Tag: answers with joe

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.

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

We’re Shockingly Close To A Cure For Aging

Aging, and the chronic diseases that come with it, is considered just an inevitable part of life. But what if it wasn’t? What if aging itself was a disease – a disease that can be treated? Many scientists are doing just that, and the results are nothing short of shocking. Just how close are we to a cure for aging?

TRANSCRIPT:

I had a birthday recently, and I’m way past the age where a birthday is something to get excited about. Now it’s just a reminder that your body has decayed one more year.

Yeah, aging is bullshit.

It’s a joke that a lot of comedians have told that once you get past a certain age, doctors just stop trying to fix you.

After a certain point, life is just an endless series of trying to figure out what is causing the random pain today.

And you go to the doctor with that pain and they just kinda give you the shoulders like, I don’t know that’s what happens.

Cool. Thanks guy.

But there are some doctors and researchers doing the opposite. In fact they’re making the argument that aging itself is a disease. And this disease can be treated.

And I think it’s a pretty compelling argument. So today let’s not go quietly into that good night and talk about how we can slow, stop, and maybe even reverse aging.

The Merck Manual defines aging as “a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins in early adulthood.” And that’s fine. Change is good.

It goes on to say that “bodily functions begin to gradually decline” during a person’s early middle age. Cool.

But people can grow old in several ways:

In 1970, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 71. Fifty years later, it was 77.

And that sounds great… But it’s kind-of not.

Because yeah, we’re living longer, but those extra years are being added at the end of our lives, when we’re at our most decrepit and in the most pain.

In other words, we may be extending our lifespans, we’re not necessarily shoring up our healthspans.

For example, between 2013 and 2015 the number of years lived in poor health in the U.K. was 16 for males and 19 for females.

More people living longer also increases the risk of more people living with dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

And this isn’t just a problem in individual lives, this has societal implications.

These people often need constant care in order to live their daily lives, which may create economic and social burdens for communities, caregivers, and families.
The longer you live also increases the risk of developing other chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

It’s like this constant, expensive whack-a-mole we play in the last 20 or so years of our lives until eventually… one of the moles get us.

But what if we change our thinking on this? What if instead of treating these as different diseases, we start thinking of them as symptoms of a bigger, broader disease? The disease of aging.

o a lot of people that sounds crazy, to call aging a disease because I mean, aging is a natural process, how can that be a disease?

But… cancer is a natural process. Arthritis is a natural process. Most diseases are natural processes and we fight them tooth and nail. So why not aging itself?

It’s funny how aggressively people push back against the idea of life extension and age reversal, people call it unnatural as if there’s anything natural about the way we live these days.

It’s weird to me. Like why wouldn’t you want to live longer and healthier? Why wouldn’t you want to be in less pain? It’s like people have some kind of mortality Stockholm Syndrome or something.

We know that different people age at different rates, and different animals age at different rates. So clearly aging is a malleable process that can be sped up or slowed down. And we’re learning how to do exactly that.

So let’s start by talking about how aging works and I should go ahead and disclose that a lot of what I’ll be talking about here is from the book Lifespan by David Sinclair, he’s a Harvard researcher that focuses on aging and he’s got some pretty unique insights; it’s worth a look.

Right off the bat, there’s no unifying theory about aging. Except for the one that Sinclair professes, which we’ll get to in a moment.

One hypothesis is that DNA damage causes aging. There are also theories about mutations to the DNA or that free radicals contribute to aging.

But many of these theories have kind-of fallen to the wayside over the years. These days aging is usually attributed to a handful of cellular processes, including:

  • Attrition of telomeres
  • Genomic instability from DNA damage
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Senescent cell accumulation
  • Stem cell exhaustion

Researchers work at addressing these aspects as a way to slow down aging, which may mitigate diseases, which could forestall death.

All of this may help us add more healthy years to our lives. But they won’t help us live longer.

For that, we need a singular reason why we age, which brings us back to David Sinclair’s theory, which he calls the Information Theory of aging.

Sinclair writes in the book that there are two types of information in biology:

  • Digital: Based on a finite set of possible values, like DNA
  • Analog: Commonly referred to as the epigenome, which are heritable traits that aren’t transmitted by genetic means

As DNA stores genetic information, a structure called chromatin stores epigenetic information.

It’s this information that guides the assembly of a human being from a fertilized egg.

Another way of putting it, if the genome was a computer, the epigenome would be the software.

He also uses the analogy of a scratched DVD. That over time DVDs accumulate scratches to the point that eventually it doesn’t play anymore. But, that information isn’t lost. It’s still there under the scratches. And if you polish the DVD, which I’ve done many times, it’ll play perfectly again.

The epigenome works the same way. Over time little imperfections build up – scratches if you will – that cause cellular processes to deteriorate, which we experience as aging.

So the question is, how do you “polish” the epigenome? Well it turns out we have some genes that are designed to do exactly that.

They’re called “longevity genes” or “vitality genes,” and they’re tied into our body’s survival circuit. And they go back all the way to the beginning of life on this planet.

Life, it turns out, wants to survive, and times are not always plentiful so during times of stress, these survival genes kick in and help the body repair itself.

When things get tough, they hunker down. When things are easy, they tell our cells to grow and reproduce fast.

One of these longevity genes is called target of rapamycin, in us and other mammals it’s called mammalian target of rapamycin, or mTOR.

When under stress, mTOR sends a signal to help improve survival by boosting DNA repair, reducing inflammation from senescent cells, and by digesting old proteins.

When everything is good, it helps with cell growth by managing the creation of proteins.

So, mTOR – target of rapamycin, keep that one in mind.

Another longevity gene is called AMPK, which stands for adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase. (a beat) That word salad will make sense in just a second.

So to explain AMPK – let’s step back. First of all, the cells get energy in the form of chemical bonds, delivered by the ATP molecule.

Like when you eat something, the digestion process breaks that food down over and over until it gets down to basic molecules that can be used by the cell, well the basic molecule that delivers energy is ATP – adenosine triphosphate.

This is a nucleoside, adenosine, tied to three phosphate groups. So, triphosphate.

Once ATP gets inside the cell, the cell strips two phosphate groups from the molecule, releasing energy in the process, and leaving behind a single phosphate group, turning ATP – adenosine triphosphate, into AMP, adenosine monophosphate.

You got it? You still with me? You good?

So cells require a steady flow of ATP in order to keep functioning. If a cell uses up all its energy from ATP, it then fills up with low-energy AMP molecules.

It then runs out of energy, collapses, and dies. Unless… A new source of energy is found. This is where AMPK comes in.

