Month: August, 2022

Could SpaceX Beat Artemis To The Moon? (And Other Questions)

From the mystery of what cars birds poop on to an update on the Dear Moon mission, these are the burning questions from Patreon this month.


Hey today we’ve got a lightning round video, which is where I take questions from Patreon supporters above a certain level, that level being $50 a month.

Yeah, I know, that’s insane but those insane people are the ones who help keep this channel going, so I want to make them glad they made this insane decision.

And the whole “get a question answered” thing is one of their perks. But there are other perks at much lower levels, like interacting with me in live streams and zoom calls, and access to a private Discord server, this has now become a shameless Patreon ad…

Anyway, sometimes in these lightning round videos I get asked a question and the answer goes to a place I really wasn’t expecting… And today definitely had one of those. Actually 2.

So I encourage you to stick around to the end because it does kind-of spark a debate that I would really love to know your thoughts on. Anyway, let’s start this thing.

Brian Beswick
The first images from Webb are a big deal, but we also heard something big too. What’s your thoughts on the new FRB discovered?
So Brian sent me to this page where somewhere in this sea of ads is an article about a weird new FRB that was discovered last month.

FRBs are Fast Radio Bursts and they’ve been kind-of a mystery for a while now, I think the first one was discovered in 2009, and they’re basically extremely short, like millisecond-long but can release as much energy in a millisecond as the sun does in 3 days.

And the spooky part? Nobody knows what causes them!

The most likely candidates are pulsars or magnetars but it’s still not completely settled.


What’s interesting about this new one is instead of the burst happening in milliseconds, this one is 3 seconds long, so like thousands of times longer.

And it also happens in regular intervals so they’re saying it’s kind-of like a universal heartbeat.

So poetic.

They named it FRB20191221A and what’s cool about it is they think it could help shed some light on what these things are but it s regularity could be used to help measure the expansion of the universe.

By the way, the instrument that detected it is called CHIME, which stands for Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment. Love me some acronym porn.

Are you planning on doing a speaking tour?

I was actually just talking to someone about that the other day. It’s being talked about. Nothing concrete but… Yeah. Maybe.

John Regel
Have you ever been recognized in public outside of Creator-specific venues? If so, would you mind sharing an anecdote about it from your perspective?

It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens enough for me to always be aware that someone might recognize me, so I try to be on my best behavior.

The most recent one that really surprised me was when I was in Ireland, I got recognized in Galway, and I’m sorry his name dropped out of my head but that was a nice surprise.

For anybody who bumped into me out in the world, I guarantee I walked away from that encounter second-guessing everything I said.

What’s even weirder is when people see me and they don’t say hi but then they send a tweet at me like, “I saw you at the mall today.” (shiver)

But feel free to say hi if you see me, it’s always nice to meet viewers in person because this is so impersonal.

What do you think about YouTube thumbnails that are intentionally designed to make you “rage watch” the video? Example: The Empire Was Right in Star Wars.

I hate them. And I hate even more that they work.

“Rageonomics” is a term I’ve heard lately.

I don’t think anybody wants this to be a platform where people have to resort to that to get people to watch their videos. But here we are.

Robin Tennant Colburn
A friend told me that someone at a local scientific institution told her birds poop on blue cars more than any other because “that is the color of water, and birds tend to drop their and their offspring’s poop over water.” I started searching the internet for corroboration but I keep seeing the number one “pooped upon” car color is red. Is there a truth out there? Or is it really maybe just random?

RobIn always brings the weirdest questions. And I love it, because weird is fun. But I also kinda hate it, because they’re really hard to answer.

So Robin, love ya… But hate ya.

So I found this article from a site called the Charm City Circulator, which I can only assume is out of Baltimore, but it’s all about car repair and maintenance, but anyway, according to this article, a study was actually done on this in the UK by an auto parts company called Halfords.

They looked at over 1100 cars in five cities and found that red cars got it the worst at 18%, blue cars at 14%, black cars at 11%, white at 7%, gray or silver got 3% and green only 1%.

Now, they don’t provide a link to this study, so I don’t know exactly what their methodology was, like did they count individual droppings or was it just by car? Like did a car with 5 turds count the same as a car with 1 turd?

Actually the percentages only add up to 54 so I’m guessing they looked at 1100 cars, and of the cars that had turds on them, these were the colors.

But there’s still a lot I can’t know like what locations did they pick because different socioeconomic areas are going to favor different types of car, some of which are more popular in certain colors…

I feel like I’d want to see an experiment where they take 5 different colored cars and park them under a balcony, or around a tree and see if one consistently gets more than the others.

Like this is one of those studies that could be done in a million different ways and could lead to a million different conclusions.

In fact, the British Trust for Ornithology pushed back against the study saying, “We do know that birds can be attracted to certain colors during display but droppings on cars is probably more to do with where you park; if you park where birds roost, then you are going to get more droppings on your vehicle.”

So there you go guys, scientists have proven that if you park where birds poop, you’re more likely to get pooped on. (The More You Know jingle)

The article goes on to say that birds might poop on red cars because they think it’s food, because it’s the color of blood, so they’re drawn to red cars and therefore poop on them more.

Another theory is that red is a mating color, so birds might seek out that color to use to attract mates. And one theory even suggested that clean cars get pooped on more often because the bird sees their reflection and it scares them enough to poop.

“Females would poop because they thought they saw a male they could mate with. But they’d defecate out of frustration when they realized they couldn’t mate since what they thought was an actual bird was only their reflection.”

I mean who hasn’t been so frustrated with the dating scene that they physically shit themselves?

I don’t know, I think this might be one of those things like the claim that red cars get more speeding tickets, therefore if you drive a red car, you’re more likely to get pulled over?

And people look for all these reasons why that happens, everything from profiling to the color red messes with the cops’ radar guns…

When what it really comes down to is red is a popular color for sports cars. And people who drive sports cars tend to drive faster… Because that’s what they’re made for. Hence, more speeding tickets.

I imagine this is something like that, maybe red cars are more popular in places that have more pigeons, or I don’t know, park under trees more or something like that.

Assuming that this was even a real legit study, it was done by a company that sells car wash accessories. So take from that what you will.
And I saw a butt-ton of articles that referenced this study from back in 2012, it looks like it was first reported in the Daily Mail and even they don’t have a source linked so I can’t find the actual study to save my life. If any of you can find it, feel free to share in the comments.

So yeah, there’s a chance this whole study could turn out to just be one of those internet things where someone says a thing and then it gets passed around and eventually becomes common knowledge.

If Zoe chews shoes, whose shoes does she choose?

She wasn’t picky. Thankfully she doesn’t really do that anymore.

John Regel
How many Lowe’s could Rob Lowe rob if Rob Lowe could rob Lowe’s?

Okay, what happened on Patreon this month?


Cole Parker
What’s the update on Dear moon and would you think about applying to go yourself and do a few Answers with Joe in orbit around the moon!

Well they closed down submissions a while back and I did think about applying – and chose not to.

There really hasn’t been a lot announced, especially this year, but if you haven’t been following it since the first announcement, here’s some of the broad strokes…
It was first announced in 2018, it was the brainchild of Yusaku Maezawa and the original idea was he was going to invite 8-12 artists and entrepreneurs to fly around the moon on the SpaceX Starship so that they can share that experience with the world.

