Aim High: The Long, Strange History Of Drugs In The Military

In the 1960s, the US military tested a psychedelic called BZ on its own troops, to study how they could use it as a weapon. The results were shocking, but drugs have been used in the military for as long as humans have been fighting each other. Today we take a look at this taboo subject.

TRANSCIPT:

U.S. Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman once said “war is hell.” He and a lot of people but somehow it stuck to him.
Yeah, human bodies being ripped to shreds all around you while every moment feels like the last you’ll ever have, I think that term applies.
Sometimes a human being needs a little extra help to perform in these conditions. And for centuries, armies have used stimulants to provide that help.
They helped in a lot of ways, from enhancing troop performance and keeping soldiers awake to even helping soldiers bond with each other, which led to better group cohesion and morale.
The short of it is that soldiers have been fighting while high for much of world history.
Alcohol is probably the oldest and most popular motivator for soldiers. For example, British soldiers would turn to rum, while Russians would drink vodka.
Ancient Greeks and Romans preferred wine. The Germans? That’s right, beer.
And for Americans, it’s been whiskey since the Civil War.
But just like for most of us, alcohol is pretty basic when it comes to really getting lit, for that you need to get more herbal.
For example, when the British tried to conquer the Zulu tribes in 1879, they got more they bargained for, in fact, their enemy seemed almost immune to rifle fire.
It turns out the Zulu warriors had been given various herbs by their shaman, herbs like intelezi, which is a traditional plant that basically makes you fearless.
They also gave them dagga, which is a South African variety of cannabis that has a stimulating effect.
And there was also the “bushman poison bulb,” whose effects caused hallucinations.
You know you hear that and you might think, “why would they do that, wouldn’t that make the soldiers crazy?” Well, you’re sending them into a crazy situation. Maybe that’s an advantage.
In Eurasia, mushrooms were often used by soldiers in Siberian tribes.
For example, the main psychoactive component of a toadstool mushroom is muscimol, which can enhance combat performance.
Soviet soldiers were reportedly intoxicated on mushrooms and fought fearlessly at the Battle of Székesfehérvár (SEE-kesh fer-HER-var in Hungary in 1945.
During World War One, French and German pilots and Canadian soldiers were known to use cocaine.
London pharmacists even sold medical kits that contained cocaine and heroin.
They were advertised as “useful presents for friends at the front.” Women would buy and send them to the soldiers.
I feel like it’s important to point out that they gave cocaine and heroin to kids back then too, so…
Next up was World War II and this was was all about the amphetamines.
The Nazis especially conducted systematic military doping with an early version of crystal meth called Pervitin.
The drug would increase alertness, energize the body, reduce fatigue, and boost confidence.
Troops were issued around 35 million pills during the peak of the Blitzkrieg in spring 1940.
Some soldiers even took up to four pills a day. It’s believed that from 1939 to 1945 the German military took about 200 million meth pills.
Seriously, the Nazis were meth-heads.
So how do you beat an army of meth heads? With your own meth heads.
Yeah the Allies gave meth to their troops, too in the form of Benzedrine pills.
72 million Benzedrine amphetamine tablets were issued to British troops during the second world war.
The U.S. gave Benzedrine tablets to bomber crews in 1942 before offering them to infantrymen the next year.
All in all, the Pentagon issued anywhere from 250 million to 500 million Benzedrine tablets to Allied troops.
Starting in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a new class of drugs that began to interest the U.S. military: psychedelics.
One of these was lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.
The story is that a chemist named Albert Hofmann was working for Sandoz Pharmaceutical, trying to create a blood stimulant.
And one of the drugs he synthesized 1938 just happened to be LSD, but he didn’t know that it had any hallucinogenic effects until 1943, when he… accidentally consumed some.
That’s an upsetting way to find out that you need to CLEAN YOUR LAB.
So psychiatrists started experimenting with LSD starting around 1950, and between 1950 and 1965, had administered it to more than 40,000 patients and wrote more than 1000 scientific papers on the subject.
But it was the 1960s when the drug became popular with the general public, hence the psychedelic 60s. It was promoted by alternative thought leaders at the time like Timothy Leary with his “turn on, tune in, drop out” mantra.
But perhaps nobody wanted to tune in more than the US Military and the CIA.
Project MK-Ultra was a CIA program that started in the 1950s and through the 1960s where the CIA experimented with LSD and other substances on volunteers and unsuspecting subjects.
Dozens of medical facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and universities were involved.
The thinking was that LSD could be used as a psychological weapon during the Cold War, but ultimately they decided it was too unpredictable for use in the field.
By the way, this marked a bit of a shift in the use of drugs in the military. Like all the previous examples I mentioned were about enhancing the performance of their own troops, this was more about using drugs as a weapon against the enemy.
And to my knowledge anyway, this was different, drugs hadn’t been used this way before, unless you count chemical weapons like mustard gas and sarin and whatnot.
With psychedelics, the army saw an opportunity to confuse and disable an enemy or to engage in psychological warfare with the populace by doping them against their knowledge.
And it didn’t stop with LSD, one of the most interesting and lesser known drugs they tested was 3-quinuclidinyl (quin-u-clid-inil) benzilate, also known as Agent BZ.
If you wanna get deep in the science lingo, it’s an anticholinergic drug, which means it blocks the action of acetylcholine, which is a type of neural transmitter that sends messages between neurons.
It gives the neurons a bad connection basically.
Much like LSD, this was also discovered by accident by a pharmaceutical company called Hoffmann-La Roche – different Hofmann than the LSD guy by the way – they were trying to create an antispasmodic for GI conditions.
But in 1951, they discovered that one of their formulas… kinda messed people up. And in comes the military.
The U.S. Army began experimenting with BZ and its effects at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland in the 1950s. 
They were run by U.S. Army researcher John Ketchum. He was a colonel who had spent much of his career researching how drugs like LSD and PCP could be turned into chemical weapons.
Ketchum was fascinated by BZ and the bizarre effects, saying:
“Subjects sometimes display something approaching wit, not in the form of word-play, but as a kind of sarcasm or unexpected frankness,” he wrote in a report.
(act out) That sounds like a review of my channel.
(maybe a comment animation of someone typing “something approaching wit”)
