, scientists at The Ohio State University discovered a way to turn hydrogen sulfide into hydrogen fuel.

Other Scientific Developments

A few other notable scientific developments include:

In July, researchers at Google along with physicists at Princeton, Stanford used Google’s quantum computer to demonstrate a genuine “time crystal.” This was something that was only first theorized a couple years ago.

Gravitational-wave observatories released a new crop of 35 events, bringing the total number of detections to 90.

The new events include the lightest neutron star ever seen, as well as two clashes involving large black holes.

Scientists confirmed that there was no evidence of phosphine in the clouds of Venus. The gas may have been mistaken for sulfur dioxide. 

On October 1, the European and Japanese BepiColombo mission made its first fly-by of Mercury.

It passed just 199 kilometers (124 miles) above the planet’s surface and took black-and-white pictures of the planet’s crater-filled surface from a distance of around 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).

This year, a team at City University of Hong Kong discovered a new type of sound wave. This airbourne wave vibrates transversely and carries spin and orbital angular momentum like light does.

The discovery may help develop applications in acoustic communications, sensing, and imaging. 

It was reported in late November that scientists from the University of Vermont, Tufts University, and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering developed a new form of biological reproduction different from any animal or plant known to science.

They took stem cells from frogs and turned them into robots, called xenobots. Those robots began to reproduce. 

So, this is how humanity ends, right?



Assuming AI doesn’t eliminate the human race, we have some things to look forward to in 2022.

The James Webb Space Telescope launches on Dec. 22, 2021. Or maybe it’s launched already. We’ll know by the time this episode is released.

We should be able to start seeing images from the telescope about six months after it launches. 

SpaceX’s orbital starship may launch in January or February. It will involve a starship prototype named SN20 that has six Raptor engines and a 29-engine Super Heavy called Booster 4. 

NASA is planning to launch its megarocket called the Space Launch System in February. This rocket is part of the Artemis program, which plans to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024. 

Firefly Aerospace is aiming for its second orbital launch attempt of its Alpha rocket next year.

Relativity Space, a 3D rocket printing company, is planning the demonstration launch of its lightweight Terran 1 rocket in early 2022. 

Electric Vehicles

As far as electric vehicles are concerned, we can expect exciting new models to be released next year. Some of these include: 

  • BMW i4
  • Cadillac Lyriq
  • Ford F-150 Lightning
  • Kia EV6
  • Polestar 3
  • Rivian RS1
  • Toyota bZ4X
  • Volvo C40 Recharge

Meanwhile Tesla is projecting to reach 1.3 million deliveries in 2022 as the Giga Berlin factory goes into full production along with the Austin Gigafactory. And with any luck we’ll start to see cars delivered with the new 4680 cells


When it comes to health and medicine next year, I’m going to make a bold prediction: There will be more COVID-19 variants and more vaccines. I know, wild, right?


Even more wild is the alternative energy sector.

A report from S&P Global Market Intelligence says that U.S. solar and wind deployments will hit new records in 2022.

It’s expected that as much as 44 gigawatts of utility-scale solar and 27 gigawatts of wind power will come online next year.

S&P also expects 8 gigawatts of storage to be installed in 2022. This would be about six times higher than a previous record in 2020.

So that’s just kind-of a quick look at what we can expect next year, but I’d love to hear what you’re most excited about. Let me know in the comments.

As for me personally, this last year has been as weird for me as it has been for everyone else, I’m sure 2022 will innovate new and exciting kinds of weird for us to experience.

Channel wise it’s been a great year and if anybody’s curious my top 5 videos were…

I’ve got a lot of big things planned for the next year, I just purchased a lot of equipment so we can step up the quality of the videos… This one notwithstanding.

But at the end of every year, we look back on the previous year with a certain level of exhaustion and hope that the next one will be better. I’m sure 2022 will have its rough moments, but I wish the best for all of you.

Scientists Have Discovered The Largest Structure In The Universe

In today’s Lightning Round video, I answer questions from Patreon supporters on topics such as the Giant Arc – possibly the largest structure ever discovered in the universe, how autonomous cars will change industries, geopolitical instability, and whether phones can actually disrupt commercial aircraft.


It’s almost Christmas, so it’s time for Christmas lights-ning round.

And because it’s the 6th day of Christmas, I’ve got 6 geese a-layin’, meaning 6 questions. Because geese are very inquisitive animals and they’re laying questions…

Nothing about this analogy works. I’m not even sure if it’s the 6th day; where do you start counting from?

Apparently all of the different “gifts” in the song represent something and the partridge in a pear tree is supposed to mean they’re having an affair? That’s what my wife told me anyway. It’s all very weird, I’m sure the Victorians came up with it.

It’s probably all just hallucinations from arsenic and lead poisoning washed down with cocaine wine.

Anyway… Let’s get to the questions!

Like always these Lightning Round questions were gathered from Patreon supporters who are supporting at the solar system level so big thanks to them for the support as well as the questions.

Robin Tennant Colburn

Do cell phones really interfere with commercial airplane cockpit equipment?

Seems pretty hard to believe they don’t confiscate phones if it is true or wouldn’t a lot of planes have come down?–I think this falls into the category of “An Abundance of Caution”

According to pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith, ““Can cellular communications really disrupt cockpit equipment? The answer is potentially yes, but in all likelihood no,”“Even if it is not actively engaged with a call, a powered phone dispatches bursts of energy that can, in theory, interfere with a plane’s electronics. Aircraft are designed and shielded with this interference in mind, however, and this should mitigate any ill effects.”

So airplane mode is just an extra layer of protection when the plane is in the air, but it’s on takeoff and landing that it’s the most important, this is when most airplane incidents occur.

This is when it’s most important for pilots to communicate clearly with the tower and really, this is the only time the pilots actually do any flying, the rest is just done on autopilot with the pilots there to keep watch and make sure everything’s working correctly.

It’s the same reason they want you to put away large electronic devices at takeoff and landing, should something go wrong, you don’t want those flying around. It’s very unlikely to be necessary, but it can’t hurt to be cautious.

I for one don’t care. It’s a tiny price to pay. Commercial plane crashes are down to almost nothing, thanks to this overabundance of caution, so I’m kinda fine with that. Flying is a modern miracle. Smartphones are a modern miracle. Must we have both at the same time?

Also this: 

Plus, as Business Insider notes, the sheer effort of hundreds of in-flight cell phones attempting to connect to on-the-ground towers can put a major strain on cellular networks.

On the ground, your phone connects to one cell tower at a time (the closest one to you), switching to a new one as you move. But, as Travel + Leisure reports, when you’re far from the towers at 10,000 feet in the air traveling at hundreds of miles an hour, your phone connects to multiple towers at once.

