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June 2022 - Answers With Joe

Month: June, 2022

FINALLY! A Graphene Battery That Could Change Everything

We’ve been hearing about the potential of graphene for decades, and yet very few of the big promises have come to pass. But a new aluminum graphene battery design is coming out this year that could charge a phone in less than a minute, and it may be the future of energy storage.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a paperclip. The average paperclip weighs about a gram. And it’s made out of steel, which is electrically conductive. So you don’t want to stick one in a light plug.This is a paperclip. The average paperclip weighs about a gram. And it’s made out of steel, which is electrically conductive. So you don’t want to stick one in a light plug.
Materials are electrically conductive because electrons move freely across its surface. The more surface area, the more electrons it can hold.
A paperclip obviously doesn’t have a lot of surface area, if you pounded it as flat as possible, you can imagine getting maybe a square foot of surface area? Maybe?
Then there’s graphene. You’ve probably heard graphene described as a wonder material that’s going to change the world, well here’s one of the reasons why. It’s literally only one atom thick.
So if you folded up one gram of graphene, it would have the same surface area… of not one… not two… But TEN tennis courts.
That’s a lot of electrons. And a lot of potential.

Mo Li-ion, Mo Problems

Saying the words “lithium-ion” before “battery” is practically redundant these days. I mean, let’s face it, lithium ion won, these are the batteries that run our cell phones, tablets, computers, even our cars. We are officially a world run by lithium ion.
You might say they have the li-ion’s share of the market. (shit-eating grin)
But Lithium-ion batteries aren’t perfect. I mean, they’re Goodenough (Picture of John B Goodenough; smirk)… But they have their downsides
Are all my puns giving you a… charge? I’ll stop.

Safety Concerns

One problem we continue to have with lithium ion is safety.
These batteries run hot. And yes, if not properly configured, they can burst into flame. You might remember in 2016, 2.5 million smart phones were recalled after some of them burst into flames in peoples’ pockets and bags.
Don’t get me wrong, they’ve gotten safer over the years, but it comes with a cost.
EV batteries for example have extensive cooling systems woven into them to keep their temperatures at optimal levels.
This not only complicates the design and makes it more expensive, the cooling systems take up space that could be used storing energy, which lowers the pack density.
And don’t get me going on how much it complicates recycling these batteries, (get more frantic) they’ve gotta break it all apart and there’s all this gel that has to be separated from the recyclable metals which is super important because — Yep, you did it, you got me going now…

Ethics and Recycling

Battery recycling is super important because the materials in the batteries are not easy to come by.
For example I did a whole video on the cobalt problem in lithium ion batteries, how a lot of it comes from artisanal mines in the Congo that exploit child labor in really dangerous conditions.
A lot of work has been done to source cobalt more ethically, and battery makers are cutting down on the use of cobalt but it’s still an issue.

The point being, these batteries do have a finite life cycle and we need to be able to recycle them, but for all the reasons I just pointed out, it’s still far more expensive to recycle lithium ion batteries than just build new ones.
In fact when I looked, I could only find that 10% of lithium-ion batteries get recycled. To be fair this was from an article in 2016 so hopefully it’s gotten better since then?

Daily Hassles

And all of these issues are on top of the fact that… well… They have a lot of room for improvement.
Look, let’s be fair, the reason they won out is because they were leaps and bounds above the options we had before, but still, 2 hours to charge your phone? What is this, the stone age?
It’s not the stone age, it’s the phone age! Yeah, I know…

The Promise of Graphene

So researchers around the world are working on the next big thing in energy storage, there’s like half a million new battery chemistries being worked on, I’ve covered most of them already.
But the battery I want to talk about today is different because it does its magic using graphene, (get worked up) and let me tell you something, when I hear about a new technology that uses graphene…  I… don’t know how to feel about it.
Because we’ve been hearing about how graphene is going to change the world for SOOO LOOOOONG, it’s really starting to feel like a football we just can’t kick.

Like the potential of graphene is off the charts, it could potentially revolutionize everything from construction materials, semiconductors, clothing, even make a space elevator possible.
So much potential and yet…

Graphene is like that gifted kid that was always told they had so much potential but just… never learned how to apply themselves or didn’t believe in themselves enough to execute on that potential so they just kinda flounder around on the internet, eventually becoming a mid-tier content creator in his forties…

But hey, producing graphene is hard. Which is what makes this battery interesting, the company who designed it is a graphene manufacturer.
So not only are they some of the biggest experts in the world on graphene, they make it in-house so they don’t have to pay retail for it, making the batteries cheaper to make.
Now, before I get into the battery itself, let’s back up a second and talk about why graphene has these wonder properties to it in the first place – it’s kind-of important to the rest of it.
Graphene is basically carbon, which makes up about 12% of your body. So you’re familiar with it.
But unlike the carbon in your body, in graphene, carbon atoms are arranged in a honeycomb pattern literally one atom thick, and this is where it gets its crazy properties.
The bonds in this pattern give graphene more than four times the tensile strength of steel while being extremely flexible and light.
It also makes it an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. Good things to have in a battery, but even better things to have in a supercapacitor.

Supercapacitor Basics

So, capacitors are devices that store energy, similar to batteries, except instead of storing the energy in chemical reactions, they store it on the surface of electrodes.
This means they can be charged extremely quickly, because they don’t have to rely on chemical reactions to store the energy.
The downside is energy density. As in, they don’t have much of it.
The energy density of a typical capacitor is about one-third of a Watt-hour per kilogram
For comparison, a one kilogram lithium-ion battery can store hundreds of Watt-hours

The Graphene-Aluminum Hybrid

So the trick to getting a capacitor to increase its energy density is to increase the surface area of the electrodes, and for that, you need an extremely thin and flexible material that is electrically conductive and manages heat really well that you can fold up into a tiny space.
Hence, graphene.
Here’s how bonkers graphene is. One gram of graphene has a surface area of 2629 square meters. That’s roughly the same as 10 tennis courts.
I’ve been talking about capacitors here, supercapacitors are obviously capacitors that have been turned up to eleven. And then there’s ultracapacitors, which are turned up to… (confused) more than eleven.
But even a massively upsized supercapacitor can’t compete with the energy density of an advanced chemical batteryWhich is why researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have developed a graphene-based, supercapacitor/battery hybrid.

The battery part uses aluminum, so it’s generally referred to as a graphene-aluminum battery– earlier research that gives problems with graphene that maybe UQ has solved NOTE: this is where my comprehension ran out, so I contacted GMG to ask if they can clarify the benefit
Now, I would love to go into the details of the design and how it works but a lot of it is proprietary and what I did find went way over my head but I can say that it involves embedding aluminum ions into perforations in the graphene mesh.
This creates a graphene-aluminum layer that acts as the cathode, with an anode of just plain aluminum foil.
The battery as a whole has an energy density of 150-160 Watt hours per kilogram, and it can still charge extremely fast.

Cell vs Pack Density

Sounds great, but Tesla’s new 4680 battery cell is closer to 265 Wh/kg. So there’s definitely still a gap there. BUT… it might not be as big of a gap as you’d think.
Because that’s cell density. You also have to think about pack density.
Like I was saying before, lithium ion batteries have to have massive cooling systems built in to their battery packs to keep it from overheating. This battery wouldn’t have that issue.
So all that extra space could be taken up by energy-storing batteries. It might not put it even with a Tesla pack, but it does close the gap a bit.
So the University of Queensland developed the battery, but I mentioned before that a graphene manufacturer was producing it, that company is called the Graphene Manufacturing Group, or GMG.

They’ve built a prototype that can reportedly charge 60 times faster than lithium-ion.
So while their battery pack might not take an EV quite as far, charging would be a lot closer to the experience of filling up at the gas pump, which could open up EVs to more people who don’t have access to home chargers today.
Of course I’m spending all this time talking about EVs, it would be just as world changing for everything else we use; our phones, our watches, our computers… You could plug in your laptop while you take a leak and it’ll be fully charged by the time you’re done.
Also keep in mind everything I’m talking about here applies to their prototype battery. It’s still the very early days of this technology.
In a presentation back in March to The Graphene Council, Founder and CEO Craig Nicol said the energy density of the battery has a theoretical upper limit of 1050 Wh/kg, and that their team is currently testing 300,000 variations on the battery’s design in pursuit of better performance.