The effects would last for several days, and during the drug’s peak, subjects were completely cut off in their own minds, jumping from one fragmented reality to the next.
They’d even see visions, like tiny baseball players on a tabletop diamond, animals, and objects that materialized and vanished.
And they reportedly barely remembered the experience after the drug wore off.
His most notable BZ tests took place in May of 1962, and this was quite a production.
They literally built a fake communications outpost and locked four volunteer soldiers in the building for 72 hours.
They were provided with food and water, medicine, and a chemical toilet. And were given combat simulations to see how they would perform as a communications team under the influence of BZ.
All the while they had four cameras set up around the room with Ketchum and several technicians observing through monitors on the outside.
So, there were four of these guys, like I mentioned, and three of them remained anonymous in Ketchum’s report, one of them was identified as Pfc. Ronald Zadrozny. The others are only identified as H, C, and L.
L was the leader of the group – maybe that’s why he went by L – and he was the control subject, he didn’t have any of the BZ.
H and C got low doses of it and Zadrozny got the largest dose.
One example of a test they were put through was Ketchum triggered an alarm that indicated a chemical attack, which caused the men to rush to put on their gas masks.
The guys with the lower doses did okay but Zadrozny was in a state of delirium and had to be helped with it.
During Zadrozny’s drug-induced weekend, he saluted imaginary officers, thought a drape that partitioned the toilet was a group of men, and would stay up late pacing, mumbling, and trying to escape the room.
He began to improve at one point and sat in front of the switchboard, ready to receive communication, but didn’t understand that he had to put the telephone to his ear to hear anything.
When one of the other soldiers tried to explain it to him, he said he couldn’t because “It wasn’t working with electrodes.”
The soldiers were subjected to 200 phony tactical messages and warnings of chemical attacks. In the end, the experiment showed that BZ could be used to render troops ineffective.
But it wasn’t the end of the tests.
That same year, reservist Walter Payne was told to inhale a cloud of BZ in a wind tunnel. He was unresponsive three hours later.
He was examined and showed “signs of decerebrated rigidity with hyperextension of the back, neck and limbs, accompanied by irregular twitching movement of limbs.”
In other words, there were signs of major head trauma and brain damage.
Payne was quickly given an antidote and he recovered from it pretty fast. They did an EEG test on him almost a month later and it showed that he was back to normal.
Dodged a bullet on that one. I’m sure they won’t do that again…
In 1963, they did it again with another volunteer named Jason Butler, Jr. This time they had him breathe in the BZ in a wind tunnel… and he immediately went into critical condition.
His head shook spastically, and his body temperature peaked at 39.8 degrees Celcius (103.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
He was given an antidote and sponged with ice water to cool him down. Doctors released him after six days, saying he looked normal. And vowing that they would never, ever, ever do–
Another test a year later tried to see if they could incapacitate a group of soldiers with a cloud of BZ in the field. This was called Project DORK for some reason.
(is there a movie clip we could put here?)
This one is kinda hilarious because they had trouble getting the cloud to stick around long enough for the soldiers to breathe it in, it just dispersed in the wind too quickly.
So they tried doing it at a specific time before dawn when the air and ground temperature differences were just right, to prevent it from drifting away, and that didn’t work.
So they resorted to having eight soldiers running in place on the back of a moving vehicle that moved along with the cloud so they could breathe as much of it in as possible. And it still didn’t work.
So yeah, seeing as how they didn’t think they would get an enemy to agree to drive along with a cloud of poison gas while their soldiers breathed in as much of it as possible, they had to abandon the idea.
The BZ tests officially ended in the early 70s but there were rumors that the military tested them on US soldiers in Vietnam. The ending of the movie Jacob’s Ladder refers to this but in the movie BZ turned the soldiers into violent, aggressive animals, which is not at all what the experiments reported. So that’s probably just some Hollywood fantasy.
Unfortunately for many of the volunteers in these experiments, the effects changed their lives forever.
The Army published a study in 1980 that showed 16 percent of volunteers who took LSD suffered psychological symptoms like depression, flashbacks, and suicidal ideation later in their lives.
Another study showed many subjects had been hospitalized for nervous-system disorders.
And tragically in 1995, Ronald Zadrozny killed his third wife and then himself. Although his ex-wife claimed that he never appeared bothered by the BZ experiments.
Since that happened more than 30 years before his death, it’s probably fair to assume that the drug had nothing to do with it.  Or maybe it did. We’ll never know.
Believe it or not, military experiments involving psychedelic drugs are continuing to this day… but for a very different reason.
Psychedelics have been shown to be useful in therapeutic settings, and they’re now being studied to help soldiers and veterans to treat anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
In 2020, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency better known as DARPA funded a $27 million project to create new medications for this purpose.
DARPA’s announcement didn’t specifically mention psychedelics, but it referred to “certain Schedule 1 controlled drugs that engage serotonin receptors” and that have “significant side effects, including hallucination.”
Psychedelic drugs appear to create a state of plasticity in the brain that makes it easier for people to rewire neuronal circuits and learn new behaviors.
For soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, these drugs along with therapy may help them increase their well-being.
There are currently more than 200 clinical trials registered on clinicaltrials.gov to test the effects of MDMA and psilocybin on conditions like PTSD and depression. 
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is closely following the research. But some soldiers need immediate help.
Army Ranger Jesse Gould’s disability claim for PTSD took two years to be processed by the VA. But the department’s recommended treatment wasn’t working for him.
Then he discovered psychedelics and chose to drink an ayahuasca brew. According to Gould, it saved his life. Maybe with this new research, many others could be saved as well.
So we seem to have entered a third era of drugs in the military. The first being performance enhancing agents for the battlefield, the second being weapons to use against the enemy. Now we’re studying how to improve the lives of those who sacrifice so much in service to their country.
And that’s a goal that I myself can get behind.