That congestion can potentially make it more difficult for people on the ground to connect.

Cole Parker

While one might debate the when, the if of self driving cars seems settled. When level-4 unoccupied driving becomes available what business and services types are the most effected? Taxis seems obvious but what about parking lots or gas stations?

Gas stations I assume would be more affected by electrification than autonomy What even is a gas station anymore? Isn’t it all convenience stores with self-service gas pumps (except in some places) Because drivers will no longer be pumping gas themselves, gas stations won’t be needed at major intersections and fueling and recharging will likely take a place in out of the way locations where real estate is less expensive.  However, some observers believe the spread of AVs could be boon for convenience stores as long-distance trips will become more popular and replace air travel. Even if the nature of filling stations change, passengers will still need to stop to use the bathroom or to get something to eat or drink, so it remains to be seen if business at roadside convenience stores could increase.  Insurance companies Warren Buffet: Buffett told CNBC, “If they’re safer, there’s less in the way of insurance costs, [and] that brings down premiums significantly.”
Trucking/logistics Hauling more goods for less money could lower prices on everything. long-haul trucking will become more efficient which could put pressure on railroads;


Beyond these five, many other industries will be affected. For example, the need for parking spaces will be gradually relieved, which will also affect the way real estate is used;  more cellular data and entertainment services like Netflix will be consumed during car trips; package and food delivery will become more efficient and cheaper, accelerating the growth of restaurant delivery and e-commerce; driving schools will become obsolete; 

Brian Beswick

Can you talk about The Great Arc?

Is the Cosmological Principle dead?

This was interesting, I wasn’t aware of this one.
So the Giant Arc was discovered thanks to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, so let’s start with that.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, or SDSS, is a 2.5m wide optical telescope that conducts multi-spectral imaging and red-shift surveying. It’s based out of Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico.

It’s been through many iterations over the years but first started operating in 1999 and its job is to survey as much of the sky as possible.

Like most telescopes zoom in on a tiny point in the sky or a single star or there’s that famous Hubble Deep Field photo where they pointed it at a tiny patch of sky and found all these galaxies, this is the opposite of that.

This telescope wants to capture the entire sky every night and just chug away collecting massive amounts of data, like it collects 200 gigs of data every night.
Anyway, all of this data is made available for astronomers to use and cosmologist Alexia Lopez found what might be the largest structure in the universe.(Alexia Lopez, University of Central Lancashire in Preston, England)

It looks like this, and they’re calling it the Giant Arc. So, just to explain what you’re looking at here, all the little blue dots are quasars, basically primordial black holes which I’ve talked about in a previous video but they’re super old and therefore really, really far away. And the gray blobs are galaxy clusters in between the quasars and us. And what Lopez and her team were looking for were specific signatures of light coming off of those quasars that would indicate that the light was passing through matter, in this case they were looking at magnesium.

In other words, magnesium atoms in the galaxy clusters were absorbing specific frequencies of light, or electromagnetic radiation. Now, we can’t see these galaxy clusters, but the magnesium in the stars and dust clouds were absorbing that particular frequency of light in those spots, so that’s how you know there’s something there.

And this something, this massive supercluster of galaxy clusters stretches across 1/15th the distance of the entire observable universe. If you could see it in the sky, it would be 20 times wider than the moon.

Which might not sound like much but that’s 9.2 billion light years away so yeah, it’s huge.

Now Brian also mentions the Cosmological Principle, and this is where things get pretty interesting.

The Cosmological Principle is a hypothesis that the universe is homogeneous at large scales, that in a big-picture view, stuff should kinda be everywhere, which is why things like the Bootes void is so weird.
So if this is an actual structure that’s that big in the universe, it kinda breaks that hypothesis.  And that would be a big deal. The question, basically, is are we seeing an actual structure or is it just a random collection of galaxy clusters that just happened to line up, and we see a structure because we’re pattern-seekers?

But there are other large structures that have been theorized lately too, including the Sloan Great Wall, the Giant Gamma-Ray Burst Ring and the Huge Large Quasar Group.

Maybe I could do a video on the largest objects in the universe? Just saying…

Matt Herring

Hey Joe, it’s been a while, hope all is well! Question: what technology are you the most excited for and why?

For me it’s mRNA if for no other reason than potential cancer vaccines.
Okay, first of all, guys, Matt Herring was one of my very first Patreon supporters, and he is still going strong on there, which absolutely blows my mind, total legend.

But when it comes to your question, I’ve gotta be honest, the mRNA thing is way up there for me.
I spend so much time worrying about cancer, especially the ones like pancreatic cancer that by the time you know you have it, it’s pretty much too late.

I actually lost an uncle to that a couple of years ago. Like literally he was diagnosed and 6 weeks later he was gone. Just unreal.
So yeah, anything that could take away that always-there anxiety about stuff like cancer would be a huge deal, for mental health reasons if nothing else.

I actually went to a conference on aging and longevity recently (text on screen: Thanks Chris!) and there were some great speakers talking about stem cell therapies and research into reversing aging which appeal to me for


I’m old, I’m getting old.

There was another speaker there (James Mault) who had come up with this thing called the BioButton that can regularly monitor your health signs so you can stay on top of things and fix them when they’re small.
He talked about how we don’t really have healthcare, we have sick care, we just do our thing and go see the doctor when we’re sick but just like anything else in this world, we need regular maintenance to keep problems from coming up.

Maintenance, and monitoring so you know when big problems are still small. Like we have that light on the dashboard in our cars to tell us something is wrong and we need to do something before the engine overheats or whatever, we could have that for our bodies. And we may be on the brink of new wearable devices that can do that. And I find that pretty cool.

Other things I find exciting are energy breakthroughs, all these fusion companies are making progress here and there, a thorium reactor I believe just went online in China, I’ve covered Small Modular Reactors on my channel.
And yeah, to me electric cars and energy storage is a big part of that as well, those get me excited.

I’ve been dipping my toe into VR stuff recently and starting to see the potential for that. If someone really does nail smartglasses, I think that would be a huge gamechanger. I’m ready to see something like that coming.
JWST, I’ve got every digit crossed for that over the next 6 months.

Yeah, some exciting stuff on the way. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, feel free to leave what you’re excited about in the comments.

And now, a less inspiring topic.

Maasman (Colton Maas)

What do you think the next 10 years will look like Geo politically?

Colton went on to talk about China and Russia and some of their more aggressive moves lately, like apparently Russia has started amassing troops on the border of Ukraine which is not encouraging.
I am not remotely qualified to answer this question so I’m just going to touch on a couple of things.