AMPK essentially is the gene that tells the body to pull energy from stored sources in the body, like fats and sugars.

So, when there are high levels of adenosine monophosphate in the cells, it activates the adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase gene. Word salad explained.

In our youth, we have high levels of activated AMPK, which is why we burn fat so much easier when we’re young. But those levels do drop off as the years go by.

But a side benefit of AMPK activation is that it can slow aging in a couple of ways, by reducing oxidative damage, and protecting against senescence.

Senescent cells by the way are kind-of zombie cells. They’re alive… but not functional. They basically just pump out a bunch of inflammatory signals that causes all kinds of problems.

But AMPK activation can clear those senescent cells out through a process called autophagy.

So, AMPK burns fat and kills zombies. So how do you turn on AMPK and become a sexy zombie hunter? One way is through calorie restriction.

Eating less – seems pretty obvious but if you don’t feel like starving yourself, there’s also a pill you can take.

Metformin is a drug that is used to help treat type 2 diabetes but also activates AMPK. It basically mimics some benefits of calorie restriction without decreasing caloric intake.

Also, it can help improve physical performance, increase sensitivity to insulin, and reduce cholesterol levels. And the best part – it’s super cheap. But you do need a prescription in the US.

One last longevity pathway are a family of enzymes called sirtuins. There are 7 of these, SIRT1 through SIRT7.

These play a major role in cell survival and metabolism, and DNA repair.

If you’ve heard of NAD supplements lately, this is what those are for, sirtuins are dependent on that.

They can also be activated by low-calorie or low-amino-acid diets or exercise.

mTOR, AMPK, and sirtuins are three longevity pathways, according to Sinclair. They were evolved to help protect the body during times of stress by activating survival mechanisms.

And once activated, “organisms become healthier, disease resistant, and longer lived,” Sinclair wrote.

So basically the key to longevity, according to this theory, is for the body to be in a state of stress. I know that sounds fun. But there are some ways of doing that.

The first is through intermittent fasting.

If you want to activate that AMPK gene, you’ve gotta make your cells hungry. And that means not eating. Sometimes.

There are several types of intermittent fasting.

For example, the 16:8 diet (Jason note: This is the one I do.) has you fast for 16 hours and eat within an eight-hour window. For some people that means you start eating at noon and stop eating at 8:00. When I do it I usually go from 2 to 10. Because I stay up late.

The 5:2 diet has you eat 75 percent fewer calories for two days a week.

Whichever one works for you, studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help lower blood pressure, reduce body fat, and decrease weight.

Though in the interest of balance, there have been some studies that show it’s not as effective for weight loss. But, for the anti-aging properties, studies show some pretty compelling results.

Another way to switch on sirtuins is through cold temperatures.

Cold temperatures activate brown fat, or brown adipose tissue.

This is a type of fatty tissue that has more mitochondria than regular fat, and it helps maintain body temperature in cold conditions. And a side benefit is that it helps in DNA repair because again, your body is in stress.

This is why a lot of people advocate for cold showers which I’ll just come out and say it, that’s a nope for me dawg.

I’ve tried it and…. no.

Although it’s mostly carried in our backs and shoulders so if you can lay on an ice pack or a cold pad, that’s supposed to produce some effect anyway.

And then there’s exercise. Yeah, I know, it always comes back to exercise.

Not only does exercise help with blood flow, heart and lung health, and mental health, it can help preserve longer telomeres, those things at the end of chromosomes that help protect them from damage.

Thing is, you don’t have to exercise for a long time to reap its benefits.

One study showed that with just 15 minutes of exercise a day, a person can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 45 percent.

They say the goal is to exercise to the point that you’re breathing hard enough that it would be difficult to talk. If you can just do that for 10-15 minutes a day, that’s enough to make a difference.

But you might be saying, “10-15 minutes! That’s like my whole day, can’t I just take a pill?”

Yes, there are some pills that you can take but before I go any further, this is where I have to point out that I am not a doctor, and what I’m telling you is not medical advice. But these are some of the supplements and pills that are being studied.

You’re in luck because research is being conducted into things like nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and resveratrol to determine their effects on longevity.

First, a reminder that I’m not a doctor, and what I’m telling you is not medical advice.

The first is NMN, or nicotinamide mononucleotide.

NMN is a precursor of NAD+ so when you take an NMN supplement, your body breaks it down into NAD+.

As I mentioned earlier, NAD+ is central to metabolism and is associated with things like downregulation of energy production in mitochondria, inflammatory conditions, and oxidative stress. And its level decreases with aging.
You might have also heard of Resveratrol lately. This is a compound found in several plants, like peanuts, berry fruits, and grapes.

It’s known for being associated with various health benefits, like:

  • Antidiabetic
  • Anti-obesity
  • Antioxidants
  • Glucose metabolism

Other medicines and supplements that show promise in extending lifespans are the aforementioned metformin and rapamycin.

Rapamycin is interesting actually because it was first discovered on a bacterium in Easter Island – the island with the big stone heads on it. And that’s how it got its name the Polynesian name for Easter Island is Rapa Nui.

And for years it was used as an immunosuppressant for transplant patients until some studies showed that it had anti-aging properties.

You might remember that mTOR gene that triggers DNA repair earlier, well mTOR stands for mammalian target of rapamycin. That’s how they found this gene.

So rapamycin can trigger DNA repair and improve longevity, there have been some amazing studies in mice with this actually.

Though I should also say that as an immunosuppressant, it can have some undesirable side effects so be especially careful with this one.

Research is ongoing, but all or any of these things might just give you some extra years of life. Years that might get you closer to some real crazy stuff.

Because if we have these genes that can trigger DNA repair and other life-extending processes… and we have the ability to edit our genes… maybe someday we can just turn those processes on at will.

One of the wilder ideas in Sinclair’s book is that we could edit our genes to have an age-reversal trigger. One that gets turned on when we take a simple antibiotic.

So we could create this edited gene, spread it throughout our bodies with a viral vector, and then at various times in our lives, as age-related issues start to crop up, we can go on that antibiotic. That age-reversal trigger kicks in and we just… age backward for a few months.

We get more energy, our joints get stronger, skin gets more supple, hair gets it color back, and when we’re at the biological age we prefer, we stop taking the antibiotic, start aging normally again.

This is apparently something they’re already doing in mice.

And of course, if you really want to cheat death, there’s always cryonics, which I’ve done a whole video on before.

Now we’re really nowhere near being able to restart bodies that have been frozen in liquid nitrogen and if we’re being honest, the chance that it could ever work is low. But in 2019, scientists did put a human being in suspended animation for the first time.