FINALLY! A Graphene Battery That Could Change Everything

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

Mo Li-ion, Mo Problems

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

Safety Concerns

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

Ethics and Recycling

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

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

Daily Hassles

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

The Promise of Graphene

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

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

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

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

Supercapacitor Basics

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

The Graphene-Aluminum Hybrid

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

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

Cell vs Pack Density

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

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

Prototypes and Further Advantages

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

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

Isn’t Graphene Expensive?

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

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

Graphene From Trash

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

Some Hurdles Remain

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

Promise Fulfilled?

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

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

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

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Hoffman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Hoffman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tesla’s Robot Revolution

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

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

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

Robots In Pop Culture

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

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

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

Why Humanoids?

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

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

Humanoids Are Versatile

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

Service Robots

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

Boston Dynamics

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

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

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

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

Humanoids Are Personable

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

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

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

The Uncanny Valley

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

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

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

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

Cultural Expectations

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

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

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

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

Where Are We Now?

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

 Balance

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

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

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

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

Articulation

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

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

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

Vision

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

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

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

Battery Life

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

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

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

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

 Will They Take Our Jobs?

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

Robots In Healthcare

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

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

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

Looking to the Future

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

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

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

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

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

Killer Refrigerators

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

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

It’s ChloroFluoroCarbons!

ChloroFluoroCarbons,  what’s that?

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

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

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

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

Thomas Midgley Jr.

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

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

Uses of CFCs

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

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

CFC Dangers

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

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

Ozone-Chlorine Chemistry

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

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

What’s Ozone Good For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering the Hole

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

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

Aaaaaand panic set in.

Before Montreal

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

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

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

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

Montreal Protocol Provisions

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

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

Green Alternatives

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

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

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

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

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

Ozone Layer Recovery

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

And that’s in Antarctica!

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

Protocol Amendments

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

Including:

The London Amendment in 1990 The Copenhagen Amendment in 1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons for Us

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

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

10 Places You’re Not Allowed To Visit

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

TRANSCIRPT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join me on a journey to the forbidden world!

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

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

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

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

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

Lascaux Cave – France

This one’s kind-of a bummer really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Sentinel Island

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

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

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

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

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

They just want to be left alone.

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

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

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

Poveglia

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

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

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

And why might there be ghosts there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vatican Secret Archives

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

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

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

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

The archives include millions of documents across 12 centuries.

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

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

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

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

Snake Island, Brazil

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

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

One bite could cause you to die within an hour.

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

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

The isolated snakes evolved differently than those on the mainland.

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

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

North Brother Island, NY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Room 39, North Korea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metro-2, Moscow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surtsey Island, Iceland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapel of the Ark of the Covenant, Ethiopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Pat Flynn Starts With Service – Episode 13

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

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

Is A Lunar Crew Dragon Possible? (And Other Questions)

In today’s lightning round video, I explore questions like whether Falcon Heavy could launch a Crew Dragon around the moon, whether or not pool covers could help save water in drought regions, and really important stuff like pineapple pizza and um… mushrooms.

