Month: November, 2022

We Can Now Predict Disease With Smell

In 2015, Joy Milne made waves when it was revealed that she had an amazing talent – she could smell Parkinson’s Disease. And now she’s helping develop tests that could diagnose Parkinson’s long before symptoms begin to show.


Maybe start with some details about how accurate dogs’ sense of smell can be. And then segue into the fact that some people have a similar ability – and now that ability could save lives.

Zoe Sketch?

In a recent video, I talked about some superhuman senses that some animals have, and in it, I talked about the fairly well-known fact that dogs can actually smell some kinds of cancers.

So now you have a new anxiety when a dog buries its nose in your crotch.

The problem is dogs can’t talk, so it’s hard to figure out exactly what chemicals they’re smelling. And even the most accurate dogs were still in the 80% range.

But imagine if a person could have that ability, and could talk and could help discern exactly what chemicals they were smelling. That is exactly what’s happened in the case of Joy Milne, and thanks to her super smeller, we could be on the verge of a whole new suite of diagnostics tools that could save millions of lives.

Joy Milne is a retired nurse from Perth, Australia, who has kind-of had a superpower her whole life. And she had no idea.

Joy has something called hyperosmia, basically a superhuman sense of smell, her nose has more olfactory receptors than the rest of us.

Which kinda makes me think of tetrachromacy, where some people are born with 4 types of cones in their retinas instead of 3, so they have the ability to see colors a little more clearly than the rest of us.

So you could say Joy could smell in colors the rest of us can’t smell.
And this is something she never really thought about, you know, we all just assume that others perceive the world the same way we do.

Which is why it probably drove her crazy when about 10 years into her marriage, she started to notice a smell coming off her husband.

His name was Les, he was a doctor, and yeah, she started noticing a musky, yeasty smell coming off of him, and she assumed it was from something at work.

He of course couldn’t smell it, which isn’t unusual, we tend to go nose blind to our own smells, but to her it was just pungent, especially on his neck and upper back.

So she started telling him he needed to wash himself better. He did his best to oblige her but she kept complaining about it. I can only imagine the fun little arguments that that created.


She eventually just learned to live with it and tried to let it go because it was driving him crazy and besides, nobody else could smell it so… what can you do.

But a few years after that, she noticed his personality began to change.

As Joy told NPR in 2020:

“He was more moody. He wasn’t as tolerant.”

They began to fight more. All the good qualities she admired in him – patience and thoughtfulness – began to slip away.

By his early 40s, she saw her husband as a completely different person.

And then one night, she woke up to Les attacking her.

She told NPR:

“He was sort of screaming and shaking me… but he was totally oblivious of it.”

He was clearly just having a nightmare, but this was the breaking point. I’m sure getting attacked in the middle of the night could do that.

So Joy demanded he visit a doctor. She thought he might have a brain tumor.

Turns out, 45-year-old Les Milne had Parkinson’s disease.
Most of us know Parkinson’s disease as a brain disorder that can cause uncontrollable or unintended movements like shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.

But people with Parkinson’s may also develop behavioral and mental changes, depression, and memory problems. And that was the case with Les.

The disease occurs when nerve cells in the basal ganglia are damaged or die. But scientists don’t know exactly what causes that.
Joy and Les made the best of things over the next 20 years, but as his condition deteriorated, it put a strain on their marriage, so they decided to join a Parkinson’s support group.

So they show up to this meeting, they actually got there kinda late. But when Joy walked in the room, a wave of that familiar smell came over her.

It took her a minute to realize that that smell was coming from the other people in the room.

Joy told NPR:

“And then I realized for some people it smelled stronger and for other people it didn’t smell so strong.”

She realized that maybe this thing that she’d been smelling this whole time was Parkinson’s disease.

And she’d been smelling it way before Les started showing any symptoms.

Both being healthcare workers, she and Les realized the implications of this. Because if you could start treating Parkinson’s before the nerve damage starts, you could save a lot of lives.
This was an amazing revelation. But what exactly are you supposed to do with that?

Well Joy reached out to a Parkinson’s researcher at the University of Edinburgh named Tilo Kunath.
And his initial reaction was probably exactly what you’d expect.
Wow, that is weird… Yeah… Well, I hate to cut this short but I’ve got a guy on the other line that can hear diabetes so thanks for calling, bye bye then.

Needless to say, it sounded a little crackpot to him at first but then he thought about the research that had shown that dogs could smell cancer – and he figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a look.

So he had her visit his lab for a special test. What he did was he took two groups of people, one group that had Parkinson’s and one that didn’t, and he had them wear white T-shirts for a night and seal them in boxes.

He then had Joy smell the shirts to see if she could identify the people who had Parkinson’s.

And the results were pretty mind-blowing. She got all of them right except for one – she had a false positive, she thought someone had Parkinson’s who didn’t.

But still, like 95/98% accurate, it was crazy.

Except that actually wasn’t true. Because a few months later that guy, that false positive guy… was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She smelled it before he had any symptoms, and before it showed up on medical tests.

100% accurate. More accurate than established diagnostic tests.

So yeah, Dr. Kunath was on board at this point and continued to work with Joy. Unfortunately it was right about this time that Les’s health started to go downhill.

Les passed away in 2015. Before he died, he made Joy promise to continue researching and find a way to help others.

Joy and Dr. Kunath published their findings in ACS Central Science in March 2019. This spawned a lot of articles and specifically got the attention of a researcher named Perdita Barran.

Barran is a researcher from the University of Manchester Department of Chemistry and she wanted to see if they could figure out exactly which chemicals Joy was smelling.

So she and Joy started working together and they found several chemicals in the sebum, which is an oily discharge that we all have in our skin.

It’s often overproduced in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The research showed elevated levels of compounds like eicosane, hippuric acid, and octadecanal.

Using that info, Joy and a team of scientists from the University of Manchester developed a new skin swab test.

It works by swabbing the back of a person’s neck and back to collect sebum. Then a mass spectrometer analyzes it.