We’ve been seeing a rise in authoritarianism lately and I know it’s probably too simplistic but I do think the internet has a lot to do with it.

The internet is still very new from a historical perspective, and web 2.0, with the social media landscape, is only, what, just over 10 years old? And we are basically a tribal species that is struggling to be a global species, and it’s caused a lot of chaos and upheaval.

And in times of chaos and upheaval, people look to strongmen and cults of personality to guide them through. And I think that’s what we’re seeing.

I really hope that the upcoming generation will probe to be more saavy about that since they were brought up on the internet, and I think there’s some reasons to thing that might be the case.

Plus there are always pendulum swings, there will be anti-authoritarian movements that push back against the current trends, but whether that happens in the next 10 years is a big question.

So these authoritarians are going to grab as much as they can while they can, they’re going to continue to use social media to tear apart the US, who has kinda been the world police for a while now.
I don’t want to be a total downer but I do think there are going to be some difficult times ahead. I don’t think the worst is behind us. But again, this is the opinion of a very non-expert. So, make of that what you will.

John Regel 

If you could go back 5 years but only had enough energy in the time portal machine to shout a single statement at yourself through the time tunnel, what would you say?

You know what, honestly, I would just say, “Keep making videos, it works out!” Five years ago was a very interesting time for me because I’d been doing weekly videos on this channel for about 2 years and was just over 10,000 subscribers.

I was still working at the job at the newspaper and had just been picked for the YouTube NextUp program, which was a big motivator to try to do this full-time but I was nowhere near making enough to live off of.

But I had a chance to take another job, one where I would be managing youtube channels, and it was a big pay cut actually, and I took it. It was a crazy leap of faith and most people thought I’d lost my mind. I thought I’d lost my mind.

And then 6 months later my entire department at my last job got canned. Getting out when I did was one of the luckiest breaks I’ve ever had.
So yeah, it was rough for a while but I kept at it and things started to grow and here we are… But those were REALLY stressful times, actually it’s funny you picked 5 years ago because I really didn’t know how all this would turn out.

So yeah, a little validation at that time would have been nice.

BUT… if I knew, would I have worked as hard, butterfly effect, etc.?

John Regel

Have you ever noticed that dogs train us to a lesser degree?

About a year ago, my dog began walking up to my wife and I and stretching. We always found it so cute that we’d scratch his sides. It took us about a month to realize he was shaping our behavior as well. Is this owner bias (I.e. my dog is super smart because he’s my dog) or has he modified our behavior with positive reinforcement (doing something we find cute)?

As always with these lightning round videos, if you’d like to see a deeper dive into any of these subjects, please let me know in the comments. It could be it’s own video.

Dropping Science with Neil deGrasse Tyson

In this episode I had the pleasure to meet with Neil Degrasse Tyson, who gives me the lowdown his life as a science communicator, the incredible explosion of technology that we’re all living through, and the little inspirations that guided his career along the way. It’s a fascinating look at what drives one of the most famous science communicators in the world.

You can find Neil’s book, A Brief Welcome to the Universe: A Pocket-Sized Tour here:



How Scientists Accidentally Created The World’s Worst Smell

Thioacetone is a chemical whose smell is so bad, it’s almost impossible to believe. Weirdly, it was created from a chemical that you can find in candy. But it opens up questions about how smell works and why we react to smells the way we do.


We’ve all kinda gotten used to COVID-19 at this point and we’ve heard all the weird effects it can have on the body but one of the weirdest has to be that it makes you lose your sense of smell.

Remember when it was still new and we were learning new things about it all the time, how weird that was? Remember panicking if you thought you weren’t smelling something at the level you thought you should?

We only have 5 senses, and this disease, for reasons we still don’t understand two years later, turns one of them off.

Imagine if it made you blind temporarily, or deaf, or you couldn’t feel anything you touched?

I guess there are other diseases that do that actually.

But the point is, everybody who lost their sense of smell talks about how weird it makes everything, how it makes it hard to eat because food all tastes like Elmers glue.

Don’t know what you got till it’s gone I guess.

But there are some instances where not having a sense of smell would probably be a good thing. For example if you were ever to run across a certain chemical called Thioacetone; considered by many to be the worst smell in the world.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever smelled? Really, think about it, put it in the comments. I bet just thinking about it brings you back to a vivid memory of some kind. Probably not a great one. Maybe it’s even something that traumatized you. And you’re now spiraling into a dark abyss of pain you thought you had escaped. A door you thought you had permanently shut. And now you’re back inside of it, trapped, screaming into the uncaring void…

…Sorry I just made you do that.

But that’s the power of smell, it’s wired directly into our emotional centers, it’s our most primal sense. And yet, we still don’t really know how it works.

I know that sounds like clickbait, but it’s true, there’s no single agreed-upon theory of smell.

What we do know is that a smell happens when an odor molecule binds to a receptor within the nasal cavity.

That smell is then interpreted by the glomerulus which gets a bunch of information from other receptors in the nose called olfactory receptor neurons, and then combines all that info together into what we call smell.

And that is about how deep our understanding goes, we’re still struggling to figure out how exactly our olfactory receptors detect the molecules in the first place.

There are competing theories.

Docking theory of olfaction: Purposes a very 1:1 match. It’s kind-of a lock and key situation where a molecule key fits into a receptor lock. Each receptor is either on or off and the number of different receptors tells the brain how to interpret it.

Odotope theory: Is similar to docking theory except that molecules can fit several types of receptors and vice versa. It’s more of a matter of processing the signal through the noise.

Vibration theory of olfaction: That the molecules fit into receptors but the receptors are actually interpreting the vibrations of the molecules at the atomic level.

This one is pretty controversial, it also posits that quantum tunneling is involved which is totally nuts, so it’s heavily debated. I just think it’s funny that smelling science has drama.

But because we don’t know exactly how it works, it turns out you can’t really measure stink.

Or I should say you can measure the concentration of a smell but good or bad is rather subjective. One person’s stinky cheese or dripping gasoline odor is someone else’s bouquet of roses. Noses are weird.

So there is no objective scale of smells like, say scoville units that measure spiciness by the level of capsaicin in a food.

What we can gather is people’s reactions to the stink and see just how universally hated it is. Then we can look at how much this chemical can disperse and still be detected. And from that, of course, we can create a weapon.

Because humans gonna human.

Yes, the US Department of Defense studied smell in order to create a non-lethal stink bomb to use against the enemy.

One person who consulted on the stink bomb project was a cognitive psychologist named Pamela Dalton.

She said that the DOD had created a lot of different smelly chemicals and gave her access to their stink inventory.

She zeroed in on one that the government used to simulate large military latrines to test cleaning products on.