TRANSCRIPT:

Mark Hoffman – Patreon – May

Main question: What’s your take on these anomalous areas known as blue zones?  

Expanded question: It seems the phenomenon of blue zones don’t get much attention beyond pushing some sort of diet. Yet the commonalities seem much more complex than that. There seem to be five “officially” cited, yet emerging data could suggest more. Thoughts?

Robin – Patreon – May

During my landing approach to  beautiful Scottsdale last month, I was not surprised by the vast number of swimming pools I could see throughout the Phoenix area.  I was, however, surprised that I was seeing few pool covers.  In an area threatened by severe water shortages, is this just a “drop in the bucket?”  Does it matter or not?  

You know for someone who was always so bad at math, I do love this kind of thing.
Because I bet I could actually answer that. I want to work that out.
So of course this sent me down a rabbit hole and I think I have a solid answer, let me show you my math. It’s at the bottom of the rabbit hole.

So first I had to find the number of pools in Phoenix, she mentions Scottsdale and Phoenix, I went with Phoenix for this thought experiment but anyway according to this from the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University, they say that 2/3 of homes don’t have pools. 

That means 1/3 of them do. Okay, so I look up the number of homes in  Phoenix, according to the United States Census Bureau the number of homes is 626,977, that would make the number of homes with pools 208,979.
So now we have to figure out how much gets lost to evaporation from the average pool, for that we need to find the average pool size, so I started looking around for that and got a bunch of charts of different pool sizes.

And this website that says, “the average size of a rectangular pool is 10 feet by 20 feet at the low end of the scale, to 20 feet by 40 feet at the larger end.” And that shakes out, I saw that pop up a lot on the size charts so we’re just looking for an average here, split the difference and you get 15×30′.

By the way, I know everybody in the non-America parts of the world are cringing right now, but these were the units they were found in, and I’ve already got enough math to do.
In fact I got it to liters as fast as I could but then I realized it wasn’t about now much water was in the pools it was about how much it was evaporating.
So that’s when I happened on this site that says, Water evaporation rates vary based on water temperature, air temperature, wind speed, wind volatility, sun exposure, and humidity levels. The average pool water evaporation rate is about a quarter of an inch of water per day or more than two inches in a week, which on a 33′ x 18′ swimming pool (an average pool size) This checks out with what I was speculating before…is more than 2500 liters or approximately 600 gallons a week; this may vary depending on your climate and the factors listed above.

Okay so here comes the caveat, the website where I got this from is for a company called Katch A Kid, and they make pool covers. They are using this figure as part of their marketing basically and I don’t see a source for it here. With that in mind, there’s every possibility that this is inflated or on the high end.https://katchakid.com/pool-evaporation/
But Phoenix is possibly the hottest and dryest city in North America, they would be well above average so I think maybe the high end is where we should be.
So there’s some wiggle room in this one but I’m going with it. I think my logic is sound enough for this.
All right, here comes the math and I did look ahead to see what units I needed to get this in and it needs to be in acre-feet, which is an absurd volume of water one squared acre wide and one foot deep. It ranks number 5 on the list of most American units of measurement.

Cole Parker – Patreon – May

Hey Joe, this might need to lean on your space friends like Tim and Scott to answer but could they launch the dragon on the falcon heavy and send it on a fly by of the moon? Or could they add two more boasters to get stuff into lunar orbit? 

Fishtail – Discord – May

What are some of your pet peeves about what science educators, like yourself, do? 

Not throwing shade
“You see” Cadences bother me, the spooky pasta guy Science creators especially can get into the word salad

John Regel – Discord – May

This may be too hot to touch, but what is your stance regarding pineapple on pizza?
Honestly… I’ve had the Hawaiian pizza – don’t hate it. I never order it but maybe that’s because whenever I eat pizza I’m with other people who would never get near it
But I haven’t had one in years… Kinda want one.

John Regel – Discord – May

In futurism, is poo the answer to life extension?

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

Mark Hoffman – Patreon – May

Additional question: Do you think an adequate amount of resources are being allocated to oceanic floor/deep sea exploration and documentation? Clearly there is so much more “out there” worth exploring (by surface area, even in our own system, there is vastly more to explore than what the ocean floor covers). However, many oceanographers advocate for more intensive research, and for valid reasons. Would you agree?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Deadliest Company In Human History

Spices might be the single thing in history that most shaped our world today. That sounds crazy, but spices once were as valuable as gold. It was an international currency that created and destroyed civilizations and great cities, and enslaved millions. And along the way created the very economy we live under today, by way of the most powerful corporation in human history.

TRANSCRIPT:

Maybe an opening where I go through my spice rack and make a comment on how common and ordinary these spices are today but believe it or not, our entire world was shaped by spices once upon a time.