It can detect Parkinson’s disease with 95 percent accuracy under lab conditions.

The scientists sampled 79 people who had the disease and 71 healthy people.

They identified 500 compounds that were different between people with Parkinson’s and those without it.

Barran told the Hull Daily Mail:

“What we are now doing is seeing if (hospital laboratories) can do what we’ve done in a research lab in a hospital lab. Once that’s happened then we want to see if we can make this a confirmatory diagnostic that could be used along with the referral process from a GP to a consultant.”

The testing is still in the early stages, with a lot of refining still to be done.

Joy is also working with other scientists around the world to see if she can smell other diseases like cancer and tuberculosis.

By the way, Joy describes her super smell as a gift and a curse because, well for one thing a lot of perfumes and candles are overwhelming to her, I can imagine that’s annoying but also… it creates some ethical issues.

Because sometimes when she’s walking down the street or shopping in the supermarket, she’ll walk past somebody… And she can smell Parkinson’s on them.

So what do you do in that situation? Do you say something? How would that go?

“Excuse me, ma’am, can you hand me that box of Corn Pops? Thanks. Oh, you probably have an undiagnosed terminal illness, okay bye…”

Like seriously, what are you supposed to do?

Joy consulted with medical ethicists and said she probably shouldn’t say anything. For now anyway.

Because the research is still new, it’s not in laboratory conditions and there are also privacy issues involved.

Besides, what are they supposed to do, go to their doctor and demand a test because some random lady at the store said they smell like Parkinson’s?

But maybe in the future the smell test will pass the… smell test. We’ve known that different diseases have different smells for a long time.
The ancient Indian medical text Sushruta Samhita even includes the line:

“By the sense of smell we can recognize the peculiar perspiration of many diseases, which has an important bearing on their identification.”


In Chinese medicine, there’s a practice called Listening and Smelling, or Auscultation and Olfaction.

They basically assign sounds and smells to the different organs in the body. And changes in those smells could indicate problems in those organs.
And the same is true to a lesser extent in Western medicine. Smells have often been a diagnostic tool.

For example, if a patient had a fruity aroma of decomposing apples, an experienced diagnostician would know they probably have diabetic ketosis.

Back in the day the smell of baked bread coming off a person was a sign of typhoid fever.

hyperaminoaciduria – dried malt or hops
scrofula – stale beer

And Yellow Fever apparently smells like a butcher shop. So good luck getting a date when you smell like that! And you know, the yellow fever.

Now at this point you might be asking me,  “Why Joe? How exactly do diseases make different smells?” To which I would respond by saying why are you talking like that?

To put it simply, our bodies are basically chemical factories, and diseases alter those factories, and the chemicals it creates.

For example, a pathogen could alter the level or types of microbes, which expirate different chemicals that we can pick up through smell.

Or, the activation of our immune system could change the excretion of metabolic byproducts from our hormonal system.

And there is one smell test that has made its way into the clinic, it’s a test for asthma.

When the airways in our lungs are infected, they release nitric oxide in a person’s breath. And those levels are higher in people with asthma.

Well, after two decades of development, the FDA approved a handheld device that doctors now use to help make a diagnosis.

This is a cool first step, but now they’re working on similar technology for personal use that could let you monitor medication effects and or even give advance warnings of asthma attacks.

It could even plug into a mobile phone, with an app reporting on nitric oxide levels.

As Raed Dweik, a physician and professor at the Cleveland Clinic, told Scientific American in 2016:

“Your phone would become the device. That’s the future.”

So it is possible in the not too distant future that you could take a scent sample as part of your yearly physical exam.

And that sample could be analyzed to find everything from Parkinson’s to cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, you name it.

And with those early warnings you could start treating and fending off the disease long before they actually become a problem.

And along with that, devices that work with your phone to give you early warnings of problems in your daily life.

It really could be the beginning of a whole new way to see disease, far earlier than our eyes could detect.

All because of one woman and her superhuman sense of smell. Really cool stuff.

Was The Universe Designed For Life? (And Other Questions)

Today’s Lightning Round video features questions about the fine structure constant, the future of the internet, and a mystery around the Titanic. Enjoy!


This week is Thanksgiving week here in the States so it’ll be a bit of a light week here because you know, we wanna spend time with families and what not, but there should be something special dropping on Thanksgiving day. Keep an eye out for that.

But today, we have a lightning round video featuring questions from my lovely supporters on Patreon so without further ado, it’s question time.

Thomas Lovse
Did a senior officer actually commit suicide on the Titanic? Like when Officer Murdoch shot himself in the movie. Or was it just for the aforementioned movie.

Okay, so before I get into the specific question, I want to point everyone to this awesome video by the channel Oceanliner Designs.

Oceanliner Designs video

Basically, he wanted an answer to the question of why some people saw the ship break in half and some didn’t.

Like the way it’s depicted in the movie is this dramatic crash, it seems impossible that anybody wouldn’t see that, but literally half of the accounts after the fact claimed that this didn’t happen.

So he decided to do an animation of what the ship actually looked like that night, because the fact of the matter is, we always see the event depicted like this: (clip from the video 3:16), which is clearly dark, but you can still see everything from this blue light source, now that’s obviously because the audience needs to be able to see what’s going on, but it also just looks like the ship is lit by a full moon.

The thing is… there was no moon out that night. We know this, we know the date, you can look and see.
So once the lights flickered off on the ship, there were no sources of light. At all. They were in the middle of the ocean. Meaning the ship looked a lot less like this (11:19) and a lot more like this (13:24). So that really the only shape you can make out is the negative space where it blocks the stars.
By the way, that was true of the iceberg too, they didn’t see the iceberg with light reflecting off of it, they just noticed that the stars… weren’t there.

But again, James Cameron had to light it in some way because the concept of shooting without any lights at all wasn’t pioneered until House of the Dragon.