From this base of stink Dalton went on to create what she dubbed the “stench soup” she described the soup as smelling like “Satan on a throne of Onions” and that she couldn’t imagine a worse smell.

Well, she might not be able to imagine it, but there is a worse smell. FAR worse.

In the year 1889, German scientists were working with a chemical called Trithioacetone, which today is used as a flavorant in candy. So fairly harmless chemical, but as they were experimenting with it, they “cracked” that molecule.

Turning Trithioacetone into just thioacetone. And it turns out that while good things may come in threes, one is the loneliest number.

Because this compound smells in a profound way.

Almost supernatural.

Okay, so let me take a second and tell you what I really wanted to do with this video.

I heard about thioacetone and my YouTuber clickbait brain took off I was like, I’m gonna get my hands on some of this stuff. I’m gonna take just a tiny bit of it and go down to the park and rub it on a tree and then shoot people reacting to it as they walked by.

I mean I’m not really into prank videos but smell is a difficult thing to get across visually so I really wanted to show someone reacting to it, either other people or myself, I’d title it, “I Smelled The Worst Thing In The World” And I’d even do the whole Thumbnail wow face, put a red circle in there, I was ready to sell out big time.

…But then I read some of the stories about thioacetone.

And yeah… That’s not going to happen.

When the German chemists accidentally made a small amount of thioacetone, they also accidentally spilled a little of it.

And apparently one little quirk of thioacetone is it spreads through the air so fast that the people standing right next to it don’t actually smell it right away.

And by the time they picked up on the smell in their lab, people were literally passing out and vomiting in the streets of Friberg.

A newspaper at the time described it as “an offensive smell which spread rapidly over a great area of the town causing fainting, vomiting and a panic evacuation.”

They literally tipped over a beaker and it caused people to evacuate their homes and businesses up to a half a mile away in all directions in a matter of seconds.

That’s some fast stank.

Thioacetone popped up again in England in 1967.

British researchers Victor Burnop & Kenneth Latham were using thioketones to synthesize new polymers, and made a terrible mistake.

They left a bottle of residue open for a moment. In that time a building filled with people 200 yards away started to become overwhelmed by an unspeakable odor and nausea soon followed.

Just having a bottle open for a few seconds caused people to get sick in another building two football fields away.

At around that same time Professor Mayer at Dresden University of Technology stumbled upon it while experimenting with chemical compounds called thioketones.

He had heard about thioacetone and wanted to experience it for himself. And even though he was fully prepared to smell something awful, he was still blown away by it. Saying…

He calls it red. I’ve heard it described as brown and orange as well.

Oh, and another thing about thioacetone – it lingers.

As if the pungent smell wasn’t bad enough, apparently it’s described as “sticky” and will get embedded in your clothes and hair.

There was a story of some chemists that were exposed to thioacetone in a lab and even though they followed all the protocols and washed it off and everything, later that day when they went to a restaurant, the other patrons complained about their smell to the manager so much he literally sprayed deodorant on them at their table.

There’s Stench, And Then There Is Thioacetone, the World’s Stinkiest Chemical

But all of these stories are from a long time ago, it’s actually hard to find modern accounts of scientists working with Thioacetone, because I think they did enough research.

It doesn’t seem to have any other uses, it just stinks, really bad, really really bad. Enough said.

It’s literally like a WMD of smell, and it’s just not worth messing with it.

Because smelly spills happen all the time.

One of these spills happened in the city of Rouen (row-on) in Normandy, France.

There they have a chemical plant run by Lubrizol. And in 2013 they had a large chemical spill.

That chemical was heated by the air and evaporated, filling the air with the smell of rotten eggs that the wind carried for hundreds of miles, as far away as London.

People in Rouen reported feeling nauseous and having migranes from it.

The chemical spilled? Wasn’t Thioacetone actually but its baby brother mercaptan which is often put into natural gas lines to detect gas leaks.

Yeah, the use of mercaptan in gas lines goes back to… you guessed it… The Victorians!

I mentioned in one of my many Victorian videos that when gas lines first started appearing in homes, lots of people died of gas leaks, because natural gas is odorless and they didn’t know there was a leak. So they started adding mercaptan to it.

The human nose can detect 1.6 parts per billion of mercaptan, so you can imagine just how intense the odor must have been when pure mercaptan was floating over Europe.

The reason is the sulphur in the molecule, and the human nose is so good at detecting sulphur it is thought even a single molecule can even be detected.

Fun Fact:

The human nose is also really good at detecting the scent of vanilla (scientifically known as Vanillin). Vanillin has an even lower detection threshold of 2.0×10-7 mg/m3.

Yeah, apparently if you took an oil tanker full of pure vanillin and poured it out, it would literally make the whole planet smell like vanilla. The whole planet.

Which would kinda turn the whole planet into Disneyland. They pipe in vanilla scent through vents along main street Disneyland.

But back to thioacetone, why? Why is this stuff so bad? Especially when you consider it was derived from something that goes in candy? Chemistry is weird.

Thioacetone is derived from the Thiol group aka sulfur family.

Thiols are sulfur analogues of alcohol (Thi = Sulfur ol=alchol)

Humans evolved to avoid them because rotten things tend to release sulfurs. And rotting things tend to also contain you know, death and disease; stink, saving lives.

After a couple thousand years of evolutionary pressures, and now we are grossed out by dumpsters on breezy summer nights. Looking at you South Dallas.

Ultimately that is really what our human perception of stink is supposed to do. It’s what all of our senses are supposed to do, keep us alive.

Thioacetone really shows just how powerful chemistry can be and arguably dangerous, I can’t imagine what two oil trucks of thioacetone being tipped over would smell like. International smells like death day…week?

But luckily that’s very unlikely to happen. It doesn’t seem to have any use so there’s not a lot of factories making the stuff.

Like it’s so bad that you can’t even weaponize it, which is why the DOD was experimenting with other things. Try to smoke out some bad guys or disperse a crowd with thioacetone and all your guys will pass out in their own vomit too.

So even though my original plan for this video was kinda thwarted, maybe some things are best just left as a mystery.

Perhaps shelving thioacetone for good is the wise thing to do.

Researching into this episode made me appreciate my nose, as silly as that may sound.

I found myself taking time to really smell things around me, because most of our surroundings we grow used to and “smell blind” to but taking time to take deep breaths allowed me to appreciate new scents in my home and outside.

Smell is also powerfully tied to our memories and our emotions on an almost animal instinctual level. Most people can remember a smell, be it the smell of their grandmother’s house or their favorite flower.

It is very integral to who we are as humans, it enriches the world around us. Smell keeps us safe, and also leads us to food or water. One of the lowest concentrations of smell humans can detect is the scent of rain.