Maybe an opening where I go through my spice rack and make a comment on how common and ordinary these spices are today but believe it or not, our entire world was shaped by spices once upon a time.

I know it’s kinda gross when YouTubers flex about their lifestyles but I’ve got something downstairs that’s pretty impressive. Come here, let me show you.
Again, before I show you this, I want you to keep in mind, I’m just a regular guy, I promise.

Okay, obviously the gag here is that there’s nothing impressive about my spice collection, in fact it’s basic af and some of these are probably way past the expiration date (look at one) Good lord…
But four or five hundred years ago, every one of these was a luxury. This collection would have been the envy of the most wealthy nobleman. They would have marveled at how well-traveled I must be and asked about my bloodline and… wondered what this weird soft colored metal must be… And probably hang me for being a witch, let’s not go back there.
There are a lot of things about the way we live today that’s different from the way our ancestors lived but maybe none more radical than the way we view spices.
In fact, I’ll make the argument that if you were to point to one thing that most explains the world as it is today, the answer would be spices.

This thing that we take for granted and just pick up while we’re at the store for a few bucks was once as valuable as gold. Men traversed the globe to find it, cities were built around it, it made and destroyed empires, enslaved millions… and created the most powerful corporation the world has ever seen. In fact it created the entire economic system we all live under today.
This video is the story of spices and the world it created.

-or-

“Hey look at this weird geography fact; have you ever wondered…?” and say how it can be explained with spices”.
How is it that something we pretty much all take for granted today was so insanely valuable hundreds of years ago? I mean, sure the world has changed, technology’s changed – it’s not like they had iPhones back then… But spice?

I mean I’m not even trying to make a Dune reference but for hundreds of years humans went to extreme measures to make sure the spice must flow.
Now, I wanna be clear, spices weren’t the only commodities being traded around the world, and trade didn’t start with spice, people have been trading across empires and tribes for thousands of years, but spice was a huge part of the global trade network.
And there are a few reasons why.

One theory is that spices covered the taste of spoiled meat.
This was long before refrigeration, so again, something we take for granted today was a major concern for people hundreds of years ago.
So there you go, problem solved. There are a few problems with this theory.
Spice was expensive. Actually way more expensive than the meat it’s supposed to be saving. In Medieval Europe, a pound of ginger could buy a whole sheep.
That would be like putting your phone in rice to save the rice.

The spoilage theory seems to come from a book by a food scientist named J. C. Drummond, and he based it on historical records that refer to “greene” meat.
But historians think “green” was used in the sense of fresh, or newly cut.

Besides, in the old days, they had another way of keeping meat fresh… they just kept it alive.
Yeah, before refrigeration, shipping meat was not a thing. They shipped pigs. And chickens, and cows and goats and sheep. And then the end user would do the dirty work.
On sea voyages and caravans, they didn’t stock up with meat, they just brought the animals along with them, and there was the added benefit that they could walk themselves.
Also meat was a much smaller part of most people’s diets back then. Of course not everybody had their own livestock or gardens and they did have to take some efforts to prevent spoilage but often this involved pickling or salting foods so if you consider salt to be a spice…

Food Preservation

Having said that, some spices did help prevent food spoilage because many spices are antibacterial and antifungal.
And there’s a reason for this – because spices are basically poison.
Have you ever wondered why people who live in hotter climates tend to eat spicier foods?
There was a theory going around that eating spicy foods can actually make you feel cooler because it activates your sweat glands, or just kinda trick your brain into thinking the outside is cooler because your insides are on fire.

And there could be some truth to that but in general the reason is much simpler. They eat hotter food there because that’s where the spices grow.
Most of the hotter spices, your peppers and chilies, they tend to grow along the equator, where it never really gets cold and the plants grow year-round.

They don’t have the luxury of a winter freeze that kills off the bacteria, fungus, and bugs that can infect and kill them, so they developed a kind of chemical defense system.
In spices it’s capsaicin, in tobacco and coffee, it’s nicotine and caffeine.
But that kinda gets to the heart of the whole thing; the climate in these specific areas caused plants to create chemicals that… make us feel things.
Could one say that the Spice Trade was really the first drug trade? Only if one wants to be demonetized.
But many spices and teas were used medicinally because of their antibacterial properties. Of course they didn’t have the germ theory of medicine back then so they didn’t know how it worked, they just knew it worked.

It was also used ritualistically. Ancient Romans would burn it as incense, Egyptians used cinnamon to help preserve their mummies. Think about that next time you’re choking down a Cinnabon.

Status Symbol

But maybe when it came down to it, spices were a flex. Kinda like I was doing at the beginning of the video.
Especially in Europe, spices were exotic and grew in far away places. And they were expensive. In a way, they were the ultimate status symbol.
I mean, gold and jewelry are nice, but what better way to show off how cool you are than by serving your guests a food they had never tasted before.
“Oh, this Moroccan, well… what’s your story?”