The point is, there is a lot of room for confusion in a situation like that, and the darkness is only part of it, there were literally thousands of panicked people scared for their lives, it was utter chaos.

So the question of whether First Officer Murdoch shot himself like it’s portrayed in the movie, is probably not 100% answerable. But it does look like an event like that did occur.

Maybe the first question to answer is whether or not Murdoch would have even had a gun, well to answer that, I’ll refer to a blog post by author Tim Maltin, who has written several books and TV series on Titanic.

In this blog post, linked below, he recounts the testimony of Second Officer Charles Lightoller, who said… (read from blog)

So yeah, he had a shiny new gun.
I’ll get back to Murdoch in a minute but that guy Charles Lightoller? That dude had a life.
First of all, he survived the Titanic. I’m sure he did things before that but he survived the Titanic.

Then he fought in the British Navy in World War 1. Survived that.

In World War II, he was retired from the Navy but used his own personal ship to evacuate 127 soldiers from Dunkirk. Survived that.

Eventually died at the age of 78 in London in 1952. What killed him? The Great Smog of 1952.

It was this unusual weather event in December of that year that basically trapped all the pollution from cars and factories and power plants over the town for an entire week.
A lot of people with respiratory conditions died because of this, some put the number as high as 12,000.

Lightoller had chronic heart disease so yeah… he was one of them.

Survived the Titanic. Survived World War 1. Survived World War 2. Died from smog.

Anyway, they had guns, and there were multiple reports of using their guns to try to bring order to the situation. Lightoller said he used his to stop a group of guys from swarming a lifeboat but he said his gun wasn’t loaded.

There are reports that 5th Officer Lowe actually fired some warning shots at a group of people for the same reason.

As for Murdoch, it’s believed at at about 2:15 as the water was rising above the forward deck, he was trying to load the last of the lifeboats called Collapsable A. And being the last lifeboat, a lot of people were swarming it.

There is one contradictory account that claims that Murdoch did shoot himself, but he was on the bridge. This came from a crew member named Jack Williams. (read)

The only thing about that story is that there is no Jack Williams on the White Star Line crew list. So… yeah.

There is also one other account that disputes this and that’s our old friend Charles Lightoller who wrote in a letter to Murdoch’s widow, (read)

Now this may have been an attempt to conceal the suicide and paint him as a hero to his wife, but that’s the version that many people prefer, especially from his hometown of Dalbeattie, Scotland, he’s a bit of a town hero there.

Yeah, they kinda demanded an apology from the producers for that, which they never got, but James Cameron would later say that he kinda regretted that choice, that he didn’t like that it painted him in a negative light.

So yeah… Thanks for that rabbit hole.

Earthbound Martian
The internet has been a sea change in the way humans communicate. This is not unheard of. Movies, the telephone, radio, the printing press, even writing itself have been disruptive. What are the possible outcomes good or bad for our culture in this newest disruptive event?

So I don’t think I’ve ever done a specific video on this but I do talk about it a lot. It just seems to pop up in a lot of the subjects that I cover.

To put it bluntly, I think the internet could be a Great Filter. Like the reason we don’t see any alien species in the universe is they get to the internet stage and just annihilate themselves.

I didn’t come up with this but I like to say we’re a tribal species trying to be a global species. That we’re not evolved to be connected in this way.

There is this number, it’s called Dunbar’s Number, it suggests that humans are only capable of maintaining 150 relationships.
This came from studying other primates and apparently there’s a correlation between brain size and group size, and looking back in anthropology, groups and tribes tend to splinter around 150.

Others dispute it and have put that number up to 290, but it seems to be agreed that there is a number beyond which groups become unsustainable.

And I imagine that was the optimal group size back when we were just hunter gatherers for the first, you know, ninety five percent of our existence.

And now, we’re all being connected, which itself is unnatural but add to that the fact that it’s all being guided by algorithms that are designed to boost information that activates emotional response over anything else and it doesn’t look good.

Let’s just add a little extra kerosene to that bonfire.

I mean you watching me right now, this is weird. This is unnatural. If there was no internet, you wouldn’t be seeing me right now.

But on the flipside… If there was no internet, you wouldn’t be seeing me right now.

We do get to sort-of find and make our own tribes now, and be a part of multiple tribes, and that’s amazing.

One of my favorite things is watching people in this channel’s community start to interact with each other and make friends with each other, that’s just so cool.

But I think eventually we’ll get the balance right. But even the optimist in me thinks it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Every communication revolution is followed by a period of unrest and this is the biggest one of them all, by far. So we’ll see.

What’s your take on remote viewing and other trippy CIA psychic tactics?

There are schools for this

So I did a video this summer about secret military drug experiments with psychedelics and I thought about doing one on this topic because yeah, it’s pretty kooky.

But then that drugs in the military video didn’t do that great so it didn’t happen but yeah… I think I wanna do a full video on that. Let me know if that’s something you guys want to see.

Brian Beswick
Joe, how do you think Twitter might change with Elon owning it?

I miss the old days…



Refer to the golden ratio video:
Arvin Ash’s video

So he shares a link to the video over at PBS Spacetime where Matt talks about the fine structure constant, which is a universal constant that seems to come up a lot in physics and it kinda gives off “Golden Ratio” vibes.

To the point that a lot of people apply almost spiritual significance to it.

In fact, Wolfgang Pauli, a famous Austrian physicist, was quoted as saying, “When I die, my first question to the devil will be, what is the meaning of the fine structure constant?”

Which I think was his way of telling everybody that he was a naughty boy.

So, I do have some thoughts on it, but I won’t spend a lot of time explaining it here because Matt does a great job on that video, Arvin Ash has a great video about it as well, I’ll put both of them in the description, but here’s the abridged version.

Okay, the fine structure constant is also called Alpha and is signified in physics by this character. (α) And the numerical value of Alpha is 1/137.

Or much more specifically, 1/137.035999206

Dimensionless, not measurable, like pi

It refers to the ratio of the speed of an electron to the speed of light, again, go see the other videos for details but it kinda makes it possible for atomic particles to interact with each other and form atoms.