Actually, it was originally going to be on a Crew Dragon in 2018, but it would have required going up on the Falcon Heavy, and it hadn’t been crew rated yet. Eventually SpaceX decided not to crew rate the Falcon Heavy and focus on Starship.

So he upgraded the plan for Starship and set it for 2023.

In March of last year, Maezawa announced that he was going to open up 8 seats to the general public and encouraged people to apply with videos detailing why they wanted to go. Apparently they got over a million entries from all over the world.

They did close down applications later on last year and haven’t really made any announcements other than to say that they have narrowed down the finalists and are doing medical checks and testing qualifications and stuff.

And it hasn’t been publicly announced, but there are rumors that the crew has been picked… But I don’t know who those people are.

The only name that’s been floated around is filmmaker Damien Chazelle, he shot the movie First Man with Ryan Gosling and apparently in an interview Maezawa invited him to join if he wanted.

To my knowledge he hasn’t accepted. But they’re being super secretive around it so who knows.

Asking if I would ever want to do something like that… I mean… I’m probably not American Hero material but no, I’m not gonna be first in line to do something like that.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely a dream of mine to go to space someday and I hope space tourism becomes so commonplace that it becomes like taking a cruise or something, I would totally be up for something like that, but no… I’m not gonna be one of the pioneers.

I’ll just talk about it on my channel.

As for timelines and how realistic they are, it’s still being planned for 2023 from what I can tell but since SpaceX still hasn’t gotten it to space yet… Consider me super doubtful.

Now something I keep saying ad nauseum is that I think it’s going to be a while before they’ll be flying people on a Starship that involves propulsive landing, especially if the landing involves catching it in the chopsticks.

It’s just such a brand new thing that’s never been tried before (riff)

I know this is a private flight so it’s outside of NASA’s authority but I don’t know if they still have to be approved by the FAA… I’ll confess to ignorance on that.

So I think it’s more likely to get pushed to 2024 at least but if it does, that brings up a really interesting debate… Who’s gonna get there first? Dear Moon or Artemis II?

Because Artemis II is scheduled to go up in 2024, and it’s going to have almost the exact same flight plan.

Just sit with that for a second… if SpaceX sends a dozen artists and poets and dancers around the moon in a fully reusable ship BEFORE NASA can send 4 highly trained astronauts in a single-use ship that costs $2.2 billion… (shrug) I mean, I don’t think we’ll ever see SLS again.

BUT… And this is a big butt (sir mix-a-lot flash) that’s only if SpaceX can develop the Starship fast enough. Because as of the day this video goes out… assuming everything goes to plan… NASA will be ahead. Their vehicle will have gotten into space.

Of course, SpaceX could be right behind them, they might be doing their first orbital test in a month or two, so… Yeah. 2024 could be really interesting.

I’m curious to hear who you’d bet on in the comments but yeah… I guess we’ll have to wait and see.



Theranos Was A Dumpster Fire – But Here’s Where It Was Brilliant | Answers With Joe

The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is a story of a big idea that got overshadowed by even bigger lies. Here’s why the idea was actually kinda great, why it failed, and how it could still be a reality. (Sort-of.)


By now you’ve most likely heard the story of Elizabeth Holmes, once considered the next Steve Jobs and one of the youngest billionaires in history… And who now is a disgraced fraud with a felony conviction.

And you thought your pandemic was bad.

The story is crazy and Elizabeth Holmes is fascinating for all the wrong reasons but what gets missed in the whole thing is the idea itself. The thing she was selling. I mean she made billions of dollars selling it, so it was valuable to someone.

The idea was a desktop device that with just a few drops of blood could diagnose up to 200 diseases in a matter of minutes. Think about that for just a second.

While other countless tech startups are building new apps and cryptocurrencies and gadgets, this would democratize healthcare, this would change the world. In theory.

I mean going to the doctor is basically like taking your car to the mechanic, but with the hood welded shut. Doctors have to figure out from clues what’s going on in your body because you’re sealed up pretty tight.

With the exception of a couple of places. And the long, swirly tube that connects them.

The history of medicine is really just a history of trying to figure out what’s going on in this black box we call a body in the least invasive way possible.

In the past, this often meant, you know, just opening a guy up. With no anesthetic. And dirty instruments that give the guy sepsis and he’s dead in a week.

Today we have comprehensive blood panels but they take several vials of blood that get tested on different machines, sometimes in different places, and it takes days or even weeks to get results.

But imagine with just a few drops of blood from a pinprick, a doctor could feed it into a machine right there in their room and know what’s wrong, right on the spot.

You’d be out the door in 10 minutes with the medicine in hand.

Not only would it free up busy doctors offices but imagine what it could do in developing nations and underserved communities.

It’s actually a brilliant idea… In theory.

The problem with it it’s just not really possible. We’ll get to why in a minute but first let’s refresh our memories about what happened to Theranos.


Elizabeth Holmes got her start in much the same way as some other tech billionaires – as a college dropout.

Yes, much like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – whose name will pop up a lot in this video – Holmes dropped out of Stanford in 2003 to start her own tech company. She was only 19 at the time.

She named this company Theranos, which by the way is a portmanteau of “therapy” and “diagnosis.”

In 2005, she partnered with entrepreneur Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani; he’d had a successful software industry career and sold an e-commerce startup. So she could be the vision guy and he would be the guy who gets it done.

He didn’t come on in an official role until 2009, when he loaned $10 million to Theranos, but one of the more scandalous things that came out later was that they had actually been in a relationship and living together and they hid that from the rest of the company and the investors… This story doesn’t need a sex scandal in it, but it’s there.

Theranos operated in stealth mode for nearly 10 years, nobody really knew what they were working on but finally, around 2014, they went public.

They announced that they could run up to 200 tests from a single drop of blood using a technology they named Edison.

And people kinda lost their shiiiiiiiit.

Walgreens especially was on board, they imagined testing centers in all their stores, where instead of having to make appointments with doctors, people could just come to Walgreens and take a quick test for a few Hamiltons and walk out the door with the medicine, which might cost a few Benjamins.

So they partnered with Theranos. Investors saw an opportunity and flooded the company with cash. By 2014, Holmes is named one of the richest women in America by Forbes, with a net worth of $4.5 billion.

In summer 2015, the FDA approved Theranos’ technology for testing herpes simplex 1 virus. Just 199 more to go.

But then, cracks began to form. In October, The Wall Street Journal published a report claiming that most of their tests were being done on traditional machines, with vials of blood from patients’ arms.

Apparently… The thing never worked at all, they were just sending blood off to labs like everyone else.

Walgreens backed out of their partnership in January 2016, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services took legal action, banning Holmes and Balwani from the lab business for two years.

Balwani left Theranos in May 2016. Right about that time, Forbes revised her net worth from $4.5 billion… to zero.

Jump ahead to March 2018, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges Holmes and Balwani with fraud.
The SEC claims Holmes and Balwani defrauded investors of more than $700 million, creating “an elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business, and financial performance.”

They had insider documents that showed that they knew that their machine could only perform 12 of the 200 tests it claimed on its patient testing menu.

It’s then that Holmes gives up company control and most of her stake in it.