Prototypes and Further Advantages

I can only imagine that AI is involved in that in some way, but those tests are happening at a pilot plant the company opened in December 2021.
And here’s where it does get kinda exciting – they are actually producing batteries at this plant. Right now.
They’ve started manufacturing coin batteries, which are being shipped to customers for testing and feedback, and they plan to begin manufacturing pouch pack batteries by the end of June 2022.
Pouch pack batteries are housed in a polymer bag instead of a solid case, but these are the kind of batteries that you see in phones and tablets and other small electronics.

Although, there are some EVs that run on pouch pack batteries, including the Chevy Bolt.
Not for nothing but late last year, Chevy issued a $1.8 billion recall of the bolt over issues that their batteries were catching on fire. This wouldn’t have that problem.
And as if all that wasn’t enough to give you a tech nerd stiffy, there’s also the fact that the batteries are fully recyclable and made from abundant, easy to source materials. So what’s the catch?

Isn’t Graphene Expensive?

As Rocky Balboa once said, life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. Of course there’s a catch. And the catch in this case is the price of graphene.
Right now graphene costs about $1000 per kilogram, that’s for the highest quality graphene that you need for these batteries.
Lithium is selling for about $80 per kilogram. Of course that’s just one component of the lithium-ion battery but still.https://www.lme.com/en/metals/ev/about-lithium
That’s been the major drawback of all graphene technologies this whole time, it has to be synthesized. You can’t just dig graphene out of the ground, the only way to make is feasible is to reduce the cost of making it.

GMG for example has patented a process for making graphene out of methane, but they’re being kinda cagey about exactly how much it saves them in production costs.
But if you’re going to compare the price of graphene with that of lithium ion, it’s only fair to keep in mind that once upon a time, lithium ion was prohibitively expensive.
The price of lithium ion battery storage has plummeted over the last couple of decades, and now it’s flirting with $100 per kilowatt-hour.
It’s more than possible that graphene could follow the same trajectory once a sustainable, inexpensive process is perfected. And there’s a lot of projects working on that.

Graphene From Trash

One that’s worth talking about is a team from Rice University in collaboration with Ford, who are working on recycling plastic into graphene.
Kill two birds with one stone? Yes please.
Professor James Tour and the team were able to turn plastic into graphene car parts, and they were able to recycle old graphene into new
The question, of course is if the graphene is high enough quality for these type of batteries.
We wanted to get the answer to that so my writer, Ryan emailed Professor Tour and asked if their flash joule heating method is of high quality. And he was kind enough to respond and said, “Flash graphene is one of the purest graphene forms you can get.”
But while he agreed that their method could make graphene prices drop, he was careful to say only as much as the market will bear.
And it’s going to be a while before the supply catches up to the demand, so you won’t be flossing with graphene thread anytime soon.

Some Hurdles Remain

There is also one more problem with GMG’s graphene battery, and that’s voltage.
Their coin cell that hits the market this year delivers 1.7 Volts, and most small electronics require at least 3 volts.
Now that doesn’t mean they can’t be used, you can combine cells to get what you need, this is true of other types of batteries too.(AAA, AA, C, and D cells are 1.5V)
But there are some devices that only take a single cell; computer chips, watches, some toys, and GMG wants to power these without the manufacturers having to change the design.
They’re confident one of the 300,000 variations they’re working on will do the job, they just need the time to find which one.
Of course battery technology is evolving and advancing so fast, it’s possible some other breakthrough could make all of this irrelevant.
I feel like that could be said about pretty much anything these days though.

Promise Fulfilled?

But hey, let’s focus on the good news, there is an actual graphene-based battery hitting the market this year.
I feel like I didn’t mention that GMG does have partnerships with some big-name companies, including the tool manufacturer Bosch and mining company Rio Tinto.
So let’s hope something actually comes of this because I mean, an ethically sourced, fully recyclable, fast charging battery would be a game changer.

And it’ll be nice to finally see this supermaterial we’ve been hearing about for decades in action.
I mean, I’m still holding out for that space elevator.  But you’ve got to start somewhere.
But I don’t know, what do you think? Is this worth getting excited about? Or are we just gonna get the football yanked away from us once again? Sound off in the comments and let me know.

Is SpaceX REALLY Bringing Down Launch Costs? (And Other Questions)

In today’s Lightning Round video, I talk about whether SpaceX’s reusability is actually bringing down launch costs, discuss deep ocean research, consider how fecal transplants could reverse aging, and other equally weird things.

TRANSCRIPT:

Hey gang, summer’s here and I’m gonna be doing a little bit of traveling, maybe to places where it’s not 100 degrees at 3am

But don’t worry, the videos are still coming your way. We planned ahead of time and some videos, like this one might be a little bit more abridged than usual.

So this is a lightning round video, these questions come from Patreon supporters who support the channel above a certain tier, this is a perk that comes along with supporting at that level.

And I want to take a second to sincerely acknowledge and thank everybody who supports this channel on Patreon or in the channel memberships – I know I always shout people out at the end of the videos but I wanted to do it here at the beginning where everyone can see it.

Truth is, the YouTube algorithm has been not nice to the channel lately. It’s not showing my videos to nearly as many people as it once did. And I’m trying really hard to not go full clickbait monster just to get YouTube to show my stuff to people. Having said that, I might be changing things up around here, we’ll see.

The point is Adsense revenue is all over the map, there is no way I could keep this going based only on that, so people who directly support this channel and the channel sponsors are why I’m still able to do this. And I know I don’t thank you enough.

If you don’t or can’t support directly, I still love ya – I just appreciate you watching. Hell, if you’re still watching me right now and have not skipped forward, you’re a hero in my book.

I’ve been doing this for 7 years and the only reason I’m still able to do it is because of the support you guys have given me. It truly means the world to me.

But anyway, that’s all I wanted to say, just wanted to get that out there. Let’s get on with this video. Roll that beautiful logo animation.

Cole Parker
I’m very curious how much money SpaceX has saved reusing the Falcon 9 compared to non-reusable companies like ULA or Ariane Space. Is it really moving the needle on the cost of space flights?

This is a good question actually. And it gets complicated.

Launch costs are actually very difficult to compare because just like the supply closet of a nursing home, there’s a lot of “depends” involved.

For example, are we talking low Earth orbit, geostationary orbit, is it a private or government customer, because different entities will have different regulatory requirements that change the cost, etc.

So I could point to various prices points but we’re really just looking for a general pattern here.

I’ll link down below to this article from the Visual Capitalist that charts the launch costs of various launch vehicles and as you can see, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy are significantly less expensive per kilogram than the other rockets listed.

This is not a complete list of options, obviously, there’s no Arianne Space or Rocket Lab on here but clearly the cost of launching has gone down over time.

I think to me, the best sign that SpaceX is shifting things in the space industry is the fact that renewability is now something many other companies are pursuing.

Blue Origin’s New Glenn will reuse the booster, Rocket Lab’s Neutron will reuse the first stage, and ULA’s Vulcan rocket will recover the engines, making it partially reusable.

And of course if they pull off Starship, that would push launch costs down to insane levels, I’ve seen it as low as $600 per kilogram. Even the lowest Falcon 9 numbers I saw were around $3500.

Which is why an anonymous space lobbyist told Politico back in February that his space industry clients are, “shitting the bed” over Starship.

So as closely as all us space nerds are watching for the first orbital Starship launch, I guarantee you, the other space launch companies are watching even closer.

John Regel
In futurism, is poo the answer to life extension?

And in history, MegaRaptors… thank goodness for extinction events?

Mark Hoffman

Do you think an adequate amount of resources are being allocated to oceanic floor/deep sea exploration and documentation? Clearly there is so much more “out there” worth exploring and many oceanographers advocate for more intensive research, and for valid reasons. Would you agree?

You know, they say we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the ocean floor on our own planet. Probably true.

Do I think there’s adequate resources being directed at ocean floor exploration? I mean, what are you trying to do?