No atoms, you don’t have much of a universe.

But yeah, basically if the fine structure constant were just a little stronger or a little weaker, we wouldn’t exist. Matter wouldn’t form, it would just be a universe of particles flying around.

So that’s why some people look at it in almost a spiritual way because it kinda suggests that the universe was fine-tuned for life.

Like because of this constant, particles would form atoms and atoms would be able to combine into molecules, chemistry happens and hoocha hoocha hoocha… Florida.

So if the universe is literally designed to create life… Who designed it? (bink-bink)

I mean even if you go with simulation theory, someone created the simulation; anytime you start talking about the universe being designed in any way, you’re talking about some kind of higher power.

Which, let’s face it, when you get to this scale of cosmology, it’s not out of the question.

Because the other option is that when the Big Bang happened – whatever that was – that out of the infinity of possible fine structure constants, in the most amazing coincidence imaginable, it just happened create the right one for life.

That is a coincidence so improbable that it is the science version of a miracle.

Or our universe isn’t special, there’s actually infinite universes constantly popping up all the time in a kind of multiverse foam, each of them with different physical constants and this one just happened to get the number right so that matter and life can form.

Yes, I just said “multiverse foam.” You’re welcome.

Any of those options are mind-blowing. So yeah, it’s an interesting topic.




The Full Plan For Artemis Part 3: The Moon Base And Beyond

The third and final installment of the Artemis series looks at what happens after we land on the moon again. What are the next steps and how does the Artemis program set us up for further exploration of the solar system?


Humans have always been fascinated by the moon. And why wouldn’t we be? It’s always been up there, cycling through our sky. Influencing our beliefs and superstitions, shaping our perception of time. Guiding us on our journeys.

Our fate as a species has always depended on the moon. Quite literally. If not for the stabilizing effect of the moon, it’s thought the Earth’s tilt could have swung wildly over billions of years, making the formation of advanced life impossible.

That’s how much the moon has shaped our past. We literally might not be here without it. But if NASA has their way, it could be just as important to our future.

This is the third and final installment of my series on the Artemis program. The first episode was about the early robotic missions, the second was about the planned crewed missions. Today we’re going to go beyond.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this video – the rocks and the regolith if you will – I should start by acknowledging that a lot of this is speculative. Aspirational even.

Because as I say in the previous video, so far the Artemis program is only funded through Artemis 5, which would be only the 2nd crewed moon landing, around 2028. Fingers crossed.

So as of right now, anything beyond the 2nd moon landing is kinda up in the air…
Actually, I say that… As far as I know it’s still true, but just last month, NASA ordered three more Orion capsules from Lockheed Martin for Artemis 6, 7, and 8.
So that’s pretty cool.
But still, future funding for this program will have to be decided by a future government, who will likely be dealing with an even higher level of dystopia than we are experiencing right now, so…

On the other hand, there are reasons to think it absolutely could continue, China and Russia are showing interest in their own moon bases so if that competition crops up, money could magically appear.

Also the continuing growth of private space companies could drastically reduce the price of the missions and add more opportunities around moon bases.

Especially if we are able to successfully mine and utilize resources on the moon and provide that economic incentive. More on that later.

All of this is to say that the further into the future we go, the more speculative it all becomes. The point of this video is to just kinda look at the possibilities, based on known plans but also the overall program objectives.

Artemis VI-X, what we know

So let’s pick up where we left off with Artemis 6.

If you do a search for Artemis 6, literally the only thing that comes up is a link to the wikipedia page containing a list of Artemis missions. It’s just mentioned in there, it doesn’t even have its own page.

And it’s mentioned as “Proposed”

So I can’t really talk about specific Artemis 6 plans plans because they super don’t exist yet. Or any of those proposed missions.

But in general if Artemis 1-5 were about getting boots back on the moon and establishing the Gateway, 6-10 will be about setting up a base camp. And learning how to access and use moon resources.

It’s not going to look like much at first, it’s going to be a while before we have a cool sci-fi looking moon base, but according to NASA associate administrator for human spaceflight Kathy Leuders,
“On each new trip, astronauts are going to have an increasing level of comfort with the capabilities to explore and study more of the Moon than ever before,”

Details are still sketchy but what we can discern can be found in NASA’s Lunar Surface Sustainability Concept.

The first few missions, maybe even up to Artemis 8 will have astronauts living in the lunar lander for increasingly longer periods of time, with rovers giving them wider access to the moon. I’ll get to those in a second because they’re pretty cool.

Scattered about the area of the basecamp will be various experiments, communication equipment, robotic rovers, and power modules with solar panels and whatnot.

A lot of this will be provided by the CLPS program and private partners.

Eventually the plan is to land what they’re calling the Foundation Surface Habitat, which is kinda like a space station module that stands vertically.

The design is still in the works so any images here are just concepts, some show it with a solid metal hull, some look inflatable but it’s designed to house a crew of 2-4 people for up to 60 days.

The design should feature space for crew quarters, exercise, a medical station, and storage, along with an airlock for EVAs.

This would be the home base from which the crew would work, explore, experiment, and build.

And they would get around with the use of those rovers I was talking about a second ago.

There’s two designs that NASA is working on, the first is called the Lunar Terrain Vehicle, or LTV, because acronym.

The LTV is a lot like the Apollo rover, it’s an open-air – or open space – platform with space for 2-3 astronauts with cargo.

Except like everything in the Artemis program, this is light-years beyond the Apollo rover because not just will it be able to go way further, it can also function autonomously.

Using some of what we figured out on the Mars Rovers I’m sure.

Right now NASA is soliciting designs for this rover so it’s still being pitched but it’s supposed to go up on Artemis 5, the second moon landing.

So it’ll be up there long before the Foundation Surface Habitat, in fact by the time it gets there, there might be a few of them but along with the surface habitat comes another rover – a far more advanced rover.