That scent, geosmin, can be as faint as 400 parts per trillion and still be detected, which really speaks to just how ancient and well tuned our booger factory is.

So it’s not all horrible. I asked you earlier to think of the worst thing you’ve ever smelled, how about I leave you on an upbeat, what’s your favorite smell? What’s a smell that takes you to your happy place?

And maybe as you go about your day, take a minute from time to time to focus on your nose and the smells around you. You might find it gives you a more rounded out experience, besides, it just helps you live in the moment, which is always good.


Venus: Paradise Lost

Venus has long been called Earth’s twin, because our sizes are so similar. But as we learned in the early 60s, on our surface we couldn’t be more different. This wasn’t always the case though.

It’s thought that up until about 500 million years ago, our planets were very similar, in fact Venus may have supported life. So what happened? Intro produced by Cooper Carr, edited by Nick Turnbow, with special makeup effects by Sara Bachmeyer


Astronomical Disappointment

Imagine you’re planning a vacation. You pick a resort with a tropical setting: lush jungles, beautiful beaches. The last thing you do before buying tickets is check the weather.

And good thing you did! Because this place has changed since Travelocity put those photos up. Instead of a gorgeous vacation spot, it’s a barren, toxic hellscape, so hot it can melt lead.

This must have been how astronomers felt when the Mariner 2 probe first measured Venus’s temperature in 1962.

Because up to that point, the prevailing wisdom was that Venus was a lot like Earth. It was a rocky planet, it was the same size, had a reflective atmosphere. Why wouldn’t it have life like ours?


Venus in Fiction

In fact in the earliest days of science fiction, aliens were more likely to have come from Venus than Mars. And they were often portrayed in glowing terms, beautiful, intelligent civilizations. The very name evokes the Roman goddess of beauty.

We’ve known Venus has clouds since the 17th century, and ever since, scientists have theorized about what the clouds are hiding — this mentions that crediting Mikhail Lomonosov with the discovery is controversial, as it hinges on a translation

Some suspected there was a planetwide ocean on Venus. Others thought it was an endless desert.

In between were theories that featured ocean and land, with most of the land being jungle or swamp

For example, C. S. Lewis and Isaac Asimov covered their fictional Venuses in ocean.

Edgar Rice Burroughs added continents like here on Earth, complete with sky-scraping trees.


Plurality of Worlds

If there was going to be life outside of Earth, it was going to be on Venus, Earth’s sister planet. They were arguing this all the way back in ancient Greek days.

Aristotle insisted that there could be only one world, and because he was Aristotle, his view became accepted. The early Christian church adopted the same policy.

In the Late Middle Ages, several scholars insisted that God could create all the aliens he wanted. I mean… He was God.

One of those scholars was William of Ockham, by the way. The razor guy.

Point is, belief in aliens didn’t start in the 20th Century, people have been considering this for a long, long time, and Venus was always the best opportunity out there.

Which is why, by the way, one of the very first things both the US and the Soviet Union did once they figured out rockets was to send a probe to Venus. What paradise or advanced civilization might we find under those clouds?

Inhospitable Conditions

All that went flying out the window the second Mariner 2’s first readings came back.

No oceans, no paradise. Just a rocky surface as hot as a pizza oven, at 425 degrees Celsius (800 Fahrenheit).

Now to be clear, there were some astronomers who predicted that Venus had experienced a runaway greenhouse effect and would be way too hot for life. Carl Sagan was one of them.

But even Carl probably didn’t fully expect what an utter hellscape Venus is. It is, somehow one of the most inhospitable places in the solar system.

The longest operational lifetime ever managed by a Venus lander is the Soviet Union’s Venera 13, at 127 minutes.

It was finally done in by hurricane force winds, a 457 degree Celsius temperature, and 89 standard atmospheres of pressure.

One standard atmosphere is roughly what you’re feeling right now. That is one atmosphere. Venus’ air is 90 times more dense than our air.

In fact, it’s similar to the pressure at 1 kilometer under the ocean. For comparison, advanced SCUBA divers generally go no deeper than 60 meters, and anything below 100 meters is a record attempt

CO2 Atmosphere

Most of Venus’s crushing atmosphere is carbon dioxide, in fact, 96.5 percent of the atmosphere is CO2.

Earth’s atmosphere is 0.041 percent C02, and you know what kind of trouble that can cause when it goes up just a little bit. Carbon dioxide is a great insulator.


Weird Rotation

The crazy thing is that Venus wasn’t always like this. It’s thought that the majority of its history, it was a lot more like Earth. But before we talk about why, there’s one more weird thing about Venus worth talking about.

It rotates backwards… Very slowly.

Looking down at the north pole, the planet rotates clockwise. This is opposite Earth, and all other planets in our solar system except Uranus.
But we always knew Uranus was weird.

And when I say slowly, I mean very, very slowly. One solar day on Venus is about 117 Earth days long.

In other words, it takes about 117 Earth days for the Sun to reach the same point in the Venusian sky.

Its rotation is basically the same as walking speed so if you continuously walked eastward, you would never see the sun go down.

Which, if there were civilizations on Venus, they might want to be nomadic, just constantly moving to stay in the sun and out of the 117 days of nighttime.

For just a little more context, their year is 225 Earth days, so they basically have 4 seasons a year. First Day Season, First Night Season, Second Day Season and Second Night Season.


A Habitable Past?

Interestingly, computer models suggest that slow rotation could be a sign of a planet hospitable to life.
This was the conclusion of Mike Way and Anthony Del Genio of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

They hypothethized that slow rotation would favor forming dense clouds on a planet with the right chemistry.

Clouds raise a planet’s albedo, helping it reflect heat. Obviously it didn’t work out like that on Venus, but the study authors think things were different for the first 3 billion years of Venus’s history.

They describe a Venus with cooler temperatures and liquid surface water, and this is based on findings from NASA’s Pioneer Venus mission.

Basically that mission determined that there should be more water present on Venus. Only 0.002 percent of the Venusian atmosphere is water vapor, compared to 0.4 percent on Earth.

So very little water, but a very high concentration of Deuterium was found by the Pioneer Venus mission.

Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen, meaning it had a lot of hydrogen at one point – probably bounded to oxygen in H2O.

And of course the only way it could have H2O was for it to be much, much cooler. The amount of deuterium suggested there could have been oceans hundreds of meters deep.

So what changed Venus from a vacation spot to a toxic pizza oven? There are several ideas.

But none of these ideas exist in a vacuum, most experts agree it wasn’t any one single thing that did it, the answer is kinda all of the above.