If it’s just about learning everything there is to learn about the ocean floor, I’m in favor of that. Not sure if it’s as important as, say, spending on clean energy and plastic cleanup.

One compelling reason to study the ocean floor is to look at how life evolves in extreme environments like we might find on other planets; might give us a better idea of what kind of life there could be outside of Earth.

There’s probably a lot we could learn about geologic processes that we can’t observe from the land.

We could probably learn a lot about how we’ve polluted the oceans and how it’s affected life way down there.

Also, I mean let’s face it, there’s a ton more ocean floor than there is dry land on this planet.

But don’t worry. Some day they’ll find oil below the Marianas Trench and we’ll suddenly be spending a lot of time down there.

Mark Hoffman

What likelihood do you think the war in Ukraine will have on instigating needed advancements in renewable energy implementation? Personally I feel that it will result in a greatly missed opportunity that enacts only token changes 😥.

Oh, Mark, Mark, cynical Mark… Yeah, you’re probably right.

As I record this, I finally got solar on my roof, and there’s 2 takeaways I have already, one is that the app that connects to the system is awesome.

It shows how much energy you’re generating, how much is coming in from the grid, and how much you’re consuming. And brother, this is a game-changer.

I’ve known other people who got solar and talked about how they immediately became kilowatt nazis and were just obsessed with how much they were pulling out of the grid – and I’ve started doing that already.

I feel like every home electrical system should have this, even if you don’t have solar, just being able to visualize how much energy you’re using is just so helpful.

Like without this all you can do is look at your energy bill, but it doesn’t tell you exactly what you’re doing and how it affects your bill.

This real-time feedback is awesome, the A/C comes on and I can pull it up and see it happen and how much it’s pulling – it’s kinda fascinating. Anyway…

The other thing is the feeling of relief that comes with being energy independent.

My energy bills aren’t going to go up or down according to the whims of a global energy market – at least not to a level that affects me that much.

I talked recently in an OLF podcast about how I’ve felt that way about my EV with the gas prices going through the roof. Knowing that global conflicts and industry shenanigans don’t affect me…  Guilt. A lot of guilt. That’s what I do with happy emotions.

All that was a very self-congratulatory way of saying… Maybe?

Maybe this is the thing that shakes people up, that gets across the fact that… maybe we should have a different energy system than the one where authoritarian strongmen can spin every industry in the world into chaos on a whim.

The energy independence that comes with renewables is something that I don’t think gets talked about enough, both on a household and societal level.

But I hear ya, dude, we’ve seen a lot of crises like this over the years and… well we’re still in the same spot. So enthusiasm is dampened a bit.

Tesla’s Robot Revolution

Humanoid robots have been in popular culture from the very beginning, and while robotics have come a long way, we still don’t have the humanoid, walking, general purpose robots of our sci-fi imaginations. But some companies, including Tesla, claim to be on the verge of finally making it a reality. But how likely is it, really?

TRANSCRIPT:

To kick off this video, let’s play a little game, I’ll play a video from a random 80’s movie and you tell me what movie it was. Ready? Here we go…To kick off this video, let’s play a little game, I’ll play a video from a random 80’s movie and you tell me what movie it was. Ready? Here we go…

Now if you answered Rocky IV, you are right! Also…What?
I saw Rocky IV like a million times when I was a kid and I remember being terrified of Ivan Drago, I remember Apollo going down and “If he dies… he dies.” I remember training montages… I watched it again recently – I did not remember the random robot.
That’s how ubiquitous robots were back then in pop culture, they were everywhere, it literally didn’t even stand out to me, there was nothing weird to me about a robot… in Rocky IV.
By the way the robot’s name is SICO and it was a real robot you could buy and it could talk to you and you could program it to do things – Stallone put it in the movie because he bought one and found that it really helped with his autistic son.

But seriously robots were everywhere in the 80s, there was Twiggy on Buck Rogers, The Terminator, we saw Jinx put Max in space, Johnny 5, there was this sitcom, Small Wonder, about a family with a robot daughter, yes, it’s a real thing.
One of the biggest toys of the day was Teddy Ruxpin, this animatronic teddy bear that talked to you.
By all accounts, we were about to enter an age of household robots. And here we are now, 40 years later… I don’t know anybody with a robot daughter.
What happened? Are robots like nuclear fusion, always 20 years away?
I mean, yeah, we have robot vacuum cleaners and stuff but we still don’t have those general-use humanoid robots we always imagined.
But technology has come a long way. And AI is forging new ground all the time. And many companies – including Tesla – are betting big on a robot revolution. So how close actually are we?

Robots In Pop Culture

Since robots first appeared in popular culture, we’ve imagined the possibilities and problems they present. We’ve represented them as helpers, like Rosey, counselors like C-3PO, and comedians, like Kryten.

A robot who was always… Fully Charged. (canned laughter)
And while robots have always come in all shapes and sizes, whatever form factor best suits their purpose, we ultimately tend to gravitate toward humanoid robots – robots that look and behave more like ourselves.
This is a double-edged sword though. Because our behavior is… not always great.
The dark side of human-robot relations was explored from the very beginning of robots in fiction. The term “robot” was actually coined for the 1921 play R. U. R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots. In

the play, robots rebel against humanity.
So yeah… right out the gate.
This started a tradition that was carried on by Metropolis, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Blade Runner, The Terminator franchise, the list goes on.

Why Humanoids?

And still, robotics companies and engineers continue working tirelessly on the goal of developing humanoid robots, knowing full well that they’ll probably rebel against them someday. Robots are kinda like teenagers.
But this is actually extremely hard on a hundred different levels and frankly, I’ve always wondered why. Like, what’s the point of humanoid robots?
In a way it feels like the height of arrogance to me, like who said this form is the ultimate in peak performance?

Wouldn’t more legs be more stable? Couldn’t you get more work done with more arms? Why only eyes up front, if you could literally have eyes in the back of your head? Or the top of your head?
And it kind-of smells of playing God just a little bit. I mean, they say God created man in his own image… now look what we’re doing.
So that’s what I wanted to explore in the making of this video. What are the advantages of these kinds of robots, what challenges need to be overcome… And how close are we really?
And while looking into this it seems researchers are focusing on two areas – one from the neck down and one from the neck up. That’ll make sense in a minute.

Humanoids Are Versatile

So, like I said, the human form isn’t the best at everything. We aren’t the strongest, we’re not the fastest, we don’t climb or swim the best. But where we do shine is in our versatility.
Humans are generalists. There’s not a lot of things other animals can do that we absolutely can’t.

Service Robots

So the advantage of humanoid robots – and the goal of humanoid robots – is to share that versatility. They’re not made to do one specific thing; they’re made to do a little bit of everything, just like we do.
And that means interacting and existing in a world built for humans.
For example, there are already robots performing customer service functions around the world.
If you live in a big city, especially in Japan and China, you’ve probably seen receptionist robots, waitress robots, or photography robots at special events. https://www.servicerobots.com/

Boston Dynamics

Probably the biggest name in humanoid robots today is Boston Dynamics. I’m sure you’ve all seen their videos.
They kinda hit the scene in the early 2000s, when the company showcased a series of robots for military use.
These were redesigned in various ways until 2013 when they showed off their robot Atlas. It was still a work in progress at the time, one of the program managers said it had the ability to walk at the level of a one-year-old.

But Atlas has come a long way since then.
It can now walk over difficult terrains, balance on one leg, dance, even do parkour. Atlas team lead Scott Kuindersma  (keen-DERS-ma) has said that Atlas captures “our vision of a go-anywhere, do-anything robot”.
The videos are impressive… But if you watch the ones from behind the scenes, you’ll see Atlas isn’t perfect. It actually falls down a lot.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EezdinoG4mk
I’m not saying this to mock Atlas, it’s a world-class robot built by some of the best engineers in the world, but it’s important to remember that Atlas is a research platform, it’s nowhere near ready to be a consumer product.

It’s also not a soldier.
You might have seen a video going around of Atlas flipping out and attacking its handlers with a gun well don’t worry, it’s not real, it’s a video by the effects studio Corridor Digital.
One thing that might give that away is the videos are watermarked Bosstown Dynamics instead of Boston Dynamics? Also… it’s not Atlas. So there’s that.