This one is called the Habitable Mobility Platform. The key word here is habitable, meaning astronauts can live inside of it. It’s a pressurized moon car.

The whole point of the HMP is that Astronauts can just climb inside it and go for a ride, no suiting up and all the preparation that’s involved with that.

Ideally the HMP would dock with the Foundation Surface Habitat so crew members could just climb inside the HMP, undock and start exploring.

This will greatly expand the ability for astronauts to travel around the moon, make quick excursions, or take days-long trips to distant places.

So that takes care of the base camp, again, nothing more than a habitat with rovers shuttling astronauts to and from various experiments and study sites.

But those sites and experiments will be testing out the viability of using the water resources on the moon. So a lot of what we plan for this era of Artemis depends on how those early water hunts go.

I mean in a best case scenario, a robotic mission like VIPER finds water ice, Artemis 3 lands close enough to sample it and bring it back, and Artemis 5 is able to do in situ experiments with it.

If that’s the case – and we would be incredibly lucky if that happened – you might see actually stockpiling the ice and using it for habitation or fuel production on Artemis 6.

Then 7, 8, and 9 could be increasingly longer missions, setting up the foundations for a base – maybe two missions could be simultaneous or have larger crews, and by 10 we’re actually constructing a base.

Or… Artemis 3 and 5 don’t find the water. Or they find it but can’t access it. Or they hit some other technical hurdle that we can’t think of yet.

In that case, Artemis 6 – maybe even 7 and 8 – will still be working on that problem. It might be Artemis 10 before we get to actually use the water in any way.

And honestly, by Artemis 10, we would have landed on the moon 7 times, if we still didn’t have the water and resources thing figured out, I imagine the program will be in trouble.

By that point the novelty of being on the moon will have worn off and the cost of this program will be setting in, with still no real pathway to a permanent settlement.

In other words it would kind-of follow the same pattern as Apollo. International competition notwithstanding.

So, when it comes to Artemis 6 through 10, that is one option, total failure, or we successfully learn how to access and use the moon’s water in situ and we’re laying the foundations for the moon base.

Since there’s really nowhere to go with the first option, let’s keep playing with the second option.

Artemis X and Beyond

All right, so it’s 2033 and Artemis 11 is being prepped to start a new phase in the program. A permanently inhabited moon base.

By the way, it is entirely possible that at this point there are private companies regularly flying around and even landing on the moon, but we’re here to talk about Artemis so I’m gonna stick with that.

It’s also entirely possible that the SLS could be retired at this point. Maybe Starship becomes the ride, maybe it’s something else but I feel like that whole paradigm of how the SLS is built is on the way out. But I could be wrong.

The Moonbase

I really see the moon base as just the International Space Station… sitting on the moon.

So much of what we learned in the last 20 years of the ISS will be applicable to living on a moon base. That system of running the ISS will just drag and drop onto the moon.

What that moon base will look like, and how it will be built is a wide open question.

Sticking with the ISS theme, we could see modules delivered to the surface via something like the Dynetics lander, where the modules can be removed and connected together on the surface, basically an interconnected series of canisters.
Some have suggested we could even take one of the SpaceX Starships and turn it on its side for a permanent habitat. Basically you would just tip it over, remove the fuel tanks to turn the entire ship into habitable volume, and build out the interior, then cover it up with regolith.

It’s an interesting idea. Feels a little janky to me, personally, but it’s a good reuse of existing hardware. I feel like it would require a lot of construction on site that would be a lot more challenging than some of the other ideas but… it’s an idea.

The bit about covering it with regolith though, that’s definitely an idea that’s being explored across several moon base designs.

As you probably already know, people spending a lot of time on the moon are going to be subject to a lot more radiation and cosmic rays than we’re exposed to here on Earth.

Even on the ISS, they’re underneath that protective magnetic shield that we have here on Earth, the moon inhabitants won’t have that.

We’re going to need some kind of thick barrier if we’re going to be up there for long periods, and the regolith is the best solution for that.

Some of the moon base ideas involve inflatable habitats that then get covered up with regolith, or 3D printing on top of them with a mix of regolith and some bonding agents.

ESA is actually working on this with the famous architecture firm Fosters + Partners.
In their own promotional video, they say that the dome will house four people and it will take three months to fully cover the building using autonomous robots.

The robots both scoop regolith but also print it in a design similar to a bird’s bone to ensure strength and lightweight qualities.
There’s even an idea of taking human waste and bonding it together with fungi to make essentially space poop bricks.

I mean, I guess that’s better than running a sewer line all the way back to Earth.

These methods are being tested at an ESA-built facility named LUNA that just broke ground last year.
Yet another option that might be further down the line is lava tubes.

The moon, way back in the past, had volcanic activity, this is why there are various patches of darker colored rock across the surface.

Or, “mare” as they’re called.

This volcanic activity left hundreds of lava tubes under the surface that could protect astronauts from space nasties. Might be a lot easier than 3D printing entire buildings.

Currently, in Hawaii, NASA scientists are analyzing the tubes there to see if they would work as homes.

Also the lava tubes on the moon are frickin’ huge, getting up to 3,000 feet (900m) in diameter. That’s nearly a kilometer wide.

Some of them have the same surface area as all of Dallas. Not as much barbecue though.

You have to appreciate that ancient man once took shelter in caves and thousands of years later we are back at it. Makes sense though, we’d be using them for the same reason they did back then. Easy shelter.


One other piece of infrastructure worth mentioning is a communication network around the moon, and for that, NASA is developing LunaNet.

LunaNet is described as an extensible and scalable lunar communication and navigation architecture.

With a LunaNet architecture in place, robotic landers, rovers, and astronauts on the Moon will have network access similar to networks on Earth.

It will be able to store and forward data to provide a Delay/Disruption Tolerant Network (DTN). The objective is to avoid needing to pre-schedule data communications back to Earth.

LunaNet will also offer navigation services, like a lunar GPS.
Or maybe LPS? Lunar Positioning System?