This is actually true of a lot of foods. Pineapples are a good example of this.
Sailors and travelers would bring home pineapples and serve it to everyone in their communities in big parties. And eventually pineapples became a symbol of hospitality, you would see them on old hotels and stuff, it’s actually got a really interesting history but that’s for another time.
But yeah, like pineapples and like the tulip craze, spices took on a value way beyond their practical use. They were valuable because they were valuable.

They were like NFTs that you could eat.
They were a symbol of wealth and high status in Europe – combine that  with their medicinal and practical uses, and oh yeah, I haven’t even mentioned yet… they make food taste good.
And food holds a powerful place in our cultures and traditions. Think about how many holidays have specific foods attached to them.
Those tastes that we hold so dear are made by the flavorings and spices that go into them. And once upon a time, those spices were only grown in certain parts of the world.
So vast commercial and political systems were created to move spices from places where they could grow to places where they couldn’t. This in turn created cities, civilizations, even empires that still stand today.

So join me on a journey… THROUGH THE HISTORY OF SPICE!

The Incense Route

One of the first known spice routes was well established by the 3rd Century B. C. Known as the Incense Route, it ran from India to Africa, with stops along the way.

One of those stops was the city of Petra in modern day Jordan. Here they traded everything from Indian textiles to rare African woods, along with pearls, precious stones, gold, and incenses like frankincense and myrrh.
Petra is also where Indiana Jones would later punch some Nazis in the Last Crusade.
Petra, of course, is right down the road from Bethlehem, which is why the fabled three kings from the Bible were said to have come bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And if you were anything like me when you were a kid, you made jokes about how that guy with the myrrh, he needs to step it up, that other guy’s got gold… or “oh, check out Mr. Gold over here, compensate much?” Well it turns out, frankincense and myrrh – were as valuable as gold back then.

Another hub was Alexandria
Today Alexandria is mostly remembered for its wonders of the world like the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Library of Alexandria, well something had to pay for those wonders and that thing was spices.
Boats would sail from India around the Arabian Peninsula and up the Red Sea into the Gulf of Suez where they eventually couldn’t sail any further.
This was long before the Suez Canal but there were roads where goods could be transported to the Mediterranean sea in caravans.
And this is where Alexander the Great saw an opportunity and built his grand port city through which goods could be spread throughout the Mediterranean.
And because of this positioning, Alexandria became one of the most powerful and richest cities in the world. Apparently trade was so lucrative in Alexandria, the mint couldn’t stamp coins fast enough for the currency exchange.

The Silk Road

A much more famous trade route was the Silk Road, which was not just a road, it was actually several trade routes – and they didn’t just move silk, also spices.
And, jade, glass, furs, and slaves. But also spices. AND… technologies.
Paper and gunpowder were both invented in China, but found their way into Europe on the Silk Road.

Great explorers traveled the Silk Road like Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta who wrote vivid accounts of their journeys.
Often, these were the first exposure to new cultures for readers back home, as well as the ideas that came from those cultures.
One of the major port hubs along the Silk Road was Constantinople, and it was founded pretty much for the same reason Alexandria was.

It’s situated on the Bosphorus Strait, connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and just like Alexander the Great saw an opportunity to control shipping across the Mediterranean into Europe and created Alexandria, the Byzantine emperor Constantine saw the same opportunity here, so he created Constantinople.
Tiny egos on these guys.

But he was right. Constantinople became a powerful port city and eventually when the Roman Empire split in two, it became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and survived long after Rome itself fell into ruin.

The Silk Road was an incredibly successful and durable network that flowed spice across Europe and Asia for 1500 years.
And Constantinople was just one of dozens of cities the sprang up along the Silk Road from Turkey to China and India, many of which still exist to this day. And many others that have been lost to time, like the aforementioned Petra.

Of course you won’t find Constantinople on the map today. But it is still there, it’s just called Istanbul. You know the song.
Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, who changed the name to Istanbul to be more Islamic, because Constantine was a Christian emperor.
And this is way more than just an interesting quirk of history and geography, this changed everything for Europe. Because they were now in control of the spice. And they wielded that power, restricting the supply and raising prices.
That whole stereotype of Arabs being shrewd and ruthless traders? That’s where it comes from.

All right, so it’s the late 1400s and Europe is suffering through Spice withdrawal, so they decide it’s time to go straight to the source, this time bypassing the Middle East by going around Africa.
Sea routes had been a part of the Silk Road for a while, but nobody had sailed all the way around Africa before. And that’s when Portugal said… “Hold my Sagres” (saw-gruse)
Portugal had been a seafaring powerhouse in Europe for a while, again because of geography.
(over map/animation)Their location on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, gave them equal access to the Mediterranean and the North and Baltic seas, where another trading route existed across Scandinavia and Russia called the Volga Route.
This route was mostly controlled by Dutch merchants who partnered with the Portuguese.