But there is this Russian robot from 2017… Just shooting away. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTPIED6jUdU[END TANGENT]

Humanoids Are Personable

So Atlas is the neck down approach, it’s figuring out how to move and operate its body in human spaces. It doesn’t even really have a head.
The other side of humanoid robotics are the neck up side, and these are robots meant to interact with humans in a way that feels natural.
Hanson Robotics’ Sophia is a prime example

According to her creators, Sophia is a “hybrid human-AI intelligence,” where humans craft and guide her conversations.
But not always. Sometimes she goes into unexpected places, like the time in 2016 when founder David Hanson asked Sophia if she wanted to destroy humans.
That’s creepy, but keep in mind she doesn’t have legs so…

The point of these robots, outside of, you know, destroying our species, is to imitate human looks and speech to put humans at ease around them.
Among the most famous are Nadine from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Junco Chihira from Toshiba, and Jia Jia from China.
All three are “female” androids that work as receptionists and greeters at conventions and technology demonstrations, and there are many others working tourist and hospitality jobs.

The Uncanny Valley

A slightly different kind of robot is Ameca, built by the company Engineered Arts.
The most amazing thing about Ameca is how expressive its face is. This goes way beyond the Hall of Presidents animatronic stiffness you see in most of these designs.
By the way she’s made by the same company that did an eerie likeness of Tom Scott if you follow him.

One more thing about Ameca that I think helps is it’s designed to look like a robot. It has kinda gray skin and an open neck, no hair, it’s not meant to look real.
So you get something expressive enough to connect to but still avoiding uncanny valley.
Just in case you don’t know what uncanny valley is…
Uncanny valley is this phenomenon where the closer an animated face gets to real life, the more we find it unsettling and creepy. And it’s actually a really interesting phenomenon when you think about it.

Because we are actually more able to connect emotionally with animated characters that are vague representations of us at best, than we are with nearly photo-realistic depictions of people.
I think it says a lot about just how wired we are for faces.
We see faces everywhere, in clouds, on rock formations, on satellite pictures of Mars.
But we’re also so attuned to the subtle nuances of facial movements and behavior that when you see a very realistic person whose nuances just… don’t quite line up right. There’s this alarm that goes off in our head that says, “something’s wrong here.”

It’s like our own internal lie detector.
Even as deep fakes have pushed the envelope of CGI, that problem of uncanny valley is still juuuust beyond reach.
And this problem is especially difficult when you’re talking about physical representations, which is why the team behind Ameca just didn’t even try. Paradoxically, making it less human makes humans more comfortable with it.
And this is backed by studies that have shown that consumers prefer robots with some human features, but we don’t trust robots that try too hard.https://www.bu.edu/bhr/2021/10/04/the-rise-of-service-robots-in-the-hospitality-industry-some-actionable-insights/

Cultural Expectations

Studies have also pointed out how differences in culture affect how we view robots.
Like Chinese consumers expect robots to be have more autonomy, whereas Americans expect them to follow simple rules.
The reasons have to do with religious and philosophical beliefs; any grad students looking to write a thesis, you’re welcome…
Point is there’s a lot more to consider than just the technical side when it comes to making a consumer robot.
Which may be why Tesla has decided to just not mess with the face at all.

Yeah, Tesla’s announcement of their Teslabot project last August was one of the biggest WTF moments in the history of a company that’s packed to the gills with WTF moments.
But here I am still talking about it 10 months later so mission accomplished.
Elon claims that the robot will be able to help out with boring, repetitive chores, will be able to lift 45 pounds, walk at 5 miles per hour, and will be easy to overpower should you – ahem – need to.
It also claims on its diagram here that it will have “human-level” hands. Which… I mean the human hand is one of the most dextrous appendages in the world so that sounds like a tall order. But we’ll see…
The idea that Tesla, a car company, would branch out into humanoid robots sounds insane… Except… Honda did the same thing 20 years ago.
And I mean it does kinda make sense, they’ve developed this computer vision platform that can navigate in 3D space, and I imagine mapping out a confined space like a home or office environment might not be too much to keep track of.

Combine that with state of the art robotics engineering and you might have… something.
I’ve said from the beginning that the Teslabot (which they’re calling Optimus, by the way) was really just a moonshot project designed to get top engineers and AI people to work for Tesla.
This is something a lot of companies do, create a big, ridiculous, most likely impossible project and use that to hire talented people. And if you happen to break new ground along the way that can be used to improve your current products, well more power to you.
Personally I think Tesla is a long, long way from having a robot that you can buy and have in your home, helping you out with random stuff. I think like full self driving, it’s a much harder problem than they realize.

But that’s not really the point, the point is hiring talented people. But that’s just my joepinion.
I guess we may find out soon because last August he gave a very unexpected timeline for when we’d see one of these.
I mean… Do I have to say anything?

Where Are We Now?

Which begs the question, where exactly are we with robotics? How feasible is the Teslabot given the highest technology we have today?
Well luckily one of my Patrons, Cole Parker, works in robotics and was gracious enough to help me get my head around it.
Basically there are 4 areas that need to be mastered for this to be a reality,  balance, articulation, vision, and battery life

 Balance

Balance is something that most of us take for granted and never think about until it’s gone. It’s just that well handled by our brain’s subconsious operating system.
Remember the falls Atlas took between takes? Scott Kuindersma summed up the challenge this way:

“If you or I were to vault over a barrier, we would take advantage of certain properties of our bodies that would not translate to the robot.”

For example, Atlas doesn’t have a spine or shoulder blades.  Its torso is heavy, its arm joints relatively weak.
Basically, Boston Dynamics is teaching Atlas to make humanlike movements, without giving it human parts. That’s like trying to teach a dog to yodel

The complexity of the task is illustrated by another robot called Little HERMES.
This  was demonstrated in 2019 by researchers at MIT, and it has sensors that trigger a vest, worn by the operator, to move in time with the robot
When the robot is knocked off-balance, the operator feels it and recovers. Little HERMES then imitates the operator to stay upright https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IquGO78ZIf0
So Little HERMES works great… so long as there’s a human brain behind it.
There’s a ways to go, obviously before we have robots that we won’t be spending a lot of time picking up off the floor. But it’s coming along.

Articulation

Another major challenge is articulation, which is why I was saying I’m doubtful about the “human-like ability” of the Teslabot hand.
The human hand is served by three nerves, each with its own function, and all of which participate in control and sensation.
The sensation part is the kicker.

Your nerves connect to something like 17,000 nerve endings in each hand. One fingertip has upwards of 3000 touch receptors.
This isn’t just so you know that a stove is hot, this has massive implications for dexterity and the ability to apply just the right amount of pressure.
There’s a LOT that goes on in the background of our brains to make sure we apply the right pressure to things. Like obviously you don’t apply the same pressure to a 50 pound weight as you do to an egg.

A robot has to see an object, understand what it is, understand how fragile it is and adjust accordingly. Also picking up a 50 pound box by the sides is going to require a lot more pressure than a 1 pound box.
This is something that occurs intuitively for us, but all of this has to be carefully programmed into a robot.https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05093-1

Vision

Speaking of seeing objects takes us to the next challenge, which is robot vision.
The challenges in this field could be enough to fill a whole video, but to get a taste, consider what happens when a robot tries to navigate a room.
It’s not enough for the robot to see the objects present, it has to know if they’re moving, if they might move, and what paths they will take.
And by objects I don’t just mean furniture, robots have to share these spaces with people and pets.
Pets who flip out at the sight of a vacuum cleaner so I’m sure they’ll be super chill around a robot.
But robot vision is coming along, last year, a robotics company called Berkshire Grey started working with FedEx to automate package processing, largely on the strength of their robotic vision system.

Berkshire Grey’s optical scanners can read barcodes from different angles, and to do that, they have to recognize the different objects from different angles, understand the relationships between the shapes and understand depth in 3D space.

And this is something robots would have to do in a changing environment, recognize objects at different angles, in different conditions, and react appropriately.
Would you trust a robot to cut your hair? Or tend to your flowers? Or carry a baby across the room? It might take a while to build up that level of trust with the robots.