Earlier this year, she was found guilty on four of 11 federal charges, and he was found guilty of 10 counts of federal wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

They’re both scheduled to be sentenced later this fall.

Yeah, this story is crazy pants. It’s crazy in the pants.

Like, I don’t know if it’s a thing where she was running a scam all along or if she really believed – in her young naïveté – that if you sell the idea well enough and raise enough money and throw enough money at the problem, that smart people would figure it out.

She saw herself as bold, visionary leader, she wasn’t there to solve the problem, she was there to galvanize resources around it and facilitate the solving of the problem.

So what she focused on, very obsessively, was her image.

She… really studied Steve Jobs.

From quoting him in interviews to maintaining super strict diets and schedules, to straight up stealing his black turtleneck look.
Like it’s so obsessive I kinda wonder if the only reason she dropped out of college was because that’s what he did.

But she cultivated this image of herself as a tech prodigy, this unicorn, this next-level genius that’s just about to change the world before she even turned 30. And then there was the voice.

Yeah somewhere in the pile of leadership books she read along the way, she found out about a study saying that people with more masculine voices are taken more seriously in business settings.
Hence the Barry White impression.

And some have come to her defense a bit because there is sexism in Silicon Valley, but it does highlight how much effort was put into the facade. To the point that the word sociopath has been used quite a bit.
Or as John Carreyrou, the journalist behind that Wall Street Journal piece said, “I’ll leave it to the psychologists to decide whether Holmes fits the clinical profile, but there’s no question that her moral compass was badly askew.”

By the way, when I suggest that maybe her original intentions were good… I might be going a little too easy on Elizabeth Holmes here.

Like I think the word “scam” gets thrown around way too much these days, pretty much any time someone takes money from other people, somebody will label it as a scam, when most of the time… It’s really just capitalism.

Especially in the startup space, if you’re developing a new technology or pushing the limits of an existing technology, that requires money. So there’s no getting around it, you have to raise money for something that doesn’t exist yet.

So as long as your science and engineering is solid, as long as you are working in good faith to solve the problem, as far as I’m concerned, that’s not a scam, that’s just the development process.

But in the case of Theranos, I do think the word scam applies because regardless of her original intentions, it became clear at a certain point that their science and engineering was not solid. And they kept selling it anyway.

They kept selling it and tried to cover up the fact that their machines didn’t work. So yeah. It definitely became a scam.

All right, so why didn’t their machines work? What in their science and engineering was so flawed?

The biggest reason is that there isn’t enough data from a drop of blood to test for all the conditions they claimed.

There are a finite amount of molecules in any collection of blood.

While some condition markers have a high presence of molecules, others are less prominent and would need more blood to get an accurate reading.
According to Dr. George Yaghmour, a hematologist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, “It depends what kind of test you are running,” “Platelet count, kidney function, liver function, sodium level, electrolytes —basic stuff. It would be doable, you don’t need much blood. But if you talk about culture and infection, then you need a specific amount of blood.”
Now, there are devices that run multiple blood tests. Like the Siemens Advia 1800. It’s about the size of a minifridge, and it can run dozens of tests at the same time.

And since COVID, there have been efforts to improve on this, you know, developing devices that could check multiple things like the flu and COVID at the same time.

But designing something the size of a desktop computer that can run hundreds of tests at once is way more difficult. And to do it with only one drop of blood? Practically physically impossible.
Or, according to Dr. Mike White from Washington University in St. Louis, “There’s no magic bullet, and that was the weird thing about Theranos’ claims… They seemed to claim that they had one key trick that made a whole bunch of different things easy, and that turned out not to be true.”

So, yeah, there were problems all around the idea, from the science behind it to the technology to the people running it.

But… the dream isn’t dead. There have been some advancements in microfluidic testing that might get us a little bit closer to this vision.

It’s possible now to run multiple diagnostic tests on just a few drops of blood, but not hundreds as Theranos promised.

For example, Abbott Laboratory’s i-STAT 1 is a handheld blood analyzer with single-use cartridges for specific tests that offers multiple results from a finger-prick sample.

Their Chem 8+ cartridge can deliver results for nine metabolic measures with just a few drops of blood.

The tests include blood gases, cardiac markers, coagulation, chemistries, electrolytes, glucose, and hematology.

Abbott representatives say that results are available in two minutes.
And then there are some tabletop blood chemistry analyzers.

For example, the Piccolo Xpress is around the size of a shoebox. It can perform 14 tests on a finger-prick sample and offer results in 12 minutes.
There’s also the Maverick Diagnostic System from Genalyte. It uses a silicon chip-based photonic ring resonator to perform multiple, rapid tests on a small volume of blood or serum.

In fact, the company says its Maverick Immunoassay Analyzer can run up to 26 tests on a single drop of blood.

Genalyte’s FDA-approved system is cloud-connected for assay protocol retrieval and clinical oversight.
And don’t get me started on their retroencabulator. I know that’s what I’m starting to sound like right now.

So we may not ever be able to reach the lofty heights that Elizabeth Holmes was shooting for, but we are getting closer, and the fact of the matter is, blood testing in general is central to the future of healthcare.

As people are getting proactive with extending healthspans and lifespans, regular blood tests are essential to catching problems early and maintaining healthy biomarkers.

Many companies like BioIntelliSense are working on creating health dashboards that basically work the same way as a car dashboard, giving you a real-time status on your health.

Some of these use devices like wearable glucose monitors which obviously is great for diabetics but also used by non-diabetics just to monitor how various foods spike their blood sugar.

Hamish Grierson, the co-founder of a blood test startup called Thriva described it by saying, “This is mission critical for society and it doesn’t require giant leaps in medical science,” Grierson says. “Increasing healthspan is reliant on proactive health interventions and lifestyle medicine and will increasingly be driven by our use of data and technology, powered with diagnostics tools like blood testing.”

We might soon be living in a world where simple, accurate, and fast blood testing just becomes a regular part of life, and Elizabeth Holmes will finally see her big idea come to fruition. From the comfort of her jail cell.

Feeling Weirdly Optimistic With Hank Green – Episode 17 Information

Hank Green is one of the first and most popular science communicators on YouTube, having started out with his brother, author John Green, on their channel Vlogbrothers, and growing an empire of science channels through his company, Complexly. Along the way, the two of them founded VidCon, now the largest online video conference in the world, and he’s written two books, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor.

He joined me to talk about all things science and YouTube, a little bit of politics and some surprising reasons to be optimistic about the world right now.

Find more about Hank and his endeavors at his website:

The Full Plan For Artemis Part II: Back To The Moon

With the upcoming launch of Artemis I, NASA is officially on the way back to the moon for the first time in 50 years. Recently I posted the first of 3 videos designed to cover the entire Artemis program. The last video focused on the uncrewed missions, today we’re looking at the human missions, the ones that will finally put boots on the moon again.


So last month I kicked off this series on the Artemis program by talking about the robotic and uncrewed missions that will do some research and set the stage for the next generation of humans to walk on the moon.

Today, we’re going to talk about those humans.

All right, so we’ve sent the robots, we’ve conducted the tests, we’ve stockpiled supplies and instruments through the CLPS program, now it’s time to send living, breathing, pooping humans back to the surface.

By the way, if you haven’t seen my previous video on those robotic missions, I’ll put a link on screen or down in the description – I encourage you to check that out because… well… that’s how I make money.