NASA tested this system in the most moon-like place they could find on Earth – Cleveland.

I’ve never been to Cleveland, I don’t know how many craters they have.

NASA’s Compass Lab at Glenn, which usually specializes in abstract spacecraft and mission design, used the lamppost infrastructure around Cleveland to kind of test what a moon network could look like.

The study found that attaching Wi-Fi routers to approximately 20,000 lampposts or other utility poles would help solve Cleveland’s connectivity issues.

By spacing routers no more than 100 yards apart, this approach would provide around 7.5 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed in a four-person home.

They’re applying this data to build a network of nodes in orbit around the moon and on the surface with 4 main objectives:

  • networking
  • navigation
  • detection and information
  • radio/optical science services.

Now, at this point I could go on and speculate about all kinds of details involving a potential moon base but ultimately, as you can see in pretty much any of NASA’s literature around Artemis, the ultimate goal is Mars.

Everything in the Artemis program is just a test bed for technologies that we can use to get to Mars, including using the moon as a refueling station.

My question is would it still be the Artemis program at that point? Like would Mars missions be like Artemis 30 or something? It would probably be a whole new program I imagine.

What I could see happening is NASA handing off moon industry to private companies and then focusing its efforts on a new program to Mars, kinda like they’ve handed off low Earth orbit to private companies now.

NASA kinda forges the new path and then private industries follow.

Especially if moon mining matures into a profitable industry, I think we’ll see a new gold rush to the moon. I did a whole video on that a while back.

And I still think it would be really cool if people and supplies could be launched from the Moon to Mars using an electromagnetic lunar mass driver.

The moon orbits the earth at 2288 miles per hour, so you’ve already got that speed working for you – a railgun could propel cargo up to speeds that you just can’t reach here on Earth because of our atmosphere, and then you could launch using only a fraction of the fuel you’d need to travel direct from Earth.

Once the infrastructure is in place to get parts to the moon and manufacture it there, which might be less energy intensive because of the 1/6 gravity… I don’t know, there’s something interesting there.

Anyway, I think we’ve reached the end of what can be called the Artemis program at this point.

How much of this will actually happen? Who knows. Like I said at the beginning, a lot of it comes down to whether or not we’re able to access and use the water ice, what kind of international competition we have, and the overall economics of the thing.

There are also questions about the sustainability of a moon presence, I mean, yes there’s a lot of water ice there but it is a finite amount. And humans gonna human.

There’s also the concern that all the landings and activity could form a dust cloud around the moon because that stuff just doesn’t behave the same up there as it does here.

But this thing does seem to be happening. And that’s exciting. I’m recording this video ahead of time but it’s scheduled to go out the same day as the new Artemis 1 launch window. On the 14th. We’ll see how that goes. I did the same thing with the last Artemis video so… yeah.

So you’re either watching this right now all pumped full of adrenaline and excited to see this future that’s happening right in front of us. Or you’re laughing at me. Again.

But I’ll just say what I’ve always said about space travel, it pushes our boundaries as a species and the spinoff technologies that are created from it benefit us here on Earth in a myriad ways.


Weirdest Senses Animals Have That You Don’t

Animals have senses that give them an entirely different experience of this world. Some of them are basically superpowers. Here’s some of the weirdest ones that are almost impossible to imagine.


The Marvel superhero Daredevil is the story of a mild-mannered lawyer named Matt Murdoch who is blind, but can see through the power of echolocation.The Marvel superhero Daredevil is the story of a mild-mannered lawyer named Matt Murdoch who is blind, but can see through the power of echolocation.
I’m sorry, shouldn’t this be Batman’s thing?

Anyway, in the comics and TV shows it gives him a superhuman ability to perceive the world around him, to the point that he uses it to fight crime. And hook up with She-Hulk. Well done sir.

Well it might sound impossible to believe but this is an actual thing that some blind people can do.
Maybe not the fighting crime and She-Hulk stuff but the echolocation, yes.
One great example is Daniel Kish, who makes clicking sounds with his mouth or a cane and then can interpret the space around him.
He can even ride a bike and navigate through his neighborhood.
And this isn’t just a superhuman ability only he can do, he teaches this to blind children all over the world through the organization World Access for the Blind.
This is of course a method of seeing that many animal species use like the aforementioned bat.

Animals definitely have a different way of perceiving the world. And we’ve learned to use their abilities to heighten our own perception.
So let’s look at some of the weirdest animal senses that you just don’t have.


You know, sometimes I get why some people hate science. I get it. Because it’s constantly revealing things that we can’t see. And reminding us of how incredibly narrow our perception is.
From small things like bacteria and viruses and atoms to gigantic things like dark matter, distant galaxies, and your mom.
The fact is, we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell only a fraction of the world around us.  Visible light might be the most obvious answer, we know now that the light we can see is just a small piece of the electromagnetic spectrum.

But the narrowness of that spectrum gets more amazing the more you think about it because technically the size of the wavelengths range from infinitely small to infinitely huge.
And out of that infinity, the range of what we can see is only 320-nanometers wide.

Luckily we got this here gelatinous blob that can brainificate real good and we’ve been able to construct instruments that go beyond our sense of sight, as well as our other senses, to give us a more complete picture of the world.


Let’s start with one we’ve all probably heard of, echolocation.

Bats are famous for it, as well as dolphins and other toothed whales, who produce sounds to help them navigate.
And these sounds are loud. They have to travel long distances and carry enough energy to bounce back to the animal and still be heard.
Heard by a sense of hearing that is obviously very, very sensitive. So that raises a pretty interesting question – how can they create such loud sounds mere centimeters or even millimeters away from their sensitive ears without hurting them?