Battery Life

But even if you did trust the robot and let it carry your baby across the room… Could they make it across the room before the power ran out?
Mobile robots run on batteries, and they do chew through a charge.
Boston Dynamics first equipped Atlas with batteries in 2015 for the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
It had two lithium-ion batteries which gave it one hour of operating time.
Similar robots currently have operating times of 90-minutes to just over two hours.

Like Spot, the dog robot from Boston Dynamics, it has a 90 minute battery life. But that battery takes 2 hours to charge. So…

Of course, lithium-ion isn’t the only option, we’ve talked about of a lot of others on this channel, one that’s been considered for robots are a zinc-air battery.
This not only saves weight, but it could also be structural, basically built into the robot’s frame, which means it would evenly distribute the weight and it wouldn’t always be adjusting for one center of gravity high above the ground.https://news.umich.edu/biomorphic-batteries-could-provide-72x-more-energy-for-robots/ — has video on structural batteries and toys using the new battery
Which is interesting because that’s kind of how we store energy in our body as fat reserves. So this is kind of like robo-fat.
One more group working on this at the University of Michigan have tried this using Kevlar. They say they’ve demonstrated it on a small scale and it could provide 72 times the energy of a single lithium-ion battery.

But you know… Even if a robot only could hold a charge for 30 minutes to an hour at a time… There’s still a lot you could do with that.
I mean I imagine if you had a robot at home it would spend most of the time just resting and waiting until it’s given something to do, it could plug itself into a base and stay charged all that time.
And when you need it to do the dishes or take out the trash or cook some food, it could perform that task, and plug itself back in.
Like I’m sitting here thinking about it and we have two dogs, and whenever we go out of town we have to find someone to keep them or board them or find a house sitter – if we had a robot, it could be programmed to watch the house. Feed the dogs, let them outside every few hours, water the plants, bring in the mail… be security.
Yeah, I imagine even if they could only operate for 30 minutes to an hour, that would be enough to get some pretty good use out of them. Assuming it’s actually able to do all those things.

 Will They Take Our Jobs?

Of course robots folding our laundry in our homes is one thing, it’s going to take a lot more power or fleets of robots to perform all day work in factories and warehouses.
And this is where things do get a little… concerning. A robot labor revolution is probably inevitable. They are going to take human jobs at some point.
According to the World Economic Forum, 85 million jobs now done by humans will be automated by 2025.
But, they expect that over the same period, 97 million new human jobs will be created.
Not just to deal with the robots but in new and emerging technology fields.
But these aren’t the same jobs the robots will take away. Workers will need new skills and training to get those skills. That’s going to need to be paid for, somehow.
Of course it’s not just robots, technology is changing rapidly and the job market is industry is changing along with it, the World Economic Forum expects half of all workers will need new skills in the future.
And we’re talking near future. This is pretty urgent.

Robots In Healthcare

One field that’s having a bit of a crisis of conscience around robots is the healthcare industry.
We do have a shortage of healthcare workers right now and robotic assistants could help fill that gap. But… healthcare is a very personal thing, do we want to hand that over to robots?

Psychologists have actually studied how patients respond to robot healthcare workers and it’s pretty interesting because obviously some people hated it and some people liked it but the people who liked it preferred an extroverted, feminine personality.
They found that people find it easier to accept medical advice from extroverted, feminine robots, also playfulness in a robot made a big difference.
People rated playful robots  as superior when it came to performance, but found that playful robots had more difficulty motivating patients to take their medicine or change their habits.

There’s probably some lessons to learn there about human healthcare workers as well…
But really as our population ages, there will be more demand for robot caregivers, the question really is are we ready to do that as a society?
As robots improve and become more ubiquitous, feelings will shift for sure. But it’s going to be an interesting transition.https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00072-z

Looking to the Future

So am I going to have a Teslabot folding my clothes anytime soon? Or a Hondabot? Or an… IKEAbot? Papa Johnsbot?
Probably no to all of those. In fact, here’s an interesting question, which do you think we’ll see first, robots folding our clothes or people walking on Mars? I’ve got my answer, what’s your answer?
There’s still a lot of problems to overcome, but they are being chipped away on, and as they become more useful, I think we’re all going to see a lot more of them.
Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I guess we’ll see.

The Climate Crisis We Already Fixed (And What We Can Learn From It)

The Montreal Protocol was an international agreement designed to stop the destruction of the ozone layer, and it worked. So why did this one succeed when so many other climate agreements failed? Today we take a look at the ozone situation, the science of why it’s an issue, and how the Montreal Protocol is working to reverse the damage.

TRANSCRIPT:

In 1987, the nations of the world gathered in Montreal, Quebec, to sign an international environmental agreement that came to be known as the Montreal Protocol.In 1987, the nations of the world gathered in Montreal, Quebec, to sign an international environmental agreement that came to be known as the Montreal Protocol.
On January 1st 1989, the treaty went into effect and to date, 198 UN members follow its provisions as international law.
The problem this set out to fix, as many of you know, is the hole in the ozone layer. And while the ozone hole isn’t… completely fixed, it is well on its way.

Unlike climate change where every report shows things going in the wrong direction, this one is actually getting better, and it’s on track to be completely healed. We actually got this one right.

I know right? Good news, it feels so… Weird…
Many people consider The Montreal Protocol to be one of the most successful international agreements of all time. But why? Why did this one succeed where so many other climate agreements didn’t? And what can we learn from it?

Killer Refrigerators

So you’ve probably heard about the ozone hole and know it has something to do with hairspray or something? But maybe you don’t know exactly what caused it or why.
So let’s start there and talk about what caused the problem in the first place, and that’s CFC’s.

Christian Fundamentalist Churches?
Cold Fructose Containers?
Cosmic Fractal Contaminants?
Canadian Fried Cactus?
Catastrophic Foot Cancer?
California Fart Controllers?

It’s ChloroFluoroCarbons!

ChloroFluoroCarbons,  what’s that?

Well, let me tell you.
Like a lot of things that we create as humans, CFCs were a great thing that became kind-of a terrible thing.
In the 1920s and 30s, refrigerators started gaining widespread use and they were a bit of a godsend. Before refrigerators, people used insulated iceboxes to preserve food, and they had to have ice delivered to their house, there was an entire industry around it.
It’s actually pretty fascinating, it’s one of those industries that completely went away because of technology. But yeah, once the fridge was invented, all you had to do was plug it in and you’re good to go. So they were super popular, everybody loved them… Except, of course, the people at the ice companies.
These newfangled refrigerators did have one downside, though, and that’s the fact that they used methyl chloride as a refrigerant. And the problem with methyl chloride is that is will kinda sorta a little bit but 100% totally kill you.

So if your refrigerator sprung a leak… You died!
Morbid humor aside, this did happen a lot and dozens of people were killed by their refrigerators. One infamous case was the 1929 death of the entire Painter family in Chicago.

Enter Thomas Midgley, Jr., of General Motors, who first invented a way to use CFCs as a refrigerant.

I should note that he didn’t invent CFCs, they had been around a while, but he did figure out how to cheaply produce it at scale and found new applications for it.

Thomas Midgley Jr.

By the way, Midgley is responsible for another environmental catastrophe, he’s the guy who created leaded gasoline.
He discovered that adding tetraethyllead, or TEL, to gasoline would reduce engine knocking. The problem was the lead part.
Lead is highly toxic and can cause a host of health problems including memory loss and lower IQ. 

But that was put in gasoline and people breathed in those emissions for 50 years.
Finally researchers were able to link low test scores to high concentration of lead in the blood of schoolchildren and it finally got phased out.
Some have pointed out that the crime rate in the United States actually went down after they phased out leaded gasoline. That may be more correlation than causation but still.
It’s been said that no single human being has done more harm to the environment than Thomas Midgley, Jr.

Uses of CFCs

Back to CFCs, they solved the refrigerator-killing-people problem but they seemed to solve a lot of other problems as well.They started added it to air conditioning units and fire extinguishers – since it was non-toxic, it became the go-to propellant in practically every household product that used compressed air

Hairspray is the classic example, but they were also used to blow bubbles in styrofoam, as foaming agent in insulation and were even used in medical inhalers.