But those robotic missions are interesting and it also establishes why we’re going back and the water resources that are going to make going back and staying back possible.

So if we’re going to return humans to the moon, we’ve got to talk about how they’re going to get there, and for Artemis, that’s the Orion capsule.


A lot of attention has been paid over the last several years to the next generation of crewed vehicles designed to send astronauts to the ISS. This is a job NASA handed off to private companies as part of their Commercial Crew program.

So we’ve heard a lot about the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Boeing Starliner, and the Sierra Space Dream Chaser… Only one of which has actually flown people to the ISS.

But at the same time, NASA has been developing the Orion capsule, designed to handle the rigors of deep space outside of low Earth orbit and the magnetic shield.

And that’s really what sets this one apart from the others, it is specifically designed for deep space travel.

The obvious comparison that you want to jump to with Orion is to compare it to the Apollo command module, but they’re different in some significant ways.

First and most obvious, Orion is bigger, built to carry 4 passengers as opposed to 3 for Apollo.
Orion crew capsule dimensions
16.5 ft wide
316 ft^3
Capacity six astronauts but likely
13 ft wide
219 ft^3
Capacity three

But just as obvious, the technology in Orion is like a million times what Apollo was.

You always hear that you have way more computer power in your phone than the Apollo module had, well Orion has the power of… 2 phones. Progress.

I’m kidding, I’m sure it has far more than that but the point is the navigation, guidance, and communications systems are top of the line tech and far beyond what Apollo had.

It also has a brand new toilet on board. Because enter joke here.

There’s also a bunch of storage behind the seats and in the event of a solar storm, there is extra shielding back there so they can take shelter.

It’s being built by Lockheed Martin, so just like Boeing has the Starliner, Lockheed has Orion. And it’s designed to support the crew for up to 21 days without docking.
And it comes with this massive launch abort system that covers the entire capsule and jettisons away after it leaves the atmosphere, with four larger motors in cast they need to abort closer to the pad.

Assuming they’ll still be allowed to abort in Florida.

European Service Module

Attached to Orion is the European Service Module, which you could compare that to the service module on Apollo except this is obviously being built by the European Space Agency.

This thing is loaded with engines, 33 engines total including the main engine which will push it out to lunar orbit, auxiliary thrusters, and reaction control thrusters.

All of which will make this a very stable, precise vehicle. Which is what you want from something that will be docking a lot.

This will carry the power and propulsion systems and “consumables” like air and water for the crew.

One other thing it will have that the Apollo service module didn’t is solar panels.

The ESM will have four solar array wings that NASA says will generate enough power to run two 3-bedroom houses.

Together, this is the system that will ferry astronauts back and forth from low Earth orbit to Lunar orbit.
If you recall in my video on the Space Task Group plans for NASA post-Apollo, you might recall they advocated for something like this, basically a ferry that can move people and cargo back and forth between space stations and lunar bases.

Except theirs was based on the nuclear NERVA engine, which is featured in For All Mankind.

How to make a Space Launch System. Start with a Space Transportation System.
Remove the Orbiter. Detatch the engines and apply them to the bottom of the external fuel tank. Throw in one more engine just for good measure.
Then, top the fuel tank with a second Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), and stack the Orion Capsule and European Service Module, or any moon-bound payload on top of that.
And presto!
Congratulations. You’ve made a SLUSS!

Easy peasy!
Except actually difficult pifficult.

SLS looks like a cross between a Saturn V and the Space Shuttle, which seems like it would simplify everything, because we’ve done all that before, but this is many ways an entirely new rocket, which is why it’s been in development since 2011. It’s been 11 years and it’s just now ready to go up.

And there have been delays this year too. It was supposed to launch in June but back in April they rolled it out on the launchpad for a wet dress rehearsal and found a faulty helium valve that needed to be replaced.

And look, it would be very easy to start getting ranty right now about the entirety of the SLS program, it definitely has its issues and there’s plenty of content out there for that. I will skip that here, just check out the comments if you really want to go down that road. Because it’s already started.

But in an attempt to be more positive, I’ll just say that’s what testing is for. That’s the point of wet dress rehearsals, to find the issues and take care of them. And that’s what they’re doing.

To be fair this is not a small rocket, in fact, it is currently the biggest, most powerful rocket in the world.
It tops out at 322 feet tall on the landing pad, which is just a little bit taller than the Statue of Liberty. Slightly shorter than a Saturn V, but at 8.8 million pounds of thrust, it’s 15% more powerful. And it’ll carry five tons more cargo than the Space Shuttle. Not too shabby.
These are powered by those four Shuttle proven RS-25 engines and those two magnificent solid rocket boosters that I just can’t wait to see back in action.


Luckily you and I both won’t have to wait too long to see it because as of this recording, Artemis 1 is scheduled to launch on August 29th. T-0 is set for 8:33am from Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, with extra opportunities on Sept. 2nd and 5th.

Artemis 1, also called Exploration Mission 1 or EM-1 will be an uncrewed test of the SLS, Orion and… well, everything. The plan is to go into Earth’s orbit, then fire a translunar injection burn out toward the moon. Once at the moon, it will do a little loop-de-loop that will actually go further out into space than any human-rated vehicle has ever gone (280,000 miles) before coming back to Earth.

Once back in Earth’s orbit, the Orion capsule will separate from the service module and re-enter the atmosphere, splashing down in the ocean.

Altogether the Artemis I Mission will last about 3 weeks and will test all the new propulsion, guidance and communications systems.

Along the way, Orion will drop off 13 cube sats that will run a variety of deep space experiments including one where they test the effect of deep space radiation on yeast and scanning the moon’s surface for water ice and other resources.

But maybe one of the most important tests for Artemis I is just seeing if we can do this again. This is the first time a human-rated craft has visited the moon in 50 years. 49 years and 9 months, specifically.

Artemis is a massive program involving 3,200 suppliers and contractors from every state in the country, including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Jacobs, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman – because that’s how these things get funded. And yes, there’s plenty of debate around whether this model still makes any sense.


Artemis II is basically the Apollo 8 moment of the Artemis program. It’ll do basically the same thing as Artemis 1 without the moon loop de loop but with four astronauts on board.

And just like Apollo 8, they will have the experience of coming around the moon and seeing the Earth in its entirety in the distance. They’ll be the first human beings to see that in 50 years.

And maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll livestream that moment so we can all experience it with them, which is something we’ve never been able to do before.

I feel like I’m saying that a lot but I think a lot of people kinda blow off Artemis because we’ve already been to the moon before, but there are a LOT of firsts taking place in this program. And I think that’s worth mentioning.

Artemis II is scheduled to launch in 2024 from a slightly evolved SLS rocket that will be able to lift 45 metric tons, so it’ll be bigger and badder than before.

It’ll be a 10 day mission during which the crew will test out all the systems including system performance, crew interfaces, guidance and navigation systems, and that fancy new toilet I talked about.

They will also do something different from Apollo missions in that they will rely on the Deep Space Network to communicate as opposed to the Earth satellite networks, so they will be testing that as well.
The DSN consists of three facilities spaced equidistant from each other – approximately 120 degrees apart in longitude – around the world. And this is how NASA keeps track of solar system probes, Mars rovers, the Voyagers, that kind of thing.