This happened at the University of Maryland and the process involved rapidly cooling the brain to less than 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) by replacing a patient’s blood with an ice-cold saline solution.
This gave surgeons some extra time to perform surgery on a patient who had lost half of his blood. He was essentially dead for a while, his brain and heart went silent. But they brought him back to life.

The boundary between life and death has been shifting for hundreds of years now. And now we can actually put people in suspended animation. It’s only for short periods right now but give it another 30 or 50 years… (shrug)

The bottom line is, aging research is still in its infancy. It’s actually remarkable that we know what we do considering how few researchers around the world are studying this. But that’s changing really fast.

We’re about to see an explosion of aging related research. Because as I mentioned at the beginning of this video, we have to change our mindset on aging from being just a thing that’s bound to happen to a disease that we can treat.

And in January of this year a major step was taken in that direction when the World Health Organization’s 11th International Classification of Disease (ICD) revision went into effect.

The ICD is an international standard for clinical diagnosis, epidemiology, and health management in developed nations. They basically assign a code for every disease.

Having a disease recognized with a code by the ICD basically legitimizes it in the eyes of the research world, it allows for drugs targeting that disease to be clinically evaluated and approved.

And the newest addition of the ICD includes for the first time an extension code for “aging-related” diseases.

This means more money for research and just as important, for insurance companies to provide coverage for therapies targeting that disease.
https://invivobiosystems.com/aging-behavior/the-argument-for-aging-as-a-disease/

So hey, everybody says I’ve been too doomy and gloomy on this channel lately well how about this, we are about to see massive advancements in life extension over the next 20 years.

You might not live forever. But it might be a lot longer than you think.

So I’ll leave you with one last thought and let you guys debate it in the comments. I’m sure many of you have already started listing all the reasons why it would be terrible if people lived longer. I mean, other people, not you.

The overpopulation problem, the world can’t sustain that many people, economic and labor problems if people never retire, all interesting points and there are counterpoints to all of them, but I just want to ask one thing.

How much differently would people act if they really had to deal with the consequences of their lifestyles?

I’ve heard many a person poo-pooh climate change saying, “oh the worst of it will happen long after I’m dead.” And the same attitude goes for other things, I’m just using climate change as an example.

But what if we did have to live with it? What if instead of thinking about things affecting future generations, we know it would affect us in our own lifetimes? Would we behave differently? And could that produce a better society? I’m curious what you think. Let me know down in the comments.

This Man Just Woke From The Dead. Sort-of.

Clive Wearing lives life 7 seconds at a time. That’s because he has both retrograde and anterograde amnesia, which means he has no ability to form new memories and remembers nothing of his life before. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to live like this, but his condition teaches us a lot about how we form memories and how the structure of the brain structures our lives.

In a neurological institution in the UK, lives a man named Clive Wearing. Clive is 83 years old, and actually he’ll be turning 84 two days after this video comes out. Thing is, he doesn’t know this. In fact he probably thinks he’s still in his 40s.
And chances are, less than a minute after he blows out his candles, he will have forgotten it completely. He’ll have no idea it’s his birthday, or even how old he is.
This might sound like the kind of dementia that one might expect from a person of that age, which is sad but inevitable, but Clive Wearing has been like this for over 40 years, and his memory issues go far beyond normal and expected.

In fact, there’s nobody else in the world that’s quite like him.

That’s because Clive has two different forms of amnesia. Chronic anterograde and chronic retrograde amnesia.