Well bats, it turns out actually have a mute button in their middle ear.
It’s a muscle that pushes against one of the inner ear bones to keep it from vibrating when it chirps. Thus protected, they’re able to pinpoint prey from a distance of up to 10 meters.
Sperm whales do the same thing but their echolocation range is closer to 500 meters.
Narwhals, which is basically a toothed whale with one really, really long tooth, can use vertical echolocation to find open water in regions that are 98% covered with ice.
This is important, since narwhals have to surface for air.

Echolocation can provide a kind of x-ray vision as well. Especially underwater.
As you’ve heard your whole life, we are 60-something percent water so if a dolphin’s echolocation signals are traveling through water, they can travel through you… sort-of.
Dolphins use this trick to hunt fish hiding in loose sand.  But maybe the craziest thing about dolphins and their echolocation ability is it might… MIGHT… kinda make them telepathic.

There’s a longstanding theory that dolphins can recreate the images they “see” with echolocation using their own mouth clicks and pulses.
If that’s true, they might be able to transmit images to another dolphin.  At this point, the theory is highly speculative, as it’s hard to brain-scan one dolphin, let alone two.
But they have been observed communicating with each other using the same vocalizations they echolocate with. So, maybe?

But seriously how cool is that? Instead of having to describe something you saw with words or trying to draw it, you could just blast sounds at someone and they’d just see it.
And who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to brainificate a device that could decipher their clicks into a hologram that we could see.
That’d be cool.


If echolocation is seeing with sound, Tremor Sense might be hearing with touch.
I’ve mentioned the ability of elephants to communicate with low-frequency vibrations before.  The more high-brow listeners among you may recall my video about The Brown Note.
What I didn’t catch in my research back then is that elephants can hear these vibrations… through their feet.

As we all know, sound travels faster through solids than air, so while elephant calls can travel great distances over the air, they can travel even further and faster through the ground.
So elephants developed extremely sensitive feet that can hear through the ground.

Elephants have been seen striking poses that allow for better tactile listening.  They’ll pause, sometimes raising a leg, or touching a toe to the ground.
This gives them a little extra time to prepare for a threat. For example, if they hear another elephant warn of a predator with their ears, they’ll just flee and get out of there.
But if the warning comes from the dirt, they’ll figure they’ve got time, and huddle close, instead.

The tremor sense works through clusters of specialized nerves around the feet.  These are processed in the same parts of the brain that process touch.  But some vibrations are also carried through the skeletal system to the inner ear, which processes it as sound.

This is kinda how bone-conducting headphones work.  Except it’s conducting all the way from your feet.
There are some correlations that can be found in the brains of deaf and deaf-blind people.
Deaf-blind people have the ability to “hear” finger movements because their brains have moved that processing into the auditory module of the brain.
And because you and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals, elephants also use this form of communication to find mates. Sort-of an underground tremor-based Tinder.
Trembler? That sounds like a serial killer dating app.


Next up is heat sense.
So obviously we can all sense heat, one of the first things a parent teaches a little kid is not to touch the hot stove. Or in my case, it’s a lesson you just learn on your own.  Once.
Well the reason we can feel heat is because of the signals that travel through ion channels in our nerves.  We have different channels for different sensations and one important heat-sensing channel is called TRPV1.

By the way, the reason we feel heat from spices like chili peppers is because the capsaicin in the peppers activates those same TRPV1 channels in our mouths.
And if you’ve ever wondered why mint feels cool, it’s because it activates a different channel called TRPM8. TRPM8, as you’ve might have guessed, detects cold. So there you go.

These ion channels do more than send temperature signals though, TRPV1 can affect the immune system.
In fact, some studies suggest that activating TRPV1 with capsaicin can prime the immune system to fight some cancers.
It’s complicated, and not all studies agree, but it hints at potential health benefits of spicy foods.

Anyway, when it comes to sensing heat, human TRPV1 channels have a threshold of 43 degrees Celsius, or 109 Fahrenheit.
That’s useful for preventing burns.  But animals with a more precise heat sense find it even more useful.

Like vampire bats, for instance. They have extra sensitive TRPV1 receptors in their noses that activate at 30 degrees Celcius.  This is cooler than the temperature of blood.
This allows them to literally see blood vessels through the skin.
It’s like a natural stud finder Or… blood finder?
Certain snakes also use heat-sensing to find food.

Vipers, pythons, and boas have pits in their faces equipped with ion channels to map thermal radiation, allowing them to basically see in the dark.
And their TRPV1 ion channels can detect temperatures of 28 Celsius and higher.
They basically have Predator vision. Which is appropriate, they are predators, but hey, now you know how to become invisible to a snake. Mud bath!

Now a really cool one, electrosensing.
Electric shocks are a nuisance to human beings.  But some animals use electricity to “see” in ways we can’t.  Sharks are a famous example.

In 1935, a scientist observed a shark reacting negatively to a rusty wire.  The reaction happened even when the shark was blindfolded.  Which, by the way, apparently you can blindfold a shark.
Anyway, a biologist and physicist named Adrianus Kalmijn worked out that sharks and other fish can sense electromagnetic fields.
This sense was eventually pinned down to organs in their snout called ampullae of Lorenzini.
These are basically pores filled with a sort of jelly.  Nerves in the pores respond to changes in electrical potential, which helps them find prey in murky water.

The Olm salamander does this in a similar way.  Olms are basically blind, so they may use electrosensing to locate obstacles in their environment.
Another animal that uses electrosensing is the duck-billed platypus, because of course it does, just throw that on the massive pile of weirdness around the platypus.
Finally, bees are thought to be able to sense the electrical fields of flowers.

Bees can tell real flowers from fakes by electrical charge.  They can also make a flower more positively charged, which works as a sort of dinner bell to other bees.
happened and what it meant; this suggests the bee adds to the charge, and indicates bees are drawn to more positive charges
Bees by the way are the first animals scientists have observed using electrosense in dry air.  All the other animals are underwater, or in areas of high humidity.
Some think this opens the door to other non-bee insects to have a similar sense, but research is ongoing.


While we’re talking about bees, another cool thing they can do is they have a built-in natural compass.