Volcanic activity, wonky magnetic fields, and ancient impacts all may have played a part in Venus’s past


Volcanic Supereruptions

Let’s start with volcanoes; Venus has plenty of those. In fact, no planet in the solar system has more volcanic features.

An estimated 75% of Venus’s surface is thought to have been formed by lava flows.

Here on Earth, liquid hot mag-ma usually breaches Earth’s crust at tectonic plate boundaries, though, as you may remember from my Supervolcanoes episode, there are times when magma finds its way out in the center of a tectonic plate, usually to impressive results.

The crust of Venus is thicker and more solid than Earth’s crust, they once thought it was one seamless lid, but this was disproven by the Magellan probe.

So there are plates on Venus’ crust. But they don’t act like they do here.

Because they’re so much thicker, they don’t subduct at the boundaries like they do here on Earth.

On Earth, we have this ongoing cycle, where plates subduct at the boundaries, pushing the crust down into the magma to melt down, only to ooze out somewhere else where two plates are spreading apart. This maintains a steady rotation of CO2, and it’s a significant part of the carbon cycle that has made life on Earth possible.

They also cause earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanoes, but I mean… Life.

Without no subducting plate boundaries, volcanic eruptions on Venus build up longer, happen less often, and cover more ground when they do.

According to one theory, the magma that formed something like 75% of Venus’s surface started erupting about half-a-billion years ago.

For something like 100,000 years, it fed a surging, magma ocean that resurfaced the entire planet. That’s a blink of the eye in geologic time.

There are other theories that say the eruptions were less extreme, that they ejected magma at a slow, steady rate over millions of years.

This is one of the biggest mysteries in the solar system, I covered it a little bit in a previous video.


But whether it happened suddenly or gradually, the effects are the same.

First, that Venus’ surface looks super young, with most impact craters less than 500 million years old.

And second that all those volcanic eruptions released massive amounts of CO2 that then didn’t have anywhere to go and built up in the atmosphere, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect.

But here’s the weird part – on Earth, large volcanic eruptions usually cause temperatures to fall.


This is because the heating from carbon dioxide is counterbalanced by a different effect involving sulfur dioxide.


Volcanoes also pump out massive amounts of sulfur dioxide, which then combine with water vapor in the air and become sulfate aerosols. And sulfate aerosols absorb solar radiation.

This is why a big enough volcano could create a volcanic winter.


But the study authors suggested that SO2 didn’t cool Venus possibly because it was already too hot for sulfate aerosols to form? I think that’s what the paper says. It does get difficult, I’ll put the link down below.


So the planet warmed, the atmosphere thickened, a runaway greenhouse effect set in, whatever water was on the surface evaporated.

Of course, water evaporates all the time on Earth too and gets recycled as rain and snow. The amount of water stays constant.


It stays constant on Venus too… at practically none.
So, if there was water on Venus and it’s not there now, where did it go?


No Intrinsic Magnetic Field

The answer, most likely, is space. Over time, water in the atmosphere was broken down by photodissociation, that’s when ultraviolet rays split molecules apart.

Long story short, the Sun broke H2O into H, H, and O. Hydrogen being the lightest atomic element eventually just floated off into space.

Except for the heavier deuterium atoms, which is why there are higher amounts of them in the atmosphere.

This doesn’t happen on Earth for a couple of reasons, one is what’s called the Cold Trap – basically a layer of the atmosphere where it’s too cold for water vapor to stay a gas and condenses into clouds.

The other reason, you’ve probably already guessed is our handy little magnetic field, which Venus lacks.

Actually it has one, but it’s way different from ours.

Our magnetic field is generated by currents of molten iron in our planet’s core, making it intrinsic, it comes from the Earth.

And it’s super strong, extending out about 65,000 kilometers, directing particles around the planet like iron filings around a bar magnet.

But Venus has an induced magnetic field.

It’s pretty complicated but when solar wind hits the upper atmosphere, it strips electrons from atoms, making the atmosphere positively charged.

This forces the sun’s magnetic field to wrap around Venus, creating a teardrop shape. This protects the inner atmosphere but not the upper atmosphere.

Like I said, it’s complicated and research is ongoing.

But if you’re wondering why Venus doesn’t have that iron-core magnetic field like we do… it might have something to do with its weird backwards rotation.


Giant Impact Theory

So we all know that Earth got its moon because a Mars-sized planet named Theia smashed into us in the early days.

It’s thought that pre-Theia, our planet’s layers were stratified like the layers of a latte, with heavy elements sinking to the center and lighter stuff up top.

But the Theia smash might have stirred up the insides enough to get a convection current going that generates a magnetic field to this day.

So maybe Venus wasn’t smacked around enough as a kid. Because not only does it not have a magnetic field, it doesn’t have a moon either. No moon, no field, no smash.

But in typical Venus fashion, there’s a flipside to this because it’s thought that the reason it has this weird backwards rotation… Is because it got smashed.

Either smashed with enough velocity to slow and eventually reverse its rotation, or to flip it vertically, causing the rotation to go in an opposite direction.

Maybe with a little more oomph it really would have been Earth’s twin. Assuming the Venusian impact theory is true. It’s hotly debated.

Get it, hotly debated? Because Venus is… you get it…

Experts dispute pretty much every theory I’ve talked about here, Venus is a cornucopia of contradictions and mysteries.


Parallel History

Considering how different and weird Venus is, it’s kinda weird to think about the fact that before the major resurfacing event 500 million years ago, it still may have had the right conditions for life.

Earth was teeming with single-celled life long before that point. Maybe Venus did too.

And scientists think that maybe Mars did as well, so it’s possible that once upon a time, there were three planets in a row with life on them.

Hell there may be an advanced alien species 500 million light years away that is looking at our solar system right now and thinking they’ve hit the jackpot.

But both Venus and Mars suffered from a lack of tectonic activity. Maybe Earth’s superpower is its ability to change and remake itself slowly over geologic time, preventing sudden shifts that can spiral out of control.

Some worry that our pumping of carbon into our atmosphere at such a fast rate could be a similar threat, that we could hit a tipping point and spiral out of control and turn into Venus.

This is unlikely. But still Venus stands as cautionary tale. Of how fickle the conditions for life really are. Of how fleeting paradise can be. And how it needs to be protected.

The New Era Of Cults with Dr. Janja Lalich

On today’s podcast, I’m talking to Dr. Janja Lalich, a cult expert and sociologist who has not only been studying cults and extremist groups for over 30 years, but is herself a cult survivor. In our conversation, she shares her personal story, including how she got involved with a cult, the conditions that kept her trapped in the cult, and what finally got her out.
We also talk about the red flags to look for when you think you may be dealing with a cult and what to do if a loved one falls into a cult’s clutches. And finally, we examine the rise of a new era of cults that we seem to be entering. One fueled by societal upheaval and instability, and accelerated by the social media landscape we now live in.
It’s an enlightening and – at times – disturbing look at how our psychology is being manipulated and weaponized against us on a global scale. A new era of cults is here, and it’s one we’ve never encountered before.