So if any country had the skill and resources to go around Africa, it was the Portuguese, so in 1488, Bartolomeu Dias did just that, creating a new trade route directly to India.
But this was not an easy trip. The seas around the southern tip of Africa, were notoriously treacherous, with violent storms and massive swells.
So of course they named this the Cape of Good Hope.

They also found that sailing south along the African coast was especially hard because there was a northward current along the coast that slowed things down to a crawl – you’re basically swimming upstream.

They later figured out that that current was created by the South Atlantic Gyre, and it was actually faster to sail westward a bit and let the current carry you around to the tip of Africa.
But still, this was a ridiculously long voyage, which made it more expensive and dangerous. So still not a great solution.
Which is why in 1492, Christopher Columbus thought he could do better by just… sailing west.

Yes, the New World was discovered in an attempt to find spices – and gold.

And yes, they knew the world was round, that was why he went that way, he thought he could sail all the way to India.
It’s also why he named the Islands he discovered the West Indies, and named the natives who lived there Indians. A name that has stuck to this very day.
Columbus sailed for Spain of course, and they continued exploring and exploiting its resources, including gold and silver, and of course, chilies and allspice. 

They also conquered native peoples and populated wide swaths of territory, which is why much of Central and South America speak Spanish.
Meanwhile Portugal continued going around Africa since that was where the spice was. But remember how I said they learned to sail west to take advantage of the South Atlantic Gyre? Well in 1500, one of them went a little too far west.

His name was Pedro Álvares Cabral and on his voyage they had a small navigational error and accidentally landed on South America. He figured while he was there he might as well claim it for Portugal which is why, unlike the rest of South America, Brazil speaks Portuguese. (refer to language map)

But back to the Spanish, while they did trade in spices from the New World, their main cash crop was sugar, which was harvested through the use of enslaved Native Americans and West Africans.
You know, sugar and spice and everything HORRIBLE.

So, I don’t want to go too much into slavery here because it is… a whole thing.
But while slavery has been around from as far back as we have records, the transatlantic slave trade began with Portugal making their way down the west coast of Africa and found (act out) a whole continent filled with slaves!
It actually started with them purchasing enslaved people from tribal leaders in Africa but over time as other European nations got involved, it spiraled into kidnapping and conquest.
Ultimately, tens of millions of Africans were displaced to mostly the Caribbean and central and South America to work on tobacco and sugar fields, and the conditions there were so brutal, the average life expectancy was only 7 years.
So they had to keep ’em coming.

Slavery of course made its way to North America, setting the stage for the economic and social disparity that we’re still reckoning with in the US today. And it all started with the Portuguese looking for a new spice route.
Throughout the 1500s, Spain got super powerful off their New World exploits, to the point that in 1580, when Portugal experienced a crisis in succession in their royal family, King Philip II of Spain swooped in and took over.

And their first order of business was to cut the Dutch out of their lucrative trade deal with the Portuguese.
Yeah, the Dutch kinda had their own thing going this whole time, basically serving as trade facilitators for Northern Europe, with the Volga Route coming in over land and the Portuguese ships feeding them goods from the Indies.

They had become exceedingly wealthy. So wealthy in fact that when this deal with the Portuguese ished the bed, they came up with with their own solution.
And being the shrewd merchants that they were, it was a decidedly capitalist solution. They created the world’s first publicly traded company. They basically invented the entire concept of a corporation. For spice.
This allowed the public to invest in literal trade wars. And it was so based on spice that dividends were often paid in mace or cloves.

This was the birth of the (Feren-de oost-indiche Compagnie) Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie , or the VOC, also known as the Dutch East India Company.
And these guys had no chill.

They immediately set their sights on a chain of islands in modern day Indonesia that were so rich in spices like cloves, mace, and nutmeg, they were known as the Spice Islands.
The Portuguese had tried to trade with the natives earlier but were met with hostility, so when the VOC arrived in 1605, they came with a massive fleet of ships and quickly took over an old Portuguese fort.— the Wikipedia source for this section, very detailed

Their early successes brought more investors in and by the 1620s, the VOC had conquered parts of India, Indonesia, Southern Africa, and both North and South America.
They held monopolies on the Spice Islands, all the trade routes between Africa and India, and were the world’s largest supplier of silver, copper, silk, porcelain, cotton, and textiles.
They were not only the richest company arguably in human history, they had the largest military in the world at the time, with 30,000 troops and more than 200 warships.

Once again, just a reminder – this was not a country. This was a company.
Oh, and they weren’t alone, the British had their own East India Company or EIC, and these two companies fought wars with each other. And I’m not talking about the cola wars with Coke and Pepsi, I’m talking canons firing at wooden ships filled with human beings. This is the birth of capitalism.
By the way, the EIC was a massive company itself and would eventually spread British influence to all seven continents.
But they couldn’t hold a candle to the power and wealth of the VOC, and nowhere was that proven more true than on the Spice Islands.