But I think this it’s interesting that they’ll be using this network designed for deep space missions for a human flight. I think this is the first time they’ve ever done that, which is really cool.

You could imagine someday school children on Mars will be learning about the first time humans communicated over the Deep Space Network that they use every day.

And the names of those astronauts will be… We don’t know yet. They haven’t been picked, but there have been 18 astronauts chosen for the Artemis team. It’s a diverse group of equal parts men and women, reflecting the agency’s goal of putting the first woman and person of color on the moon.

So assuming Artemis II goes off without a hitch, now it’s time to land. There’s just one thing to do first.

I talked in the last video about the Lunar Gateway, and it’s funky rectilinear halo orbit, well the first couple of modules are scheduled to go up in November of 2024 on a Falcon Heavy, so maybe right after Artemis II.

Another module called I-HAB will be added later (2026), more on that in a minute.

Because once that’s ready to go, it’s time to put some boots on the regolith. Of course… you need something to get you to that regolith… So… I guess we need to talk about the Human Landing System.


It’s a very simple nomenclature, this Artemis program. The Space Launch System launches people into space. The Human Landing System… lands humans.

So again… this could be and has been its own video a million times over, feel free to browse around, there are a million hot takes out there, but the short version is… it’s a lunar version of the SpaceX Starship.
NASA opened up the Human Landing System to private industry, and it came down to three proposals, SpaceX with the Starship variant, a company called Dynetics, and Blue Origin’s National Team, which included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.

And in April of 2021, to pretty much everybody’ shock, NASA chose SpaceX. And then Blue Origin sued NASA and it got ugly and stupid.

But I say shock because… I mean look at this thing.

But maybe not a shock because it’s the only option that was fully reusable. All the others left a landing stage behind when they ascend like the Apollo lander, and you can only do that so many times before the landing stages start to pile up.

We haven’t seen any official renderings of the interior but we do know that the crew space will be WAY up at the top.
Yeah the plan seems to be that they’re going to engineer a crane like this to get crew and cargo down to the ground, which sounds insane to me, especially considering how abrasive lunar dust is. I have honest concerns about the longevity of this solution.

You know another reason NASA may have chosen this is because SpaceX has already shown they can do human rated flight with the Crew Dragon. In fact, this kinda looks like a hybrid of the Starship and Crew Dragon.

They’ve also shown that they can land rockets pretty well. So yeah, maybe not so shocking.

Now it should be mentioned, the choice NASA made was which company they were going to contract to build this thing, so they are helping to fund the Starship Lander. The other two companies can still revise their plans and then lobby NASA to use their lander, which they seem to be doing.

But yeah, it’s a huge lander, and it looks especially insane next to the Gateway. I mean… Why even have it?
But this version of Starship is not designed to ever come back to Earth so there’s no heat shielding on it, it is a deep space vessel.

And we don’t know exactly when they’ll have it done but it’d better be by 2025 because that, at long last, is when we land on the moon again, on Artemis III.


So if Artemis II is this generation’s Apollo 8, Artemis III would be Apollo 11. The math checks out.

So we’re doing in 3 steps what Apollo took 11 steps to do. That’s progress.
Artemis III will take off on the SLS with a crew of four, and after a few orbits will head out to the moon where the Gateway and Lander will be waiting for them. They’ll dock Orion with the Gateway and do a few orbits before 2 of the astronauts move over into the Lunar Lander, and then on the next swing by the moon, they drop down to the surface and land.

These two astronauts will spend about a week on the moon, performing experiments and testing out all the systems while looking for water ice in nearby craters. All the while the other two will be doing the same from orbit in the Gateway.

So like the command module pilot from Apollo except they get to have a buddy.

Anyway, after the mission objectives are complete, the lander will launch back up to dock with Gateway, the crew will transfer cargo and themselves back into Orion, and then head back to Earth for a splashdown.

Along the way, I’m sure that we are going to see some great live events from the Moon which is wild to think about.

The first moon landing was shown in grainy detail on a black and white CRTV to streaming 4k on Twitch.

So Artemis III will be a technology demonstration and celebration of American ingenuity. A very big deal will be made for this.

But just like Apollo 11 wasn’t the end of the Apollo program, Artemis III is just the beginning for Artemis.


Next up will be Artemis IV, which actually won’t land on the moon, it will be a crewed mission to deliver the I-HAB module to the Gateway and spend some time on that, testing out human habitation in deep space.

It will also go up on a bigger, beefier SLS Block 1B that will replace the ICPS second stage with a larger Exploration Upper Stage.

The mission objectives are still being solidified but this is currently scheduled for launch in 2027, followed by Artemis V in 2028.


Artemis V will go back to the surface of the moon, and it’ll be a similar flight profile as Artemis III, with two astronauts going down to the surface and two stay up in the Gateway.

They are bringing with them another module for the Gateway called the ESPIRIT module and the advanced Canadarm.

They’ll also be bringing a new unpressurized moon rover to cover more ground on the moon and will likely spend more time than Artemis III.


So that brings us to 2028 – assuming things stick to plan – and we will have landed on the moon twice with a total of 4 astronauts. And this… is all that’s been funded.  Things get kinda murky after this.

If you go to the Wikipedia page, there are proposed missions going up through Artemis X roughly in 2032, but right now NASA has only been funded through Artemis V. So what does that mean for the future of the Artemis Program?

The answer depends on a lot of things, not least of which what the economic and political landscape looks like in 8 years, both of which are super stable these days.

Also as many are already saying in the comments, if SpaceX really nails the Starship platform, I think you can say goodbye to the SLS, it’s just a no-brainer.

Though I’ve said it once and I’ll keep saying it, I think it’ll be a very long time before Starship is human rated, especially for landing.

Also who knows, the private space industry is changing super fast, maybe another company steps up and provides a different more affordable solution

A lot of the future of Artemis also relies on whether or not they’re successful at finding water ice in those craters. After all that’s kind-of the whole point is to find resources that can sustain a long-term base on the moon and exploration beyond.

And I have to say as I was researching this, I was kinda surprised how much the “beyond” part gets hyped in NASA’s Artemis discussions. They really do see it as the first step to Mars.
I mean, I found this page where they kinda explain the Artemis logo and what all the elements mean and they reference the words “Mars” and “Beyond” almost as much as they do the moon. Even that red swoosh that completes the letter A is colored red – for Mars.

NASA has totally framed Artemis as the just the first step toward human exploration of the solar system. And I’m not gonna lie… I like it.

I feel like so much press has been given to Elon and his Mars ambitions, we don’t hear as much about the fact that NASA’s got very similar ambitions, just through a moon infrastructure.

There are still some hurdles, one worth mentioning is the next generation moon suits.

I’ll point you to a video from Real Engineering that breaks it down really well but the original Apollo suits really didn’t hold up very well against the lunar regolith. And the longest any of them were on the moon was 22 hours on Apollo 17.

With no water or wind to break it down, lunar dust is basically a bunch of microscopic shards of glass. And these new suits need to hold up to that for years at a time.

Not to mention provide more freedom of movement and longer time for moonwalks that will be needed for the construction and maintenance of a moon base.

And yeah, there have been some major stumbles on the new suits, some are concerned it’s going to throw the schedule way out of whack.