Orbital Railguns Will Probably Never Happen – On Earth, Anyway | Lightning Round

From the potential of orbital railguns, to space elevators on the moon and Mars, to the threat of AI taking over your job, to the latest on Neuralink, today’s lightning round video features questions from Patreon supporters. Thanks for the great questions guys!


Could we get to space with a railgun?

Could your job be replaced by AI?

What’s up with Neuralink?

Could we build a space elevator on the Moon?

Why aren’t plug-in hybrid cars more popular?

All this and more in today’s Lightning Round video.

Lightning round video, by the way, not to be confused with round lightning video. For that you need to see my video on ball lightning.

But let’s get into today’s questions…

Mark Hoffman

The idea of EM-driven mass accelerators as an orbital launch platform has been around for some time, yet seems to rarely get past the drawing board. Has there been much progress in designing such a platform? What major issues might still need to be overcome?

Weirdly, this came up in the OLF reunion livestream we did a few weeks back, you can check that out if you want to hear me talk about it with Tim Dodd and Ben Sullins.

Probably the biggest issue is just the size of the launcher because it has to get out of the atmosphere.

Rockets only go straight up for the first 30 seconds or so, just high enough to get past the thickest part of the atmosphere and then they have to reach orbital velocity which is 15,000 miles per hour.

You know how things in orbit burn up in our atmosphere when they come back down? That’s what would happen on the launch pad if you were to launch from the ground at that speed.

So an orbital railgun would have to be at least 150 miles long and get up to several miles into the air. This is megaproject territory.

Some have suggested putting the launch ramp up the side of a mountain but it would have to be up a very high mountain to get into thin enough atmosphere and that would also make getting the payload to the launch site more difficult.

Not to mention the entire length of the railgun would need to be in a vacuum tube, which would take a lot of energy…

You’re basically building a vertical hyperloop.

Other option is rocket assisted railgun where it yeets at lower velocity so it doesn’t vaporize right off the launchpad and then once it reaches altitude a rocket takes you the rest of the way and reaches orbital velocity.

Which is an interesting idea, it’s kind-of like the railgun takes the place of a first stage of the rocket.

Now I couldn’t find any companies that are currently working on this kind of thing, feel free to point out any I missed in the comments, but there is one worth working on a similar idea… many of you probably know where this is going…

Spin Launch systems recently tested their prototype megayeet machine that spins a payload at high speed before launching it out of a tube, letting it get to extremely fast speeds without the need for a long railgun track.

They call it an orbital accelerator – a kinetic space launch system

Totally electric and reaches hypersonic speeds but still would need a rocket assist because again, orbital speed would melt everything.

In fact as Scott Manley pointed out in his video on this, thermal imaging on the projectile shows how hot it gets immediately after launch from air friction.

There’s still a big question mark whether they’ll be able to reach orbit with this, but I guess we’ll see how things go.

Back to railguns, they did have a bit of a setback recently because the US Navy ceased development of their hypersonic railgun after spending $500 million dollars on it.

They had a prototype on board the USS Trenton but they’ve dropped the program in favor of a hypervelocity projectile, or HVP, which can be fitted to traditional ship guns.

So, I’m skeptical that we’re ever going to see a real orbital launch railgun, though I have said that there’s some opportunity in the future on the moon because you don’t have that pesky atmosphere to contend with.

On that note…

Cole Parker – October

Would it be much easier to build a space elevator on Mars or the moon due to the much lower gravity?

So I covered space elevators a while back on my channel – link below – and this was one of the assertions that I made in that video, that it might make more sense on the moon. Because of the lower gravity. I feel like I just said that with the last story. That’s weird…

But yeah, in a nutshell for anybody who doesn’t know, a space elevator is a way to cut down on launch costs because you literally would build a tether from a base on Earth to another base out in geostationary orbit that stays in place through centripetal force.

This is obviously a ridiculously long tether that would need to withstand some major forces, requiring a materials technology that doesn’t exist yet.

Not to mention it would need to survive getting pelted by micrometeoroids and space debris. And satellites.

It’s a tough sell.

But, the advantages if we could do it would be huge, getting a payload into orbit would be as simple as taking the elevator. Pretty huge deal.

Many of these major challenges would not exist on the moon. And it turns out there has been a lot of thought put into this.

In a 2019 paper, two astronomers from Cambridge and Columbia Universities took a detailed look at this problem and did the math. And the math… checks out.

It wouldn’t be quite like a space elevator on Earth because the moon doesn’t spin like the Earth does, being tidally locked and all.

Instead, the idea here is that you could build a tether from the surface of the moon all the way down to basically geostationary orbit above Earth, where you would have a docking station. This would be pulled by Earth’s gravity to keep the tether taut.

But yeah, to get to the moon, you would just fly up to geostationary orbit and dock at the station, then just ride up to the moon powered by solar energy. It would lower the costs by a factor of thousands.

And, according to the authors, might only cost a few billion dollars to build.

Of course, it’s all easier said than done, we’re talking about a 225,000 mile tether. You would have to build a tether long enough to wrap around Earth 28 times. And then launch that to the moon. And then launch it to Earth

Actually, you would probably set up a base in the Earth/Moon Lagrange point and then extend the tether out in both directions from there. But still.

You would also have to contend with the fact that the moon’s orbit is slightly elliptical so that counterweight hanging over Earth would rise and fall throughout the month.

So yeah, the gravity helps, but the insane length of the tether kinda raises the difficulty level back up. Still, there are companies working on this like Liftport.

But you also mentioned Mars, and that’s where things get interesting because yeah, with 1/3rd the gravity and 1% the atmosphere, there’s a lot less stress on the line, but Mars has another ace up its sleeve. It s moon Deimos.

Deimos has a rotational period shockingly close to that of Mars’ sidereal day (30.3 hours vs. 24.6 hours) – which is shockingly close to our day – and it’s about the same distance as our geostationary orbit on Earth. (14,576 miles)

And if that wasn’t enough, it’s made mostly of carbon. So if we could establish a carbon nanotube factory on Deimos, we could mine its carbon, build a tether and drop it down to the surface.

We would need to adjust the orbit a little bit though.

Anyway, that presents some interesting opportunities but would require a lot of technologies we still don’t have yet. Interesting to think about though.

Mike Reed – November

Which jobs are the most likely to be replaced as AI grows? How will low-wage manual labor workers get a job once AI does all of this work?