  • Anterograde amnesia (meaning he can’t create new memories)
  • Retrograde amnesia (meaning he’s lost many of his memories)
When combined this means Clive is unable form any new memories, and can barely remember anything about his life before he developed amnesia.
So Clive just kinda… exists. He lives his life on an endless loop, 30 seconds at a time, never knowing exactly what just happened or where he’s going.
It’s kind-of impossible to even imagine what this must be like. Our continuity of consciousness is pretty much what defines our experience of life. Clive describes it as feeling like he’s constantly waking up.
In fact, he keeps a journal that is just filled from top to bottom with him proclaiming “I am now awake,” or “I live” with a lot of the earlier entries crossed out because when he sees them, he doesn’t believe that he wrote them, even though they are in his handwriting.
Also, and this kinda heartbreaking, but Clive is married. And every time he sees his wife, he rushes to hug her like he hasn’t seen  her in years.
Deborah Wearing actually wrote a book about their experience called Forever Today: A True Story of Lost Memory and Never-Ending Love,
where she described his experience like this:
Yeah, this is where it gets kinda creepy. He often describes it as having been dead.
He lives in a beam of light with darkness ahead and behind him.
It’s creepy to think about, but Clive’s situation opens up a lot of questions about how memory works in the brain and what it means for our conscious experience.
For example, he’ll claim he doesn’t even know what coffee tastes like, even though he drinks coffee every day. If you ask him where the coffee is, he can’t tell you, but once he’s in the kitchen, he’s perfectly able to make a cup for himself.
Meaning he knows where the coffee is, the cups, the spoons, the sugar, the cream, all that, and he knows how to prepare it… but when he’s sitting in front of the TV, he’ll tell you he has no idea where all that stuff is and doesn’t even know what coffee tastes like.
Today Clive lives under constant care and observation because literally if he were to leave the house, he would have no way of getting back home.
Normal activities like reading a book or watching a movie are out of the question because he would constantly be forgetting the previous scene or the page he just read.
Actually the only entertainment he seems capable of enjoying are sports like cricket or rugby because the action takes place in short segments that are short enough that he can process them.
And this can be very frustrating for Clive because obviously, he wasn’t always like this.
Before the amnesia, he was a kind-of a world-renowned musician, he was a highly respected guy, so in general in conversations he sticks to just a few subjects that he can talk intelligently on.
And he does talk. In fact, chattering on endlessly is kind-of a way for him to remain grounded.
He will sometimes speak about WWll and hiding in air raid shelters as a young boy or talking about the choir at Cambridge.
He also can draw on a slurry of topics that interest him or of which he knows something about. Which makes it so that, if you’re just meeting him, he seems pretty normal.
But in about 15 minutes when you notice he’s said the same thing 3 times in a row… He doesn’t seem so normal.
He also jokes a lot. Kind-of compulsively. It’s actually a condition called Witzelsucht , (vitzul-shoot) which when you have a German condition you know it’s bad news.
Looking at you Munchausen Syndrome.
But no, actually Witzelsucht is known as joking disease, and it’s likely a consequence of his frontal-lobe weakening as he ages.
Clive’s condition is very remarkable and unique to only him. And that begs the question. Just how did this happen?
HERPES! Literally just your basic, run-of-the-mill herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1).
Which is funny… but also horrifying.
Horrifying because a LOT of people have herpes. It’s one of the oldest viruses on the planet, in fact there is a herpes virus for every type of primate there is.
And for most people the worst symptom is cold sores on their lips. If you’re unlucky, you might get sores on your genitals.
But for Clive, somehow the virus crossed the blood brain barrier and attacked his hippocampus. Even unluckier, the doctors couldn’t figure out what the illness was and treated him for the flu.
It was only after he was completely unresponsive that they were able to figure out the actual problem. By that time the damage had been done.
he hippocampus, as you’ve probably already guessed, plays an important part in the memory equation, it kinda transfers memories from short-term to long-term storage.
But of course it’s more complicated than that because as I mentioned earlier, he knows how to make coffee, and where all the coffee stuff is kept, even if he can’t explain it verbally.
So long-term memory is broken up into explicit and implicit memory. You can describe explicit memory as declarative, things that can be consciously described. Implicit memory are non-declarative, things that are more felt and intuitive.
And these can be broken down further, for example there are two types of explicit memories,
  • Episodic (experienced events) Ex: Recalling unique memories of your life
  • Semantic (knowledge and concepts) Ex: Knowing state capitals and dates of things.
On the other side, Implicit memories can be:
  • Procedural (skills and actions) Remembering how to do things like play music or shuffle cards well
  • Emotional conditioning (feelings) Memories which evoke emotion.
And all of this gets confusing with Clive’s condition because some of this he has and some of this he doesn’t.
Like the coffee thing from earlier, that’s Implicit Prodedural memory. He understands that at a subconscious, instinctual level, but if he were to try to recall a specific memory of him doing that in the past… which would be Explicit Episodic memory, he can’t.
You get what I’m saying here?
And sometimes it’s hard to pin down the truth, like he claims to have a vague memory of hiding in bomb shelters during World War 2, which would be Explicit Episodic, but it might just be that he knows the fact that people sheltered from bombs in World War 2, that would be more Explicit Semantic.
But to me the most interesting thing he was able to retain was his ability to play music.
So I mentioned he was a respected musician earlier, well that’s kind-of an understatement.
He was considered like the world’s foremost expert on this late renaissance composer named Orlande de Lassus.
And yes, you’re right, that is a very specific thing to be an expert in, now meet me at camera…
Two… because that’s what makes a person really interesting.
Hey you want to be an interesting person? Or at least convince other people that you’re interesting? It’s really simple. Just become the world’s foremost expert on the most specific, weird, obscure thing you can think of.
Nothing is more interesting to me than to meet someone who has spend a significant amount of their lifetimes obsessing over the tiniest detail of something that I’ve never heard of.
Where you’re just like, “Wow, really?”
Like it makes me wonder what it is about this thing that they’re so passionate about, there must be something there I can’t see.
That is the definition of interest.
Now find your weird thing and nerd the hell out on it.
Sorry, what were we…?
Orlande de Lassus, right, Clive was the world’s expert on his music, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of his work.
He actually ran The London Lassus Ensemble, and led the 1982 London Lassus Festival, which celebrated his 450th birthday.
Right, Clive was a supernerd.
Today, Clive has absolutely no memory of any of it.
But the question is, can he still play music? I did a video a while back about how music hacks the brain, it does hold a strange and deep connection in our minds.
Could his musical ability survive all that memory loss?
Yes, he can still rip up a piano just like he used to.
He can both read music and perform music from memory. And you might think that it would be shocking to sit down at a piano, thinking you don’t know how to play, and then suddenly this virtuoso music comes pouring out of you. But for Clive, he just kinda slips into it. As soon as he starts pressing keys, he’s himself again, lost in the movement, and everything is what it should be.
That sounds nice. But for Clive the real shock is after when his brain resets.
In fact he would kinda convulse and burp and lose control over himself. It’s like his body reacting to being sucked back into the void where he thinks he’s just woken up for the first time ever.
Doctors ascribe his seizure-like shakes to damage in his inferior frontal lobe.
It’s like when his brain sends a signal to activate an emotion, it creates a near epileptic event.
What’s also interesting about his playing music is that he improvises. So it’s not like his brain is acting like an old victrola playing the same thing over and over, Clive’s still in there.
So yeah, once again, music is weirdly intertwined with our identity and sense of self.
It’s really hard to imagine exactly what it’s like to live like Clive.
Part of it sounds hellish. But then again, that hell is forgotten 10 seconds later.
It’s also hard to imagine being in a relationship with someone like that. After years of caring for him full time, Deborah had to finally distance herself from Clive, just visiting him every other week or so.
And she would say that she felt a lot of guilt about that for a while, but… he didn’t. He wasn’t missing her when she was gone, when she wasn’t there, he had no idea she existed.
I should point out that he had no memory of their relationship, but when he saw her, he knew she was his wife. Again, he retained that implicit knowledge but had no episodic memory of it. It’s super interesting.

H.M.

And while I say that Clive has a condition that is totally unique to him, there are other cases of amnesia that are all just as interesting.
Henry Molaison, who came to be known as HM, cracked his skull in an accident when he was a young boy in 1953.
This led to epileptic seizures that continued to get worse and worse throughout his life, eventually becoming debilitating.
Eventually this led him to one of the top neurosurgeons at the time, a guy named W.B. Scoville, and his suggestion was to remove the hippocampus.
The hippocampus and while they’re at it the parahippocampal cortices, entorhinal cortices, piriform cortices, and amygdalae.
It was the world’s first surgery performed with an ice cream scooper.
But it worked. H.M.’s seizures went away, but of course as we just learned with Clive, a hippocampus is a terrible thing to waste.
This is your brain. This is your brain without a hippocampus. Any questions?
So yeah from that point forward H.M. was unable to form new memories. And he struggled to remember anything in the couple of years before he had the surgery.
He was diagnosed as having temporally graded amnesia.
One more weird thing, when H.M. died in 2008, he donated his body to science and researchers sliced up his brain as thinly as possible and scanned it into a 3D virtual environment, which you can see today at thebrainobservatory.org.