So I do expect delays, there will be some bumps in the road. But I have a reason to believe NASA will pull it off.

Two words. Pissing. Contest.

China’s space program has been making huge progress with their Tiangong space station and Chang’e lunar program.

So far they’ve launched 7 successful missions to the moon, including orbiters, landers, and rovers and have shown interest in landing humans there and establishing a habitable base on the South Pole.

In fact, in 2021, they announced a partnership with Russia to build a moon base they’re calling the International Lunar Research Station.

So yeah… they see an opportunity to position themselves as the true superpower in the world. To say that sure the US was able to do great things 50 years ago but now we’ve got the advantage. And the moon is the ultimate high ground.

And I don’t see the US just letting that happen. That’s the kind of thing that makes dollars flow toward NASA.

So my bet is, even though Artemis is only funded through the Artemis 5 mission, we’ll see more funding in the future as that rivalry heats up. It’s starting to look like Artemis could be fueled by the same forces that fueled Apollo.

And if that is the case, what happens next? What is this “beyond” NASA keeps referring to with Artemis? That’s the subject of the next video in this series.

The Electrifying Robert Llewellyn – Episode 16

Robert Llewellyn is the host of the YouTube channel Fully Charged thought he might be better known by some as the actor who plays Kryten in the British sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf. He joined me today for a causal chat about all things electric vehicles and sustainability along with a bunch of other random stuff. Enjoy!

When New England Had A Vampire Problem

Vampires have been a part of folklore for hundreds of years, but in parts of New England in the 18th and 19th centuries, they were a very real. Let’s talk about the New England Vampire Panic.


This is Salem Massachusetts, which famously got caught up in a witch craze in 1692 that led to the executions of 19 people. It was a society gone mad, overcome by fear and superstition. And it’s not the last time this happened.This is Salem Massachusetts, which famously got caught up in a witch craze in 1692 that led to the executions of 19 people. It was a society gone mad, overcome by fear and superstition. And it’s not the last time this happened.
In fact, 200 years later in 1892, you get the story of Mercy Brown.

Mercy Brown was the unassuming daughter of George Brown, a Rhode Island farmer whose life had just been through a series of tragedies.
Tuberculosis had been ravaging the area, they called it “consumption” at the time and in this outbreak George lost his wife Mary, his daughter, Mary Olive Brown, and in the same year Mercy Brown herself died of the illness.
And even as he was burying Mercy, his son Edwin became sick.
But if Mercy’s life had been unassuming, her death would be nothing of the sort.
Because two months later, a mob of people from the town of Exeter dug up Mercy’s body, pulled out her heart and set it on fire.
Mercy unfortunately got caught up in a Salem Witch style mass hysteria event that took place in New England in the late 1800s. Only they didn’t think Mercy was a witch… They thought she was a vampire.

Just to put that time period into perspective, this was the 1890s, the Gilded Age, we had lightbulbs and telephones, transatlantic steamships… Mercedes had its first car on the road at this point.
We even had the germ theory of medicine, though it was still in its early days and hadn’t been universally adopted. In a lot of areas the old folk remedies and superstitions held sway.
And rural New England was one of those places.

By the way, Mercy Brown was not an isolated event, another story involves Rachel Harris of Manchester, Vermont.
This was about 100 years earlier in 1790, but Rachel died from tuberculosis. Her husband then married her stepsister, Hulda, who also started to show signs of TB.
And yeah, the local townspeople thought that it was Rachel’s fault. That she was escaping her grave at night and enacting revenge on her stepsister.
So they exhumed Rachel’s corpse in February 1793. They removed her heart, liver, and lungs and burned them on a blacksmith’s forge.

This was a big event by the way, 500 people showed up to take part in this. In fairness, there probably wasn’t a whole lot else to do in 1793 Vermont.
Regardless, despite their valiant efforts, it didn’t stop Hulda from dying in September of that year. 
So, this was a real thing, people were really convinced that vampires existed and preyed on the living.
But these aren’t exactly the vampires we think of today. Today we’ve seen vampires imagined in just about every way possible, from Count Dracula, to Edward Cullen from Twilight, and Grandpa Munster from The Munsters.

But all vampires in fiction have a few core characteristics in common:

  • They drink human blood
  • They can turn their victims into vampires
  • They prey on their victims at night because the sun kills them
  • They have hypnotic powers
  • And they can’t see their images in mirrors and have no shadows.

Of course a lot of what we now think of as a vampire was first popularized by Bram Stoker when he wrote Dracula in 1897.

He was the first person to take all these folk stories about vampires and codify them in a way.
It’s thought that he named the character Dracula after Vlad III, who ruled an area of modern day Romania called Wallachia from 1456-1462.
His father was Vlad the second, who went by Vlad Dracul, meaning Vlad the Dragon. So Vlad the third was called Dracula.

He was also called Vlad the Impaler, because he got a kick out of impaling his enemies on wooden stakes.
And it was also said he enjoyed dining among his dying victims and would dip his bread in their blood. Which is horrifying… And really unsanitary.
Another historical figure that may have inspired Bram Stoker is a Hungarian countess named Elizabeth Báthory.

If you’ve never heard of Elizabeth Báthory, it’s probably because she KILLED EVERYONE WHO MET HER.
It’s rumored that she tortured and murdered more than 600 young women during the 16th and 17th centuries. And she would even bathe in the victim’s blood.
It should be noted that these accusations may have been politically motivated and completely untrue, but they tied into beliefs that people already had about monsters drinking the blood of others.

These stories go back to the middle ages as plagues began to spread throughout Europe. People didn’t know what was going on, and often turned to folk takes and the supernatural to explain it.
For example, some of the victims of the plague had mouth lesions that bled, and some thought that their mouths were bloody because they were drinking other people’s blood.

The point is there are a few diseases that historians think were related to vampire stories.
The first one isRabies
In 1998, neurologist Juan Gomez-Alonso published a paper in Neurology that argued the symptoms of rabies might explain vampire myths.
Rabies lyssavirus causes rabies in animals. It’s transmitted through direct contact with saliva or brain/nervous tissue from an infected animal.
Rabies infects the central nervous system. Once it reaches the brain, it can cause things like agitation, anxiety, confusion, and hallucinations before killing the victim.

Yeah, have you ever really looked into rabies? Rabies SUCKS.
People with rabies… go rabid. They bite and scratch and claw at people like a wild animal.
Seeing a person do that might put some ideas in your head.
The article also mentions that people who die from rabies often die from suffocation or cardiorespiratory arrest.
This can make the blood less likely to coagulate and slow the decomposition, which to some people might look like the dead person is more undead than dead.
He also pointed out correlations in rabies outbreaks and the birth of vampire tales in the 1720s in Eastern Europe.

In fact, one physician in 1733 got closer than he thought when he described vampirism as, “a contagious illness more or less of the same nature as that which comes from the bite of a rabid dog.”

But another contender is Porphyria
So, rabies may explain the biting and scratching parts of vampire lore, but other characteristics could be explained by a blood condition called porphyria.
For people with porphyria, their bodies don’t make heme, which is an essential part of hemoglobin, that’s what carries oxygen in our blood.
There are two, broad types of porphyria:- Acute porphyrias which affect the nervous system- Cutaneous porphyrias that affect the skin

The most common type of acute porphyria is acute intermittent porphyria, which causes sudden and painful attacks.
These attacks may include seizures, breathing problems, and red or brown urine. (which one might expect one’s urine to look like if one were drinking a lot of blood)
And these attacks are often set off by triggers, including stress, medications, and sunlight.