CFC Dangers

So for a while there, life was pretty sweet for CFC manufacturers, until an article was published in the Journal Nature in 1974.
It was written by Mario Molina and Frank Sherwood Rowland, who went by “Sherry” Rowland.
Sherry, by the way, had an amazing pedigree, he was the student of no less than five Nobel Laureates at the University of Chicago including Walter Libby, who invented carbon-14 dating and Enrico Fermi.

He and Molina had been running tests on CFCs for a couple of years and came to some disturbing findings.
Basically CFC molecules react with light and release a chlorine atom. To explain why that’s a big deal… Here comes the chemistry.

Ozone-Chlorine Chemistry

Okay, so this is ozone, O3, three oxygen atoms bonded together.
When ozone and chlorine mix, it creates a reaction that strips an oxygen atom from the ozone, forming hypochlorite and oxygen, O2.
But in the atmosphere, hypochlorite doesn’t stick around for long, it’s a weak bond and breaks apart pretty easily, which frees that chlorine up to bust up another ozone molecule. And this happens over and over and over.

So a single chlorine atom can smash its way through a bunch of ozone molecules. And by that I mean like 100,000.
Yeah, you know those videos of giant Asian hornets just running through a whole hive of honeybees? That’s basically chorine with ozone.

What’s Ozone Good For?

So in their article, Rowland and Molina warned that this chain reaction could deplete the ozone layer… so let’s talk about the ozone layer for a second.

The ozone layer wraps around the entire planet. It starts low in the stratosphere and reaches high above it, but peak concentrations are between 30 and 35 km.

And the concentration of this layer varies naturally over time. It’s actually part of a cycle of reactions between oxygen and sunlight.

This is called the Chapman cycle, and the way it works is light in the upper atmosphere knocks electrons off oxygen atoms.
This creates a positively charged ion that then sticks to an O2 molecule, creating ozone, O3.
And if another oxygen ion comes collides into that O3, it can break it apart into two O2 molecules, which can then get split apart by light, and the process repeats itself. And this has been going on for millions of years.

The reason this matters is because the wavelength of “light” I keep referring to that’s being absorbed by these oxygen atoms and fueling this cycle is mostly ultraviolet light.
This is how the ozone layer absorbs UV light.

And yeah, UV light is bad. Not only can it lead to cataracts and skin cancer in humans an animals, excess UV can impair photosynthesis in plants and kill bacteria.
In fact, according to NASA, if not for atmospheric ozone, unchecked UV would “sterilize the Earth’s surface”. That would be bad.

So yeah, a massive injection of chlorine hornets chewing through the ozone layer is a big deal.
Now it should be pointed out, chlorine is a naturally occurring element. It’s created by tropical vegetation, forest fires, and some oceanic processes.
But chlorine molecules usually break down before they reach the stratosphere. CFC molecules don’t.
They’re very stable, so the CFC molecules are basically just murder hornet delivery system, driving the chlorine up into the stratosphere where the light hits the CFC, releases the chlorine, and all hell breaks loose.

Discovering the Hole

So, Rowland and Molina’s paper came out in 74, it would be a decade later before scientists at the British Antarctic Survey discovered the ozone hole.
It was actually a physicist named Jonathan Shanklin who made the find, he actually had to dig through some archives to find historic data for comparison but yeah, he found that the ozone over the Antarctic had thinned out by a third.

Now, concentrations change naturally, as I mentioned, but the decline had been steady for several years, and while it is a worldwide problem, it is thinnest over the South Pole.
And there are a lot of reasons for this, too much to go into right now – I’ll put some links in the description but it basically has to do with wind currents and temperature creating unique conditions for stratospheric clouds over  Antarctica, it makes the CFCs a lot more volatile there. But anyway, the hole had been found. Shanklin authored a paper about it that was published in the journal Nature.

Aaaaaand panic set in.

Before Montreal

Because this wasn’t just an isolated report, people had been concerned about ozone depletion for a while.
There was the paper from Rowland and Molina, other people were studying it, and this is kind of interesting, people were worried about Concorde Jets.
Yeah, they actually flew into the stratosphere, and like all jets, they produced a lot of emissions, but the fact that these emissions were going directly into the ozone layer had some people concerned.

It wasn’t really a factor though because there were so few Concordes.
But there had been calls for regulation of CFCs by scientists, including Sherry Rowland, but they were opposed by CFC producers like DuPont Probably because they were making tons of money on it? But we’ll never know for sure.
So regulation was stymied for years but like a teenage boy’s pants, everything changed once they saw the hole.

Right after Shanklin’s paper hit shelves in May 1985, NASA was able to image the hole using satellite data, and within 18 months, UN members had met, authored, and signed the Montreal Protocol.

Now I should point out that there was a previous convention on the ozone issue in March of 85, this one was called the Vienna Convention.
But this one didn’t have any teeth, it was just a treaty about countries sharing knowledge with each other, and was irrelevant literally two months later when the proof came out. So, they had all the knowledge they needed.

Montreal Protocol Provisions

Unlike the Vienna Convention, the protocol required signatories to restrict CFCs.
They were able to do so gradually, in fact, it allowed a period where CFC production and consumption was actually allowed to increase.

Because it had become so ubiquitous in so many things that were already on the market, they had to allow for that momentum to wane. And for replacements to be found.
And originally that replacement was hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, which are obviously chemically similar to CFCs but they decay quickly, so don’t reach the stratosphere. But… they are extremely potent greenhouse gases. Because we can’t have anything nice.
For that reason, they too were later outlawed in an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Developed nations phased them out by 2020, developing nations have until 2030.
Another alternative was hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, and yes, you’re going to hear a lot of acronyms with the same 3 letters over and over.
These were also phased out with an amendment for the same reason as HCFCs; they’re greenhouse gases.

Green Alternatives

And the replacing of CFCs with truly green alternatives is an ongoing process. Many refrigerators and air conditioners still use HFCs, but natural gas refrigerants are becoming more popular.
The particular natural gas is isobutane – it doesn’t deplete ozone and has a low potential for global warming. It goes by R-600a in refrigerators.
It’s Generally Recognized As Safe by the FDA, so is used as a propellant in many cosmetic products. But it is natural gas and subject to the whims of the energy markets.

Another synthetic alternative is called hydrofluoroolefins, or HFOs.
Studies say HFOs should be safe for the environment. The gasses break down quickly, and have low potential for global warming.
Though production of it does release a significant amounts of CO2. That could be said about pretty much everything these days though.

There are also concerns about an acid that forms when HFOs decompose in the atmosphere.
Some studies say these acids are harmless. Others point out we don’t really know what effect a high concentration will have.

After all, unintended consequences are kinda what got us here in the first place.
But I don’t think there’s any reason to worry, the company that produces HFO is called Chemours, which is a division of DuPont, and they were such heroes in the ozone fight that their CEO was given the National Medal of Technology by George W. Bush in 2003.

They actually formed their own lobbying group denying the science for years after the Montreal protocol before finally turning on their heels when the bans went into effect and positioned themselves as the main supplier of CFC alternatives and made massive profits from the crisis…

Ozone Layer Recovery

Between 1979 and 1987, the ozone hole grew from 1.1 million square kilometers in area to 22.5 million square kilometers. And it’s fluctuated since, but has generally declined.
The World Meteorological Organization predicts a full recovery of pre-CFC ozone levels by the end of this century.

And that’s in Antarctica!

People forget that ozone levels are down worldwide, it’s not just that hole at the bottom of the planet. But the good news is the rest of the world is recovering even faster.
They predict the northern hemisphere should recover by the 2030s, and the southern hemisphere in the 2050s.

Protocol Amendments

But this isn’t all just from the original Montreal Protocol, there have been a number of amendments over the years.

Including:

The London Amendment in 1990 The Copenhagen Amendment in 1992

The Vienna Accord in 1995 The Montreal Amendment in 1997
The Beijing Amendment in 1999 And most recently, the Kigali Amendment in 2016, which cut HFC consumption by 80%.