Cochrane

Another story is Kent Cochrane, who suffered a severe motorcycle accident that caused brain damage and gave him temporally graded retrograde amnesia.
Cochrane had his semantic memory intact; he could tell you the Capital of Vermont was Montpilliar but couldn’t tell you what he had for dinner the previous day.
Cochrane’s accident happened in 1986 and at that point CT scans were available, so scientists for the first time got to document a damaged brain at that level.
Researchers working with him were able to learn some new things about episodic and semantic memory but also the distinction between implicit and explicit memory, and how people learn new things in amnesia.
In one experiment, neuro researchers presented Cochrane with a list of words. A year later, they showed him the words with letters missing and he was able to fill in the letters while not knowing what the words really were.
In other words the info was getting into his mind through a different process, and found a different retrieval process was different as well.
This challenged the previous opinion that patients with anterograde amnesia are incapable of adding information to their declarative memory. In short, people with amnesia can indeed learn new things.

Bolzan

Then there’s the case of Scott Bolzan which I don’t want to spend too much time on but his case is interesting.
He was a professional football player in the 80s and had his share of concussions because this was way before the helmet to helmet rule.
But his story is he slipped on the bathroom floor and hit his head. And he got the kind of amnesia you always see in the movies, where he forgot his entire life up until the fall, but could make new memories after that.
But what’s weird in his case is he lost the procedural memory and implicit stuff, like he didn’t know what a job was, or the ritual of Halloween, or what a wife is.
Normally amnesia patients retain that procedural memory. So there are some people who think that he’s faking it?
At least Dr. William Barr thinks so, describing his symptoms as “Hollywood amnesia” and suggests he’s doing it to sell a book or get out of some debts.
He would also say, “Not knowing what a TV is, not knowing what a cellphone is, this is all inconsistent with any known form of brain damage.”
But back to Clive, reading about his situation really makes you think about our experience of life, and how the structure of our brain contributes to that.
Because one one level, we’re all going through life exactly like Clive is. Just one moment at a time.
We all have these two memory systems, short term and long-term. And short-term, immediate, real-time system is always running, that’s our present moment, what’s right in front of us. It’s the current block you’re on as you’re walking across town.
But that present moment is informed by our memory of the block we just passed and we know what’s up ahead because we walked there yesterday, those long-term memories provide the context that create this feeling of a continuation of our consciousness.
And when our short-term system resets, it’s supported by this other memory system, so it doesn’t feel like a reset but that system does still reset.
We’re just ridin’ a skateboard on a beam of light through fabric of space and time bud…
If I may end on a sweet note, one thing about this story that gets me is the way he responds when he sees his wife. Every single time, even if she just left the room for 10 minutes, he runs to her and holds on to her like he hasn’t seen her in years, he’s just overcome with emotion.
Which is sweet… but… I mean I get why she had to get away from it after a while.
Like I said before, he doesn’t remember his relationship with her, all he knows is that he loves her with all his heart. Which kinda says something about how deep down the emotion of love is.
I actually think Clive said it best when Deborah asked him, “What does love mean?” And to that Clive responded, “In tennis nothing, in life everything.”
And to that I say, Good show, old chap. (a beat) And happy birthday.

“Don’t Look Up” Could Actually Happen

Don’t Look Up is a satire that imagines what modern society’s reaction would be to an Earth-killing asteroid that generated a lot of acclaim – and backlash – since it came out last year. But what if that did happen? What are our actual plans to deal with a major asteroid strike?

TRANSCRIPT:

Last year, the movie Don’t Look Up premiered on Netflix to huge critical and audience acclaim. And just a few weeks ago, it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Of course now there’s a bit of a backlash against it because I guess it was a little too popular.

But if you’ve been living under a rock or didn’t see the Oscars, the movie is about a team of astronomers who discover an Earth-killing asteroid and the frustrations they have getting the rest of the world to take it seriously.

It’s an obvious satire of climate change and the recent pandemic that basically points a finger at the way we’ve reacted so far to a long-term existential threat and says, what if we acted like that with something much more near-term? How bizarre would that be?

For me anyway, I thought it did that brilliantly in fact some of it was a little too close to home for me, but like I said, there has been a bit of a backlash for being a little too on-the-nose and self-congratulatory, so no, it didn’t win Best Picture at the Oscars. And nothing else interesting happened that night.

But the whole thing got me thinking about asteroid strikes, which are a real threat. And it got me wondering… What exactly is our plan if a Don’t Look Up scenario were to occur?

You might be surprised to hear this but every day, our planet receives visitors from outer space. I’m not talking about Grays or Zeta Reticulans… Although, who knows?

No, I’m talking about meteors, and there’s a lot more of them that hit the Earth than you might think.

In fact, Earth is constantly attracting material from outer space. This is mind-blowing to me, 100 tons of material enters Earth’s atmosphere every day. 100 tons! Most of it burns up in the atmosphere but every day 17 meteors make it to the surface. meteoroid is the more general term, but any object burning in the atmosphere is a meteor

Actually that’s not true. If it reaches the surface, it’s a meteorite.

Yeah, we tend to use the word meteor to describe small rocks in space but technically a small rock like this flying around in space is a meteoroid.

Once it enters the atmosphere and burns up, that streak across the sky, the shooting star, that’s actually a meteor. And then once it hits the ground, it’s a meteorite.

Think of it like other minerals you might find on the ground like calcite, anthracite… meteorite.

And an asteroid is bigger than a meteoroid. It’s more like a planetoid; tiny planet.

But yeah, somewhere on Earth every day 17 of these things fall from the sky. Now, most of the Earth’s surface is water so most of them land in the drink but every once in a while, one hits land. And every once in a long while… They can do some damage.

Meteor Crater, AZ

Last year, 2021, I visited the Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona. Also known as Barringer Crater, it’s nearly a mile wide and 550 feet deep, and it was created by a meteor impact some 50,000 years ago.

The meteor weighed hundreds of thousands of tons and released something like 9-10 megatons of TNT.

Which is roughly the same energy released by the Tonga volcano in January. The one that did this.

And honestly, it’s pretty mind-blowing to see in person. Especially the part where you start seeing giant out-of-place rocks and boulders strewn all over the place for dozens of miles before you get there.

And this… wasn’t even that noteworthy as impacts go.

Keep in mind this is meteor crater. It was made by a meteor. Asteroids are bigger.

Planet Killers

According to NASA, a meteor the size of a football field hits every 2000 years or so. Asteroids large enough to cause extinctions and end civilizations come along “every few million years.”

Some of these are comets but most of the largest impacts we know about have been from asteroids.

The most famous one, of course, is the one that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago and created the Chicxulub crater in Mexico.

Luckily impacts on that scale are extremely rare. In fact, only two craters on Earth rival Chicxulub for size and they’re both around 2 billion years old.

So it’s incredibly unlikely another planet-killing impact will happen in our lifetimes. I mean… If our entire species survives to see the next one, it’ll be pretty impressive.