Similarly the skin porphyria is set off by sunlight and can cause blisters or excessive hair growth
Porphyria cutanea tarda (PET) is the most common form of cutaneous porphyrias. It is characterized by extreme sensitivity to sunlight.
If exposed to sunlight, people with PET might experience skin blisters, excessive hair growth, and red or brown urine.

So… They’re burned by sunlight, so they only come out at night, and they have red pee. Like they’ve guzzled so much blood, their urine is red.
And actually one of the treatments for porphyria was to drink animal blood.
People have even speculated that repeated porphyria attacks may cause facial disfigurement and gums to recede, leading to the teeth having a “fanged” look.
Oh, and believe it or not, garlic has a high sulfur content, and thus can make it a potential trigger for a porphyria attack.
So there’s a lot of interesting connections there, and I definitely could see people mistaking that disease for vampirism, but I don’t think that’s where it all came from.
Porphyria is a very rare disease so it’s unlikely that all the vampire myths came from the very few people walking around with that. However, seeing someone like that back in the day may have reinforced any belief they had.

But the disease that’s most associated with vampires is Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is especially associated with the New England vampire beliefs in the 18th and 19th centuries.
A bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes TB, which destroys lung tissue and can be fatal if not treated properly.
People who experience untreated TB lose weight, become weak, have fevers, and can cough up blood.
It basically makes a person look like blood is being slowly drained out of their bodies, like they wake up every morning a little bit paler than the day before. Like something it taking it from them in the middle of the night.
TB can also spread from person to person through the air, but most people back then didn’t know how that worked.

So, it’s no wonder they may have thought a supernatural creature was sucking the life out of those dying from TB. And usually that creature was someone who had recently died.
By the way, while we’re at it, there are other supernatural myths that may have a disease to thank.


Werewolves may have also been inspired by rabies for all the reasons I listed before, there’s also a a condition called lycanthropy that makes people hallucinate that they are a four-legged animal.
There is also hypertrichosis, which in some types causes hair to grow all over a person’s body, giving them a little Teen Wolf flavor.


Witches are sometimes associated with ergot poisoning, which is a wheat fungus that can cause manic episodes and hallucinations.
But in the case of the vampire craze in 18th and 19th century New England… It was TB.
A disease that so appears to consume the body that they actually called it Consumption. It’s easy to see why one might suspect it’s something else consuming the body. Maybe someone who had just died. Someone like Mercy Brown.

As tuberculosis ravaged nearby Exeter, the townspeople began to suspect things, maybe out of desperation. They started looking around for patterns.
And while everybody had suffered in this outbreak, maybe none more so than George Brown, who had lost is wife, his two daughters, and now his only son was sick as well.
I can only imagine that when some of the townspeople came to visit, shovels in hand, insisting on digging up his family, George was just too exhausted to object.
They dug up his wife Mary and older daughter Mary-Olive, but they had deteriorated to the point it wasn’t possibly them. But Mercy, who had only been in the ground for 2 months in the winter… looked remarkably fresh. In fact, her hair and nails seem to have grown a little and blood still pooled in her body.

So they did the thing the folk tales say to do… they took out her heart, burned it and mixed the ashes into a potion for Edwin to drink. This would hopefully cure him of the vampire curse.
It didn’t. He died a few months later.
The Mercy Brown story did make some headlines and in fact, clippings of these articles were found in Bram Stoker’s files after he died, so he did know about it and may have even been inspired by
The vampire panics started to die down in the 20th century when medical knowledge improved and tuberculosis became treatable with antibiotics. In fact Mercy Brown was one of the very last “confirmed” vampires in America.

The vampire panics started to die down in the 20th century when medical knowledge improved and tuberculosis became treatable with antibiotics. In fact Mercy Brown was one of the very last “confirmed” vampires in America.  

Today, her gravesite is a tourist attraction. Visitors to her grave may see gifts left behind, like jewelry and flowers.
Or in one case, a note that just said, “You go, girl.”

Analyzing Webb’s First Images with Christian Ready – Episode 15

Christian Ready is an astronomer and professor at Towson University in Maryland, he worked previously at the Space Telescope Science Institute and NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, and he shares his expertise and excitement for all things space on his YouTube channel, Launch Pad Astronomy. Today, he joins me to take a deeper look at the first images to come out of the James Webb Space Telescope, talk about what a big deal this is, and basically nerd out about the cosmos for a while.

Go check out his YouTube channel at

Is Monkeypox A Real Problem Or Just Clickbait?

The headlines have been breathlessly warning of a new outbreak of the Monkeypox virus, and the WHO just declared it an international emergency. Are we really on the verge of yet another pandemic? Is monkeypox something you should be worried about? Or is it just clickbait? Let’s take a look.


A pox upon ye.

That’s right everyone, COVID-19 is so last season, the new hotness on the plague scene is Monkeypox.
So do you want to be on-trend with the latest and greatest disease outbreak in town, then stick around because we’ve got the ins and outs on Really? Another pandemic? Really?

Here We Go Again

Well, we had a good run. There were a few weeks there where it looked like Covid was finally starting to wane, or at least become manageable. Things started feeling kinda normal again. (a beat) I remember normal.
But no… We can’t have that can we?

Not only are there new variants, Covid cases are on the rise again, but now we got a whole new pandemic. Or do we?
Yeah, Monkeypox has been all over the news lately but is it really a concern, or is this just a new thing the news shows are using to get you to stick around for the next commercial break?
Cynicism aside, Monkeypox does exist. And it’s been popping up all over the place so let’s take a look and see if we can get to the bottom of this.

Outbreak 2022

As of this recording, there are around 15,300 cases of monkeypox around the world. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot after what we’ve just been through with Covid but there’s a few things to keep in mind here.

First of all, that number is rising quickly. To give you an idea of how quickly, when my writer, Ryan, researched this video, his script said 5300 cases. So it’s 3 times higher now than it was when he submitted this script a couple weeks ago.
And it’s probably up quite a bit by the time you see this. I’ll put a link below that you can click to see where things are right now.

The other thing that’s notable is this map. Here you can see the most cases are in the US and Europe but you see these blue dots down here in Africa? That’s where Monkeypox has historically been seen. All this orange… That’s never really been seen before.

In fact, out of the 71 countries with monkeypox cases right now, 65 of them are seeing cases for the first time ever. So… yeah, this is a thing.
As for what’s happening in the US, again, at the time of recording this, New York has the most cases at 581, followed by California at 365, and then Illinois, Florida, basically the urban centers of the US.
The total number in the US is 2,323, but keep in mind that’s up from 19 cases at the beginning of June.
And yeah, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all a little shellshocked from Covid-19, because we all remember when we were all like, “oh, it’s just a few cases in Washington” and then suddenly there were thousands and then… well. Yeah. Here we are.

Monkeypox in Africa

Now I mentioned earlier those countries in Africa where monkeypox is normally found, the Democratic Republic of Congo has by far the most cases, with 1356 reported between January 1st and May 22, 2022.  Monkeypox had killed more than 70 people in Africa this year. According to the sources we found.