The Spice Islands were actually a chain called the Banda Islands and the natives of these islands were called the Bandanese and at the time this was the only place in the world where nutmeg grew.
How valuable was nutmeg? It was selling in Venice markets for the same price per pound as gold.
And the VOC was obsessed with getting a monopoly on this gold so they literally slaughtered and displaced the entire civilization of Bananese people in 1620.
The details of this situation are horrific – I literally couldn’t talk about it here without getting demonetized but it’s such an amazing story, I made a companion video about it that I’m uploading to Nebula.

It goes into detail about how they subjugated the people by slaughtering their leadership and torturing and enslaving the populace and the personalities involved that went on to become heroes in their native lands.
And actually I want to make a whole series of these videos – I’m calling it Forgotten Atrocities, I want to dig up stories about horrible events that have been kinda forgotten to time. Let me know what you think of that. I think it would be interesting. I’d like to dig into it.

But one last crazy fact about the VOC  – they were obsessed with having a total monopoly on nutmeg. So much so that there was one tiny island in the Banda chain called Ran that the British owned and nutmeg was grown there. And they had to have it.
So they cut a deal with the British to literally trade islands. The British gave them the island of Ran, and in return the Dutch gave the British an island on the coast of North America where the Dutch had a small settlement.

That Dutch settlement was called New Amsterdam. The British changed the name to New York.

By the way, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a city founded by the hypercapitalist Dutch would go on to become one the the biggest financial centers in the world.
In so many ways, the world as we know it today was shaped by spices. And the fact is, the spice trade never really ended. There’s more spice being traded around the world today than ever before – most of it exported from China.

Although the Netherlands is still the world’s third biggest exporter and 2nd biggest importer of spices. And they ruled the Spice Islands — and all of Indonesia — until 1949.
But globalization increased the supply and made it possible to grow in more places, which is why you can go into a store and buy pretty much any spice  you want for fairly cheap.
Except saffron. Saffron is always expensive.

You know, we always ask, like, what would people from hundreds of years ago think of the world today and we think it in terms of our technology but really I think the availability and cheapness of spices might be the biggest mind-blower for them.
I mean you might as well have grocery store shelves stocked with gold bars.
This video is obviously an oversimplification of a vastly complex story through human history and there was a lot left out. But I found it fascinating when I connected all the dots and realized like, holy crap – it was all about spice?

But anyway, I hope that was interesting to you and maybe it made you think about what we value today, and why we value it.
And how future generations might take it completely for granted.
Oh, alright In 138 BC, a Han Chinese noble arrived at the easternmost city of the Greek Empire The city was so distant, it had fallen under the rule of a local tribe 

In this case, the tribe was an enemy of another tribe that hated the Han The noble had come looking for allies These guys were ideal
Unfortunately for the noble, they didn’t want an alliance But they did have these horses Swift and rugged, the beasts were known to sweat blood when they galloped NOTE: they don’t seem to have been unusually large; refs makes them sound more like mustangs, with parasites in their manes that accounted for the bleeding — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferghana_horse
The noble took ten years to get home But when he reported about the horses, the Han Emperor decided they were holy He needed these “heavenly horses” for his cavalry
A Han army marched, but failed to capture the city The emperor sent a larger army This time, while crossing a desert, the army secured its supply line
They captured the distant city and 3000 bloody horses Plus, they now had a convenient route to trot along That route was the foundation of the Silk Road[END TANGENT]
Spices were an important trade item along the routes of the “Road”

Marco Polo is especially important to the history of spice exploration

His family were spice traders Marco’s descriptions of spice growing on islands inspired many to go to sea

Another Silk Road traveler, unfortunately, was disease The Black Death has long been thought to have spread from Asia to Europe A recent theory suggests it first lay dormant in Europe before a mutation made it deadly https://www.history.com/news/silk-road-black-death https://www.science.org/content/article/how-europe-exported-black-death
Whatever the case, the Black Death traveled by means of the Silk Road Its initial outbreak killed an estimated 50 million people in Europe, and about 25 million in North Africa and Asia Subsequent outbreaks…who knows?

In 1488, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias rounded the tip of Africa His ships had navigated away from the coast, then swung back in Whether Dias planned this maneuver or stumbled on it by accident is unknown

Either way, the route let the Portuguese escape the currents that would have stopped them from reaching southern Africa There’s a roughly circular system of currents called the South Atlantic Gyre It pushes ships north and west, away from the African coast
The discovery of a sea route around Africa gave Portugal an edge on trade Particularly trade in spices Oh, and navigating the route is what brought explorers to Brazil, which is why Brazilians speak Portuguese

Going Nuclear With Laura Krantz – Episode 12

Laura Krantz is the host of the Wild Thing Podcast which is just about to launch season 3, this one focusing on nuclear energy. The pros, the cons, and everything in between. So we talk about about what she learned along the way, the mixed bag that is nuclear energy in general, and learn a little bit about the background that gave her the tools to be a podcaster today.

You can hear all three seasons of Wild Thing (yours truly makes an appearance in a bonus episode of season 2) at https://www.foxtopus.ink/wildthing

 

 

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