But an impact doesn’t have to be a planet killer to ruin your day

Chelyabinsk and Tunguska

In 2013, a meteor that fell over Chelyabinsk, Russia injured 1419 people

7200 buildings were damaged over an area of tens of kilometers, not by pieces of the meteor landing on it but from the shock wave when it exploded in mid-air.

In 1908, a much larger explosion devastated an area near the Tunguska River in Siberia. It more-or-less flattened eight-hundred square miles of forest

Uprooted trees formed a ring around the blast’s center, where upright trees were stripped of limbs and bark

Hundreds of reindeer died, but no humans, which was lucky. Not so lucky if you’re a reindeer.

What is a NEO?

NASA defines an NEO as comets or asteroids that pass within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun.

An astronomical unit, or AU, is the distance between the Earth sand the sun, so just under 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). So basically anything near or inside of our orbit, NASA considers an NEO, and takes particular interest in them.

That’s not just because of the danger. Asteroids and comets are like time capsules from the birth of the solar system. It’s thought that comets were formed in the same process that created the outer gas giants and asteroids are from the process that created the inner rocky planets.

So yeah studying either of them is like opening a window to the solar system 4 billion years ago.

Of course we’d rather go to them than have them come to us. You know, because of the whole…thing.

Near Earth Objects whose trajectories bring them uncomfortably close to Earth are upgraded to Potentially Hazardous Objects, or PHOs. And now I’m hungry for Vietnamese noodles.

Asteroids are by far the most common, so they’re sometimes referred as PHA — Potentially Hazardous Asteroids.

PHOs of all kinds have been tracked by astronomers for years, but efforts got a major boost in 2005, when congress passed a US law directing NASA to identify 90% of NEOs over a certain size. (140 meters)

Asteroid History

And that my friends put NASA in the ‘stroid huntin’ business.

Of course ‘stroid huntin’ goes back a long way. The first first asteroid was discovered in 1801, and was given the name asteroid because it means “starlike”. In a dead language people used to speak.

By the year 1900, 464 asteroids had been discovered. By the year 2000, we had 108,066 in our catalog. It’s almost like our technology progressed in that time.

But to give you an idea of how much our technology has continued to progress, in the last 20 years we’ve discovered nearly 10 times as many asteroids. NASA’s current count is just over 1.1 million. That’s some good ‘stroid huntin’.

They range in size from a diameter of less than 10 meters to the largest asteroid in our solar system, Vesta, which is about 530 kilometers. This is the asteroid the Dawn space probe visited in 2011.

Thankfully Vesta is not an NEO, it’s located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, where most of the solar system asteroids hang out, though they have been known to migrate.

Which brings us back to the danger ‘stroids.

Good News, Everyone!

First of all, the good news is there are currently no known PHOs is expected to hit us in the next hundred years.

The not-so-good news is that there’s still a lot that need to be found. NASA estimates there should be about 25,000 that fit the parameters of the 2005 directive… and so far they’ve found about 10,000.

When you scale that up to asteroid size, NASA estimates there should be about 4700 PHAs. So far we’ve found 2263 of them. As of the time I’m recording this.
(NASA considers an asteroid that passes within half an AU from Earth to be a PHA)

So yeah, we’ve only found about half of the danger bois that should be out there. But the ones we know about tend to be the larger ones, so it’s not likely another Chicxulub will sneak up on us in our lifetimes.

But what if one does? What if that one in a trillion Don’t Look Up scenario comes true? What are our actual plans?

Threat Mitigation

Well, in the US anyway, the plans fall to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, which yes, sounds like the group the Men In Black work for.

By the way, the PDCO is the umbrella office over the Near Earth Object Observations Program that is finding and tracking them in the first place.

So the first thing the PDCO would do is send a probe to study the danger boi because it’s not just the size and trajectory that matters, we also need to know it’s composition.

Because some of these objects are solid iron and others are essentially piles of rubble in space. Hitting one with a missile will have different effects than hitting the other.

In the case of a solid doom rock, there is the option of just nuking it. And my nipples got hard just saying that.

But yeah, NASA has proposed this, not because it would destroy it, but a nuclear blast could deflect it off course, which is all we need to do.

A smaller asteroid might not need to go nuclear and could just hit it with a conventional missile or projectile – the sciency term is “kinetic impactor”.
But these aren’t the best options for the rubble-pile asteroids because an explosion could just cause it to disperse into a cloud of rubble, much of it still directed toward Earth.

It’s like instead of getting hit with a bullet we get hit with buckshot – still not much fun.

So an alternative for rubble-pile doom rocks is landing a rocket on the surface and pushing it off course. This would work for the solid ones as well.

But let’s not kid ourselves, we wanna nuke it if we can.

Now, if the asteroid made of the right material we might be able to deflect it with a laser.

This is known as laser ablation. Basically, the laser would melt part of the asteroid’s surface, and the plumes of gas and ejected material would create enough force to slowly move the asteroid to a safe orbit.

This might could even be done with a large mirror or fresnel lens.

But “slowly” is the operative word, here, this is only an option if the asteroid has the right composition and we find it WAY in advance.

Now, if we get really unlucky and a massive danger boi sneaks up on us, deflection might not be an option. We may have to go straight to disruption.

I mentioned earlier that if we blow up a rubble-pile asteroid it may just create a shower of smaller asteroids. Well it turns out if you hit it hard enough, it might actually work.

I’ll be honest, when I started researching this I really didn’t think that this was a serious option, but there’s a chance that a big enough explosion could turn a dangerous asteroid into space foam.

One recent experiment simulated what would happen if a 1 megaton bomb were detonated near a 100-meter asteroid. They found that it would would disperse 99.9% of the asteroid’s mass.

Instead of a city-killer, they were left with a chunk no bigger than a Chihuahua’s head. Which is the weirdest measurement I’ve ever seen on this channel…

Americans will do anything to not use metric.

But it could work! And by the way, it doesn’t have to just be one bomb, we could send multiple bombs, the first one breaks up the asteroid, the second flings the pieces further off track, repeat as needed.

It’s not like we don’t have thousands of nuclear weapons sitting around.

The question is, could we pull that off in time?

Back in April 2021, NASA conducted an exercise to put existing technologies to the test. They set up a fictional scenario involving an asteroid of unknown size and composition, and gave international experts 6-months lead time.

It… didn’t go well.

They concluded that no existing technology could do the job. No existing rocket could deliver a nuke in time. No existing spacecraft could collide with enough force.

Six months, the experts concluded, is simply not enough time. Opinions differ on how much time would actually be needed but the NASA official who designed the scenario said five years, at least.