This is a very good question. And I wanted to give it a very good answer. So I found an article on Medium from a guy named Kai Fu Lee, who is an AI Expert, President of Google China, and author of the book AI Superpowers.

In this article he lists the 10 jobs most at risk from AI in the coming years. I mean ultimately all jobs will be at risk, but these are the ones likely to be most affected first.

Number 1 is Telemarketers/Telesales

I mean, we’re already seeing robocalls taking over this space but he talks about how AI can be trained to understand people’s tone and adjust its own tone accordingly, and to even know if you react better to male or female voices and choose the best one for every call.

Similar to that is Customer Support.

Again, we’re already seeing chatbots and AI assistants taking over a lot of this online, but it’s closing in on phone support as well, because a lot of the people doing those jobs are just reading scripts anyway.

Next up is Warehouse Workers.

Not a surprise to anyone, I’m sure, we’re already seeing robots doing a lot of the heavy lifting in Amazon’s warehouses and whatnot, but as they become more dextrous, they’ll continue taking over spots that are now held by people.

Then you’ve got Clerks and Operational Staff

There’s a lot of large companies that deal with huge amounts of data, and they employ thousands of people to manage and process this data. Everything from filing, procurement, inventory management, error correction, estimating sales and reporting. And much of that can already be automated.

Telephone operators are on the chopping block.

With the progress of speech recognition and dialog-oriented speech synthesis, the days of an actual person to answer and direct calls are pretty much numbered for a lot of businesses.

Tellers and Cashiers are going to be a thing of the past.

Think about how many self-service check-out lines there are now. That trend is not going to slow down.

According to Kai Fu Lee, Fast Food Worker jobs are in trouble.

Basically any repetitive and stationary job is likely to be done by a robot soon and burger flipping is pretty much the definition of that. There are already robotic burger flippers in some restaurants. Also order taking is something that can be automated as well.

Sticking with restaurants, dishwashers will be going away soon.

There is already a startup in California called Dishcraft developing systems that can wash thousands of dishes a day, using far less water and energy.

Something else likely to be phased out are Assembly Line Inspectors.

Again, it’s something fixed and repetitive. And computer vision can easily find cracks and blemishes in units on an assembly line, probably better than a human.

And last but not least are couriers.

Delivery robots and drones are likely to take over this space, especially in structured environments like large office complexes and hotels.
Basically if your job is repetitive and requires little human interaction, you might want to start looking for something that’s more human-focused, requires more dexterity.

If you’re in one of those jobs and are wetting your pants at this very moment, I’ll link to his article down below, he does give some tips for ways to pivot into something that’s more safe in the long run.

Brian Beswick – October 

What’s up with NeuraLink???

Yeah, I’ve been asked to follow up on that topic for a while and honestly there just hasn’t been that much to report on? But here’s some news from this last year or so.

Last time we got a presentation, Elon showed how the implant was working in a pig’s brain to pick up on signals from its snout.

The pig wasn’t controlling anything, it was basically just showing how they were receiving signals from the snout whenever it touched something.

There was also an updated version of the implant that looked a little rougher and clunkier than the first presentation, but at least it was a real thing and not just a rendering.
in April of this year, they revealed footage of a monkey playing pong using a chip in its brain.

They show how they trained the monkey, whose name is Pager, to play this little computer game where he boops the squares using the joystick, and the neuralink chip is registering the signals being created to do this. It even streams to a smartphone.

By the way, that metal tube in his mouth is his little reward mechanism that gives him some food every time he gets it right.

But they eventually collect enough data that they can control the game with the implant, as you can see, the joystick is unplugged here, so he’s moving that cursor with his mind.

And then they showed him playing pong, and there’s no joystick at all now, this is totally the monkey and a neuralink chip.
This is actually a pretty big deal because one of the first things they want to do with this chip is make it so that quadriplegics can operate phones and computers with their minds. This looks like they’re pretty close.

So their next presentation, which could be soon, it’s been over a year since their last one – it could possibly have a person using one of these. Place your bets in the comments.

Real talk though, people being able to control basic computer stuff with their brains is nothing new, there have been things like the Utah array around for a while but this would be much smaller and probably more sensitive.

But yeah right after the monkey video, it looked like they might have hit a rough patch because Max Hodak, who was the president and co-founder along with Elon, he left the company. Nobody really knew what to make of that.

But still, they did secure a third round of funding in late July worth $205 million from people like Google Ventures and Peter Thiel.

This makes the total investment into it $323 million, which considering Elon is worth like $300 billion right now… Seems kinda low?

So that’s the last news I could find about Neuralink but there are a couple of other companies doing stuff in this space.

Including a company called Science Corp – most ambiguous name ever – they raised $47 million in August.

Interesting thing about Science Corp, their CEO is Max Hodak… The guy who left Neuralink.

Yeah, apparently this company wants to do brain machine interfaces but they hired a bunch of CRISPR specialists. So there may be some bioengineering or gene manipulation involved.

But they are very much in stealth mode, don’t know much about what they’re working on.

And another company called BrainGate made some news in April this year for wirelessly connecting participants’ brains to a computer.

Basically what Neuralink did with a monkey, these guys did with two people.

So progress is being made in a lot of different directions.

Cole Parker – November

Why aren’t Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) more popular in America and Europe?

I don’t know that I have a good answer for this, so I’ll just speculate. If someone has a better answer, please share in the comments.

My guess is that EVs are more popular because we now associate electric cars with instant torque and being fast off the line and having cool tech and plug in hybrids are seen more like gas sippers.

And if you want a car that burns less gas… well, you can’t get less than no gas at all.

So EVs appeal to the torqueheads and the tree huggers and PHEVs appeal to…

Not saying that plug in hybrids don’t have their place, they kinda have the best of both worlds, you can commute daily without using any gas at all but still have that gas range for long-distance drives.

But I guess EVs are more popular right now because they’re the new hotness. Which, even 5 years ago was a sentence I couldn’t imagine saying.

And I think a lot of the PHEV models from the last several years were kinda compliance cars, meant to get the fleet efficiency down for regulatory reasons, so car companies haven’t really marketed them very well because they weren’t really trying to sell them… I may be making an assumption there, you tell me.

But yeah, like I just said, the fact that this is even a question is really mind-blowing to me. It’s like, as an EV advocate, it really felt like I was banging my head against a wall for so long… And now suddenly everybody’s scrambling for them, and car companies are promoting them to the point that we find ourselves wondering what happened to hybrids. It’s amazing.


So that’s all the questions we have today, feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments and if there are any of these topics you want to see a full deep dive video on, let me know. It could be a thing.


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