Bees can orient themselves to the earth’s magnetic field thanks to granules of iron in their abdomens.  This gives them the ability to accurately navigate up to 12 kilometers from the hive.

The blind salamander I mentioned earlier can also orient itself to earth’s magnetic field.  Some bacteria can, too.  And then there’s the birds.
Some bird species migrate thousands of miles every year.  The bar-tailed godwit, for instance, covers 30,000 kilometers in a trip that takes it from Alaska to New Zealand and back.  How do they navigate?

This… gets weird.

There are some studies that suggest they actually do it using quantum entanglement.

Okay so there’s a type of protein called cryptochrome is known to create pairs of entangled particles when it interacts with light.
Well, when they create these particles, the spin state of the pairs is affected by magnetic fields.
And they’ve found several types of cryptochrome in bird eyes.  So in theory – IN THEORY – the Earth’s electromagnetic fields could impact the spin state of these entangled pairs and those changes could be detected by retinal nerves.
Which would allow the birds to effectively  see the Earth’s magnetic fields.

I imagine it would be like seeing superhighways in the sky made up of auroras all the time.
What’s even crazier is that human eyes contain more than enough cryptochrome to make this happen.
What we lack is the neural hardware to interpret the magnetic effects.  And possibly a chemical that activates the cryptochrome.
But it’s thought that birds do have that. This is a bit speculative but it’s an interesting answer to a big nature mystery.


Okay, so we know that dogs have a great sense of smell, but it turns out dogs can actually diagnose disease.
This is amazing.

Dogs have five times as many olfactory receptors as we do.  And their brains have 40 times the smell-processing power.
Because of this, dogs can be trained to sniff out scent trails, bombs materials, and a bag of weed stuffed way down in your backpack.
…Or so I’m told.

Since 1989, doctors have been studying the ability of dogs to smell cancer.  Dogs have been able to correctly detect skin, lung, and other cancers from urine samples.  They can even smell cancer on a patient’s breath.
The rates of detection vary from study to study, but are routinely above the 50% you’d expect if it was random chance.
An August 2021 study reported lung cancer detection rates of 78% from breath and 87.8% from urine.  When breath and urine samples were used together, the sniffer dogs had a 97.6% detection rate.

According to a research group working on this called In Situ, Training dogs to detect cancer is actually really complicated because the smells are made up of around 4000 volatile organic compounds, compared to one or two that a bomb-sniffing dog has to pick up.
Studies are still ongoing, dogs aren’t used as diagnostic tools in hospitals just yet. CT scans are more accurate and… well there’s more money to be made with it.
In Situ recommends teams of five, highly-trained dogs to detect cancer.  I’m not sure if hiring a whole team of highly trained dogs would cost less than a CT scan, but maybe…

I find this really interesting but I’m not sure how it would work in practice, I mean if you’re at the point that you’re worried you have cancer, you’re probably going to want a definite answer more than the word of a dog.

But, if we can isolate and detect some of the chemicals that the dogs are responding to, we might be able to include smell samples as part of regular physicals and increase the chance of catching diseases before the symptoms show up.
There’s actually a video on the way about that exact topic. That’s a thing that’s in the works and it’s incredibly cool.
So yeah, the fact that dogs can detect cancer is super interesting.


Last on our list, we come to the animal with the best sense of taste in the entire animal kingdom.
And the reason it has such an amazing sense of taste is because it basically tastes with its entire body.
The answer? The catfish. I honestly didn’t expect that one when I started this.

A catfish is basically a giant tongue with fins. Its body is covered with up to 175,000 chemoreceptors, which are basically taste buds.
For comparison, we humans have about 10,000 on our tongues.

What it doesn’t have all over its body are scales, which is kinda weird for a fish but the catfish is a weird animal.
The chemoreceptors are especially packed into those whiskers that gave it its name – those whiskers are technically called barbells by the way.
Which makes a lot less sense to me than “whiskers” but whatever.
It uses these barbells and the chemoreceptors all over its body to navigate and hunt down live prey in murky water where there’s not much light.

Catfish have a reputation as carrion eaters.  But they actually mostly eat live prey, like insects and small fish.
And sometimes… maybe… Humans.

From 1998 to 2008, there were reports out of India about a man-eating catfish.
Legend has it the fish got a craving for human flesh after it ate remains from a seaside funeral pyre.  But who knows, it may have just picked up the taste from someone who had waded through the water.
Either way, there were three known cases with eyewitnesses of people getting dragged into the water by a giant catfish and their remains were never found. That is a thing that happened.

Siri, cancel my noodling trip.


All this is cool, but what does that mean to us? How can we use these super senses to our advantage?
Well I talked about the cancer sniffing dogs, but there other things like scientists are using echolocation to find cracks in structural beams.
Finding hairline cracks in supports of an oil rig is especially challenging.  Not only are the cracks underwater, they’re often buried in sand.
So using the example of the dolphin hunting fish buried in sand, they are using echolocation to find fractures they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. 

The elephant’s ability to hear tremors has possible applications to hearing aids.
Remember how the elephants hear partially by bone conduction?  Modeling elephant ear bones could help improve the clarity of hearing aids that work in a similar way.

Heat-sensing ion channels are being studied for use in pain relief.  We’re figuring out how to chemically block those signals, thanks to studying the heat pits on snakes.

Finally, the tasting powers of catfish have been studied for their insight into animal behavior, especially regarding food.  
Kinda sounds strange but studying catfish has led to a greater understanding of how different tastes encourage animals, and humans, to eat a healthy diet.
So in a way, we’re using animal supersenses to amplify our own senses, just like all the instruments we’ve created over the years.

I also love this story because it shows how you never know where a breakthrough could come from.
Like you always hear about these studies where people are trying to figure out if snails prefer mountain dew or sprite or something random and you’re always like, “why is this being studied?”
This is why. Because there’s something to learn in it and you never know what problem that thing could fix.
And I for one think that’s pretty cool.

Any I missed?

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