(react) Now would be a good time to remember that the chance of this happening is extremely low. But still, we need more information on the PHOs we know about and we need more tools to detect PHOs.

Just like cancer, early detection is key.

NEOS, DART, and HERA

Thankfully some awesome new tools are on the way.

2026 is looking to be a big year for planetary defense for a couple of reasons, the first being the Near-Earth Object Surveyor.
NEOS is a space-based, infrared telescope specifically designed to help NASA finish its mission of cataloging 90% of large NEOs.

It’s kind-of been stuck in development limbo since 2014, but it’s recently cleared a major hurdle, so appears to on its way.

Also 2026 is when NASA expects to get data on the DART mission.

We heard a lot about this when it launched in November of last year, but DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. And it’s the first time we’ll attempt to redirect an asteroid using a kinetic impactor.
Its target is a 160-meter wide asteroid named Dimorphos that orbits a 780-meter wide asteroid named Didymos. It’s kind-of like a moonlet.

A mini-dangerboi.

The idea is that DART will slam into Dimorphos at a blistering 6.6 km per second, which should move its orbit closer to Didymos.

Currently, it takes 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit, it’s expected after the blast it’ll orbit every 10 minutes. And this will be detectible by Earth-based telescopes.

Now to be clear, neither Didymos nor Dimorphos are a threat to Earth, this is merely a test to provide data on asteroid deflection.

So yeah, it launched last year, it’s set to collide in September of this year, 2022, and we’ll be able to tell if it was successful pretty soon afterwards.

But in 2026, a pair of cubesats developed by ESA will rendezvous with Dimorphos to examine the aftermath and see what went right… or what went wrong.

Either way, it’ll provide insights that will improve our deflection plans. And might help astronomers sleep better at night.

A Near-Miss That Wasn’t

Just a few months ago — January 2022 — a discovery was made that probably caused a few nightmares.

On January 6, an asteroid called 2022 AE1 was spotted on what appeared to be a collision course.

Work to Be Done

Because yeah, a year-and-a-half is not enough time to deflect it with current technology. Now, I want to say that if we really only had a year an a half to save ourselves that it would clarify things and we’d find a way to solve the problem. Recent events have given me reason to doubt that.

Which is why Don’t Look Up resonated so much when it came out. With the current wave of distrust in science we’re seeing, would people be willing to fund an emergency project to stop a threat that we can’t see? One that’s not going to affect us for a couple of years? Tell me what you think down below.

This whole topic is interesting because simultaneously 100 tons of space stuff falls to Earth every day… but the chances of any of it being catastrophic is extremely small.

I guess that’s just the reality of being on a rock flying through a vast galaxy filled with tiny rocks. And a handful of dangerbois.

What Was The Worst Year In Human History? | Answers With Joe

We’re living in trying times, maybe you heard that somewhere? But there have definitely been worse times to be alive. In today’s video, we look back at some of the worst years in human history, including one year that historians seem to agree was the worst of them all.

TRANSCRIPT:

Dear Advertising Industry,
It is April of 2022. The pandemic has been going on for two full years and yet I still continue to hear the terms “unprecedented times,” “trying times,” “new normal” in every commercial block of any television program or pre-roll ad. On behalf of, well, everyone, I am writing to humbly request that you please, for the love of God, stop.

We are all well aware of the clogged toilet this world has become and don’t need to be reminded of it or for our anxieties around said chunk-filled bowl to be weaponized against us in an attempt to take our dwindling reserves of money.
And at the very least, understanding that weaponizing our anxieties is in general the whole point of advertising, it would be preferable that you at least, you know, try to be original? Use a different phrase? Come at it a slightly different way?

Allow me to make some recommendations.
Instead of saying “unprecedented times,” perhaps something along the lines of, “post-decency years”
Instead of “trying times,” try “the excruciation hours.”
Instead of “the new normal” how about “the old abysmal”

These are options I just came up with. Surely if you put all your 20-something junior copywriters in a room with a bottle of whisky and a bag of edibles for a day they could come up with something that would really sing.
So with that, I look forward to hearing what you come up with. Good luck and happy flibbity-floobity.  Ooh, I’m gonna keep that one.
Signed, the world.

The Times We Live In

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote American Revolutionary Thomas Paine.  Over a hundred years later, British statesman Joseph Chamberlain said no time he could remember had brought so many “new objects for anxiety.” Sound familiar?
These days, we’re reminded constantly that things are bad.  We live in troubled times, unprecedented times.  Times of the new normal.
And I’m not here to say we don’t have problems.  We definitely do.  But as Billy Joel said, we didn’t start the fire.
Yes, I just went from quoting Thomas Paine to Billy Joel. Don’t judge my journey.

Believe it or not, there have been worse times to be alive than any in recent memory.  Today, I’d like to take a look at some years considered the Worst Ever by experts.
There is one that seems to be the agreed upon worst, and we’ll get to that later but first let’s start with some contenders.

1347 – The Black Death

Spoiler alert, pandemics are going to be a bit of a theme on this list
The Black Death began in the 14th Century, when a variety of bubonic plague swept through the Near East, North Africa, and Europe
Picture it: it’s Sicily, 1347. A fleet of trade ships docks at the port of Messina. Everybody in town comes running see what’s on the boat because… well they didn’t have internet back then, it was the thing to do.
But as they get to the dock, they find out the ships have a surprise waiting for them. And that surprise is that most of the soldiers were dead.
Of those who were still alive, most of them were sick, their bodies covered in sores, called buboes in Latin, thus the name of the plague.
Now they knew about the importance of quarantining in these situations, but before officials could get the ships quarantined, the plague leapt to the onlookers
Inside of a year, it was all over the continent
By the time it had runs its course, something like 200 million people had died

http://www.bestofsicily.com/mag/art213.htm — most ironic website name ever, based on this page
For scale, 200 million was 30 to 50 percent of the European population at the time
Like, Covid sucks, and we all know someone who has died or at least know someone close to someone who died, but imagine if half the people you know developed strange swellings, started bleeding and vomiting, and then just died within a day.
You’d be pretty freaked out, right?

Well, people in the 1300s were freaked out too. And when people freak out, they tend to gravitate toward their worst impulses. Like finding a group of people to blame.
Throughout the Black Plague, attacks were levied at Jewish towns and neighborhoods, killing thousands of Jewish people, it’s actually known as the Medieval Holocaust.
Funny how a disease that kills Christians and Muslims and Jews equally is somehow the Jews’ faulthttps://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2841&context=facpub
So yeah the Black Death was just about as horrible as you’ve heard. Probably worse. And it reshaped the world in some ways.
But the first outbreak can be traced to that fleet of ships, which is why 1347 is our first contender for Worst Year Ever.