Why Monkeypox?

Now the fact that it’s been historically seen in Africa and it’s called monkeypox, you probably put 2 and 2 together and assume it got its name because there are monkeys in Africa and it jumped from monkeys to humans there. You would be wrong.
It actually came from Denmark.
It was first seen in monkeys kept at Denmark’s Statens Serum Institute, in 1958. It was first seen in humans 12 years later.

Monkeypox is a type of orthopoxvirus, this is the same genus that includes cowpox, camelpox, and skunkpox. Didn’t know skunkpox was a thing did you?
It doesn’t include chickenpox, though, that’s a different type of virus but it does include – yikes – smallpox.

And the symptoms are similar to that of smallpox, including fever, exhaustion, headaches and swollen lymphnodes, and a rash of bumps that look like blisters or pimples.
Thankfully, what they don’t share is mortality rate. Before it was eradicated, smallpox had a mortality rate of 30%.  Monkeypox has a 1–10% mortality rate.

The Variants

Why “1-10%”? Because, just like coronavirus, there are a couple of variants. The variant from Central Africa is severe, the one from West Africa less so.
And it’s the milder variant that’s making its way around the world right now, so it’s unlikely monkeypox will become a deadly pandemic like COVID-19.
Unless, of course, it mutates.

Monkeypox, or MPV uses DNA to encode its genes. And that’s good because DNA is more stable and less prone to mutation than RNA viruses like say influenza and COVID-19.
But MPV has mutated in the past. And not for the better. That deadly version I talked about earlier was a mutation of the milder version.
And the more a virus spreads, the more chances it has to mutate. In fact a recent study suggests the exported variant has experienced “accelerated evolution”.

They studied samples collected in 2022 and compared them to samples from 2018 and 2019 and found about fifty DNA changes
hat’s at least six times the mutations researchers expected to find.  These mutations don’t appear to have made monkeypox deadlier.  But they may have made it more transmissible, in an unexpected way.

Past Outbreaks

In 2003, we saw monkeypox for the first time in the US and it was traced to pet prairie dogs. Because apparently that’s a thing.
Pet prairie dogs that were housed near pet exotic African rodents. Which gave it to the prairie dogs, which bit their owners and gave it to their owners. Just… so many bad decisions there.

You know, I used to think exotic pets were really cool, I liked the idea of having a pet that nobody else had, thought that made me interesting… I’m not sure I’m a fan anymore.
It seems like a lot of these pandemics and outbreaks are zoonotic viruses that jump from animals to people, often exotic animals of some kind.
It just seems like a vector that triggers a lot of other vectors, if that makes any sense.
So I get it, prairie dogs are cute but no… Just… no…

In fact, one of the fears about monkeypox being a zoonotic virus is that this can become a cycle of zoonotic transmission. We got it from prairie dogs, maybe it could jump to our cats and then bounce back to us, each time mutating it a little more. 
One interesting thing about this current outbreak is that back when it was only in Africa, cases were more common in rural areas, amongst hunters. But in this outbreak, you see it mostly in urban areas.
And that’s because though it’s not a sexually transmitted disease, it has mostly been spread through knocking the boots.

Is Monkeypox an STD?

This is actually where things do get a little prickly because it has been prevalent in gay communities, which of course some people have used to smear LGBT people.
Which outside of being gross and horrible is also dangerous because people generally don’t get tested or treated for stigmatized diseases, which only serves to spread it further.
Needs to be said again, just because it’s being spread by sexual contact does not make it a sexually transmitted disease.

And being called a “gay disease” brings up parallels to the early days of the AIDS crisis in the 80s.
Stigmatizing and moralizing it  led to it not being taken seriously and let it take a foothold that it otherwise might not have.

Official Status

And there are signs that that might be happening again. On June 25th, the WHO declined to declare monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Setting aside the fact that P-H-E-I-C, pronounced FAKE, is the worst acronym ever, the decision is controversial.
There are concerns that lack of a PHEIC will discourage less-affected countries from fighting monkeypox now, instead of later.  Some may hoard vaccines.  Or they may simply wait so long, their outbreaks become critical, and they won’t have resources to help their neighbors.

Now, Monkeypox is not HIV. Not even close. But the best way to keep it that way is to prevent it from spreading and mutating.


One of the best ways to do that is with a vaccine. And we have one, a company called Bavarian Nordic makes it, and it’s approved for Monkeypox, but only like a million doses have ever been made.
Apparently people have tested using smallpox vaccinations, since they’re similar types of virus and they’ve been effective, but can be dangerous for people with compromised immune systems.


So, is monkeypox the next Covid? Not likely, not in its current state. But that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
Maybe the bigger question is, is this our future?  Are we doomed to bounce from one pandemic to another?  Will we ever be able to shake somebody’s hand without a creepy-crawly feeling again?

Pandemic History

The fact is, we evolved as isolated tribes of people who are now attempting to be a global species. And while there’s a lot of good that comes from our cultures mixing together, the downside is that yeah, our bugs get around.
In the past, this could lead to entire civilizations being wiped out – as we saw happen to the indigenous Americans.

Now all our cultures are colliding all the time. And if the grand story of humans is that we started as fragmented and isolated tribes that eventually became a global species, we’re in those awkward pre-teen years. The years when we haven’t fully stirred but we did just get thrown in the pot.
We’ve mixed enough to share our bugs but not enough to become immune to them.
Throw on top of that the encroaching of our habitats into nature, and the potential for a zoonotic virus to spillover goes through the roof as well.

Maybe we eventually get immune to all of them. Maybe new ones never stop coming and we’ll always be fighting something off. That’s probably a lot more likely.
The real story of the world is one of countless cells, all vying for supremacy. We’re just the only clumps of cells that became aware enough to know what’s going on.
Maybe that’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it always will be. Just whack-a-mole forever. Luckily most of them, like Monkeypox, are survivable. So maybe we should consider ourselves lucky.

So is Monkeypox something to be concerned about? Or is it just an overhyped clickbait? It’s a little bit of both.
Of course media companies are going to hype this to its clickiest level to get as many eyeballs as possible. Of course this is going to become pandemic porn.
And of course we’re all way more on edge about outbreaks of disease after what we’ve all been through. Or, the opposite, maybe crisis fatigue takes over and we just stop paying attention to it.
The best thing you can do right now is just be aware of the outbreak and take basic precautions. Monkeypox is only transmissible through close skin-to-skin contact. So you don’t have to worry about breathing it in. That’s good.

The CDC recommends avoiding close skin-to-skin contact with anybody that might have a rash that looks like blisters or bumps, don’t eat after or use utensils from someone who has monkeypox or looks like they might, don’t handle clothes or bedding used by anybody with monkeypox, and to wash your hands often with soap and sanitizer if you’ve come into contact with anybody with monkeypox.

And if you do have monkeypox, obviously they want you to isolate yourself until “all lesions have resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.”
So if you’re scabby, stay inside. And if you meet someone who’s scabby, maybe knock somebody else’s boots.
Basically when it all comes down to it, some awareness and basic prevention is all that’s required here, but we can’t freak out over every outbreak that happens because well… we’re going to be seeing more of these.


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