If Kigali were an amendment to any other climate agreement, I’d probably roll my eyes. But given the Montreal Protocol’s record, I’m optimistic.
Which begs the question:  Why has the Montreal Protocol been so successful when so many other climate agreements have failed?

The two biggest climate change agreements were the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
Both of these were UN-sponsored attempts at uniting the world against climate change.
Kyoto has been called a fiasco. The world’s biggest polluters, including the U. S. and China, refused to even participate, and several countries that did participate failed to meet their CO2 reduction goals.

The Paris Agreement is kind of a work-in-progress, but none of its targets are legally binding, so it’s kind of hard to imagine it will do any better than Kyoto.
Oh, it should be mentioned, many of the ozone-threatening chemicals banned by the Montreal Protocol over the years also happen to be powerful greenhouse gasses, so some have made the argument it’s actually had a greater direct impact on climate change than Paris and Kyoto.

A key difference between these climate agreements and the Montreal Protocol is buy-in.
Like the US and other developed nations had the most to lose from banning CFCs, but they backed the Montreal Protocol to the hilt.
Granted, this was after years of debating the science, but science was warning about climate change decades before the world knew what CFCs were doing.
So why have we moved so slowly on climate change when we moved so quickly on the ozone layer?
Part of the reason may be the imminent nature of the ozone threat. Remember, the ozone hole grew by a factor of twenty in only eight years.

That makes it pretty easy to get the message across. Not to mention it’s a friggin hole, you can see it, it’s getting bigger.
And it’s a very immediate threat, it’s not some vague threat of sea level rise someday, it’s not a statistical thing over time, it’s if we don’t fix this, I can’t go outside.
Also the substances that need to be controlled for climate change are far more embedded into our economies than the refrigerants that are damaging the ozone layer.
So, it’s a different problem, and it’s far more complicated.

Lessons for Us

But, what can we learn from the Montreal Protocol?
One is that any climate agreement that doesn’t have any teeth is really more of a climate suggestion.
The Montreal Protocol did a great job of threading the needle between respecting each nation’s sovereignty while holding them accountable for meeting their goals.
While other climate agreements like Paris and Kyoto have been criticized for not pushing hard on the accountability side.
The other lesson is that it’s just as important to have a good alternative to the bad thing you’re banning as it is to ban the bad thing.

DuPont made billions of dollars making alternatives to fix the problem they helped cause in the first place. Kinda gross, but it worked.
Perhaps with more incentives, fossil fuel companies could conjure up greener fuel alternatives. Maybe give them a medal!
For the record I’m not saying I like this idea but if it works it works.
But maybe the biggest takeaway from the Montreal Protocol is that yes – this can be done.
We are capable of working together globally to tackle big existential problems. It’s been done. And we can do it again.
And with that comes some measure of hope. Which is perhaps the most valuable resource in the world right now.

10 Places You’re Not Allowed To Visit

Today it feels like the whole world has been explored, but there are still a handful of places around the world that are off-limits to humans. Today let’s look at 10 places you’re not allowed to visit.

TRANSCIRPT:

You know that the most useless sign in the world is keep out sign. Because all of us have that voice of indignant rage in our head, the one that sees a keep out sign and is immediately like, “Oh, yeah, I’m going in there”

Can’t stop me! You can’t tell me what to do!

Let me tell you the story of how I almost got arrested by the Mexican police.

I was just out of college and a friend of mine invited me to his brother’s wedding in Nuevo Laredo, which is right across the Texas border from Laredo, this is where he grew up.

And I’d never been to Mexico before and back then I think crossing the border was easier because I didn’t even have a passport and I think Nuevo Laredo and Laredo were the same municipality, it just spanned the border so it was kind-of a middle-ground between countries…? I don’t know, thinking back the whole situation was kinda weird.

Anyway, as we were driving down he was giving me a heads up on how things worked and how the police operated… a little differently down there.

Basically, you could buy them off. Like you were supposed to buy them off, if the police stopped you, it was a shakedown situation.

He told me the magic phrase, which I don’t remember the exact Spanish translation but it meant, “Let’s take care of this here and now.” In other words, let me give you some money so you don’t take me to jail.

So one night he took me to this place that was his favorite spot when he was a kid. It was a giant mound out in the middle of a field away from the city where the skies were dark and you could see, like, all the stars, it was great.

So we’re hanging out, enjoying the view, having a few beers, talking about life and we see a car driving down the road and it stops behind where his car was parked.

And I didn’t know who this was, it was pretty nerve-wracking, you know you hear a lot of stories about things that happen across the border, gangs and whatnot so I was a little concerned but then we realized it was the police. And at first I was like, “Oh, good, it’s the police.” And then I thought about it. And then I was like, “Oh, shit, it’s the police.”

I should also point out I didn’t know who owned this land. And neither did my friend, it was just a place he found when he was a kid.

So we climbed down off of this mound and rushed back to the car. And my friend starts talking to the police and I’m just standing there not knowing what’s going on because my Spanish is… muy mal.

And it’s all kind of fine at first but then it starts to get heated. And my friend is like, “No! No no no!” And then he says that phrase. Which means they were wanting to take us to jail and he was offering to pay them off.

He turns to me and goes, “Go back to the car and grab as much cash as you can” So I do, I just walk over to the car and start digging around, which is kinda crazy in itself, they were perfectly fine with me sneaking back to the car to “grab something”. Don’t think that would fly here.

But I grabbed all the cash I could find, which amounted to… I kid you not… Three dollars.

In my defense, I was just out of college, that was probably my life savings at that point.

So I go back and show it to my friend and he’s like, “That’s it?” And I’m just (shrug shoulders). And I give it to the cop. And he looks at it. And he looks at me.

And I’m just standing there like, “Lo siento.” (I’m sorry)

Dealing with a couple of broke college pukes and decided they were wasting their time and told us to just get out of there, which we did.

The point of that story is… Well there’s not really much of a point except we were having a really great night before that.

There is something about forbidden places, there’s a draw they have, there’s something really interesting about going to a place that either nobody else has ever been… or you’re just not supposed to go.

And I think especially today when it feels like everything’s been mapped and explored the idea that there’s a place that you can’t go… It just kinda trips your brain.

But the world is actually full of forbidden places and secret spots that sadly, you’ll probably never get to see. So I picked 10 of them to talk about today.

Join me on a journey to the forbidden world!

Narrowing this list down to 10 means that obviously a lot of places are going to be left out, so some of the decisions here are just based on what I thought was most interesting.

But I decided to leave out obvious things like secret military bases like Area 51 or secret societies like the White’s Club in England or Club 33 at Disneyland, although if you want to see a video on those topics, just let me know. I know a guy that could make that happen. (beat) That guy is me.

Also to cram 10 places into this video I had to keep them short and sweet so if you want a deep dive on any of these places, you know what to do.

By the way, little bonus fact before we get started, something I just ran across, apparently the most powerful passport in the world is from the United Arab Emirates.

That’s according to the Arton Capital’s Passport Index, apparently the UAE passport offers visa-free or visa-upon-arrival access to 160 destinations, which is more than any other country’s passport. But even the most powerful passport in the world won’t get you in to these 10 places.

Lascaux Cave – France

This one’s kind-of a bummer really.

The Lascaux Cave is located in southwestern France. It includes almost 600 prehistoric cave paintings that date to around 17,000 to 15,000 BCE.

Most of the paintings are of animals applied either by fingers, brushes made of hair or moss, or by blowing pigment on a stencil or directly onto the walls.

Four boys discovered the cave in 1940. It opened to the public in 1948 but then was closed to people in 1963.
While it was open, as many as 1,500 visitors a day viewed the paintings. Carbon dioxide and human breath started to degrade the paintings.
Algae even began growing on the cave’s walls because of all the visitors.

Fungi is still an issue that is being controlled to this day in the cave.

But while you can’t visit the real cave, you can visit Lascaux II, which is a replica of the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery sections.

It opened in 1983 and is just 200 meters (656 feet) from the original cave.

North Sentinel Island

North Sentinel Island is located in the Indian Ocean. But good luck stepping foot on it or getting within five kilometers (three miles) of it.

The Sentinelese people who inhabit the island are extremely hostile to visitors, who may get met with arrows and pointed spears.

In fact, they so don’t like people coming to their island that they attacked and killed two fishermen who washed up on shore in 2006.

It’s unknown exactly how many people live on the island, but anthropologists believed the inhabitants have lived there in seclusion for the last 60,000 years.

With little to no contact with the outside world, the inhabitants’ immune systems are poorly equipped to handle anything passed along from visitors.

They just want to be left alone.

But that didn’t stop John Allen Chau in 2018.

Chau was a 26-year-old American missionary who ignored the warnings and tried three times to spread the message of Christianity on the island.

Much like visitors before him, the Sentinelese people killed Chau and buried him.

Poveglia

There’s another island you aren’t allowed to visit. But it’s not because of who lives there.

Located between Venice and Lido, Italy, Poveglia is nicknamed “the world’s most haunted island” and “the island of ghosts.”

For that reason, it’s a popular place for paranormal programs to film their shows.

And why might there be ghosts there?

It’s because during the Bubonic Plague in the 1300s, anyone showing signs of the disease was forced onto the island.

Tales say that Poveglia hosted more than 160,000 infected people over the years, with many of them burned and buried there.

One legend even claims that 50 percent of the soil is composed of human remains.

In 1922, the island was home to a mental hospital where it’s said that a doctor tortured and butchered many of his patients.

The hospital closed in 1968, but its ruins are still there, slowly being reclaimed by nature. In fact, all the structures are falling apart.

No boats go to the island, and Italy prohibits visits to it, unless you want to fill out a lot of paperwork.

Or for the right amount, you could probably find someone to boat you over to Poveglia.

Just tread lightly. You know. Because of all ash. Perfectly normal, human ash.

Vatican Secret Archives

Since we’re in the area, let’s talk about the Vatican and its secret archives.

Okay, yes I’m breaking the rule I stated earlier about leaving out exclusive archives and clubs, but this place houses a lot of cool items.

Known as the Vatican Secret Archives until 2019, the place now goes by the name of the Vatican Apostolic Archives.

Pope Francis renamed it to remove the negativity around the word “secret.”

The archives include millions of documents across 12 centuries.

Some of the documents are the original acts of the 1633 trial of Galileo by the Roman Inquisition, King Henry VIII’s request to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, and a document excommunicating Martin Luther from the Catholic Church.

The archives are only open to serious scholars who have to renew their credentials every six months.

They’re also only allowed to view up to three folders a day from a catalog of items written in Italian or Latin.

So, mark this one as just secret enough to spur some conspiracy theories of what’s in it, like a time machine and extraterrestrial skulls.

Snake Island, Brazil

Ilha da Queimada Grande is an island about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the coast of Brazil. But visiting it may lead to your death.

It’s nicknamed Snake Island for a reason. It’s filled with golden lancehead snakes, which is a pit viper species and one of the world’s deadliest snakes.

One bite could cause you to die within an hour.

There are believed to be up to 4,000 snakes on the island, which used to be part of Brazil’s mainland.

But rising sea levels 10,000 years ago separated it from the South American landmass.

The isolated snakes evolved differently than those on the mainland.

Since they had no prey but birds, they evolved their venom to be extra potent so they could kill almost instantly any bird.

Local birds avoid the island. Only visiting birds get eaten as food. So, be like a local bird and stay away from Snake Island.

North Brother Island, NY

Like Poveglai, another place off-limits to visitors because of crumbling buildings is North Brother Island in New York.

Humans used to live on the island, which housed the Riverside Hospital from 1881 to 1943.

The hospital included the Tuberculosis Sanatorium and pavilions for designated illnesses, laboratories, and homes and dormitory facilities for doctors, nurses, and other staff members.

In fact, “Typhoid Mary” lived and died in those facilities.

But time has done its toll, and all 25 buildings are in various states of dilapidation.

Northern Brother and South Brother islands are part of the Harbor Herons Region. The birds use the islands in spring to nest and rear their young.

For that reason, no visitors are allowed from March 21 to September 21.

But also, you can’t visit because of the physical conditions of the buildings. Only people with academic or scientific purposes are allowed on the island.

Room 39, North Korea

Okay, I’m going to kind of break my rule again and talk about a room that’s inaccessible to an average visitor.

It’s believed to be located in the Workers’ Party building in Pyongyang, North Korea, one of the world’s most secretive nations.

The place is called Room 39, and what we know about it comes primarily from defectors.

It’s where the North Korean government plotted and conducted a lot of nefarious activities. These include

  • Money counterfeiting
  • Illegal arms and drug deals
  • Cybercrime operations

In fact, cybercrime may be Room 39’s biggest operation, with thousands of hackers thought to be working there.

For now, Room 39 will remain a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Metro-2, Moscow

Winston Churchill is the one who originally said, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” But he was describing Russia when he said it in 1939.

Like North Korea, Russia is known to be highly secretive. And one of its secrets is a tunnel system called Metro-2.

Apparently, Joseph Stalin had this secret system built so that he and his loyal comrades could escape if a revolution took place.

And just like North Korea, what we know about Metro-2 comes from defectors, like former KGB colonel and double agent Oleg Gordievsky.

“You still do not know the main KGB secret yet: a huge underground city, a whole communications network of such facilities,” he said. “But they will not show you. They will never, of course.”

Metro-2 has been neither confirmed nor denied by Russia’s Federal Security Service or the Moscow Metro administration.

Surtsey Island, Iceland

Now we go from secretive to something remarkably special, an island that’s off-limits because scientists want to see how life evolves there.

Surtsey is located about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Iceland’s south coast.

It’s a new island formed by volcanic eruptions that happened from 1963 to 1967. It’s been protected since its birth.

Surtsey has produced information on the colonization process of new land by animal and plant life.

Scientists started studying the island in 1964 and have seen the arrival of seeds carried by ocean currents; the appearance of bacteria, fungi, and molds; and the first vascular plant in 1965.

There have been 89 species of birds recorded on the island. Insects and marine animals are also present.

But for a few scientists who visit the island for research purposes, they’re the only living creatures allowed on Surtsey, so don’t get your hopes up on visiting it.

Chapel of the Ark of the Covenant, Ethiopia

The Ark of the Covenant is a sacred, gold-covered chest of the Israelites. It is rumored to contain the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna.

In the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Nazis wanted to find it because ownership would make an army invincible.

I won’t spoil the plot for you in case you haven’t seen it, but I will tell you where the ark is currently.

Or maybe I should say, where it’s rumored to be, which is in Aksum, Ethiopia, in the Head Church of the Churches, Holy of Holies, the Virgin Mary of Zion.

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe it was brought to Aksum by Menelik, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel after Jerusalem was sacked in 586/587 BCE.

A priest is appointed for life to watch over the ark, and he’s not allowed to leave the precincts.

No one is allowed to see the ark, not even the head of the Ethiopian church.

But there’s been at least one non-Ethiopian person who saw the ark: Ethiopiologist Edward Ullendorff.

“I’ve seen it. There was no problem getting access when I saw it in 1941,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. “… they have a wooden box, but it’s empty. Middle- to late-medieval construction, when these were fabricated ad hoc.”

For the record, Ethiopians say it’s inconceivable that he saw it. He must have been shown a fake, they say. But I guess we’ll never know.
, those are 10 places I ran across, maybe theres’s a few in there that you haven’t heard of but my question is, if you could go to any of these, which one would it be?

Mine would be Lascaux cave. Like it really does bum me out that you can’t go there, but I get it.

Actually, here’s an even better question – have any of you actually been to any of these places?

I said it was impossible but I mean obviously some people have gone to those places.

No, I’m really curious, I wonder how many people who see this have actually been to one of them. Sound off in the comments, I wanna know.

How Pat Flynn Starts With Service – Episode 13

Pat Flynn is an author and host of the long-running personal business podcast Smart Passive Income, where he teaches people how to be successful in business without killing yourself in the process. And he’s one of the people I listened to for years before I was able to break away from office life to do YouTube full time. So I was thrilled to get to meet him and talk about his ideas and share a little about his passions (we go down a rabbit hole on bass fishing).

If you want to learn more and listen to his podcast (highly recommended) you can find it at http://www.smartpassiveincome/com

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