1177 – Bronze Age Collapse

And speaking of ships, our next contender involves a group of people who… probably had ’em. They’re called the Sea Peoples.
The Sea Peoples are one of the biggest mysteries of all time, nobody seems to know where they came from but suddenly in the 13th century BCE, they appeared out of nowhere, attacking Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus, and the Hittites.
And whoever they were, according to archaeologists, they helped trigger the collapse of the Bronze Age in 1177 B. C.
I say “helped” because they were far from the only problem. In fact, they were probably the result of other problems.
Like a lengthy drought in the decade before the Sea People’s invasions, that drove them to raid other countries for resources.
And a famine that had already raged across the empires the Sea Peoples attacked, which made them especially vulnerable.
The tomb of Pharoah Ramses III records a devastating battle with the Sea Peoples. Egypt won, but went into decline soon after.
But the Hittites got it worst of all. Its capital city was destroyed and they basically ceased to exist as a people.
Another Sea Peoples victim was the Canaanite city-state of Megiddo

There are ruins on the Mound of Megiddo from that conflict, though it’s not alone, there were a lot of battles fought over Megiddo over the years, which by the way, is where “Armageddon” comes from.
Are you Armageddon it?
Ultimately it was a perfect storm of disasters and conquest that destroyed multiple economic systems all at once. Civilization was set back hundreds of years and some empires were lost forever.
All this tumult started circa 1177 B. C. which is why it’s a contender for Worst Year Ever.

1816 – The Year Without A Summer

I’ve mentioned the Year Without A Summer in past videos, mostly in just a, “huh, isn’t that an interesting nugget of information” kind of thing.
Turns out it was a pretty traumatic event.
The previous year, 1815, saw possibly the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history at Mount Tambora, in Indonesia
It ejected 180 billion cubic meters of material and may have killed as many as 90,000 locals. But the problems were just getting started
There was so much ash from Tambora, and other, knock-on eruptions, that temperatures around the world plummeted.

The next summer was so cold, people actually froze to death in snowstorms – and I’m not talking about in some distant part of the north; this was continental America.
This snow and frost damaged crops and triggered famines across Europe and China.
This destabilized society and riots broke out in England that became known as the Bread or Blood riots.
In India, colder temperatures flipped nature on her head and caused a drought in their monsoon season and flooded during their usual dry season.
And this affected way more than crops, it actually had the weird effect of causing a local strain of cholera to mutate to adapt to the flipped weather. This mutation was able to bypass human immunity and caused one of the largest cholera pandemics of all time. It eventually killed 2 million people.

All of that is a lot of damage from one volcanic eruption. But that’s how insane the Mount Tambora eruption was.
And that’s why 1816 is a contender for the Worst Year Ever

1914 – Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

So far on this list, disease and disaster have played the largest role in making years the worst. 1914 is a little different.
What made it terrible was politics. And war. Which is like spicy politics.
The first half of the year was pretty calm, as things go.

The biggest story of the first six months was the accidental sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland.
Which everyone seems to have forgotten about, but 1012 people died, it’s the 7th deadliest shipwreck in history.
But yeah, that was the good part of 1914.

Because in June of 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated. His wife, Maria, was also killed, by the way, that’s another piece of news that often gets forgotten
He was assassinated by a terrorist – or freedom fighter, depending on who you listen to – with the goal of uniting the citizens of Serbia against the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Austria-Hungary had conquered part of Serbia in previous years so this was something that had be boiling up for a while but this assassination is what sent both countries into war.
Both called on their allies to help out, and within a few months, the world was neck deep in what we now call the First World War.
Over the next four years, from 1914-18, about 20 million people were killed. Up to half of them were civilians
Tens of millions more were displaced and scattered throughout Europe, which helped spread illnesses.

It’s estimated the pre-Columbian population may have been as high as 112 million, so we may be talking about 100 million deaths. It’s just staggering.
One particular wave of influenza became especially virulent and spread around the entire world, infecting half a billion people, and eventually killing 50 million people.
This was of course the Spanish flu, which by the way didn’t begin in Spain, but all the other countries had sort-of censored reporting about it except Spain. So since they were the ones that were talking about it, it kinda got stuck on them.https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html
Now most of the suffering in all this occurred in the years that followed 1914, but it did all start from events that happened in 1914.
Which is why 1914 is definitely a top contender for Worst Year Ever

1492 – American Epidemics

Yeah, we’re going there.
For 400 years, the year 1492 has been celebrated in American culture as the year America was discovered.  (a beat) There is a contingent of people on this continent that see it differently.
We’ve all heard what a monster Christopher Columbus was but the biggest effect his “discovery” had was completely unintentional.
Because while yes, millions of natives were killed in war or enslaved, these are a drop in the bucket compared to the deaths caused by foreign diseases
The indigenous peoples of North and South America had been separated from the rest of the world for tens of thousands of years and had never been exposed to things like smallpox, influenza, or our old friend the bubonic plague.

These and many other diseases killed countless millions of people. Various studies have put the population decline between 50 and 95%.
It’s estimated the pre-Columbian population may have been as high as 112 million, so we may be talking about 100 million deaths. It’s just staggering.
The only disease that we think went the other direction was syphilis, which sucks, but didn’t exactly have the same impact. In fact, Europe’s population increased by 25% in the 100 years following Columbus.
And supporting that growth required resources. Which the “New World” was ripe with. And thus began the violent conquest of North America in earnest, which drove families, tribes, nations, and cultures to the brink of extinction.

So no. They don’t celebrate Columbus Day.
And it’s why I think 1492 should be a contender for Worst Year Ever.
But still there is one year that many scholars say is worse than all of these. A year that’s worse than the years that started the Black Death, the Bronze Age Collapse, an Endless Winter, a Global War, and the near-Genocide of Indigenous Americans
I’ll start with an appeal to authority. The theory I’m about to explain is not mine

The Case for 536

Medieval scholar Michael McCormick put forth the theory that the worst year of all time was 536 AD. And much like 1816, the culprit was a massive volcanic eruption.

Frozen Summer

Actually possibly two volcanoes according to ice samples and tree ring data, it’s thought that there may have been one in El Salador and one in Iceland.
Regardless, clouds blanketed the Sun from Europe to Asia, and global temperatures fell. And they stayed down.
Just as in 1816, there were summer snowstorms, crop failure, and widespread famine, we have actual records of people starving in Ireland and China.
All this hunger weakened the population and caused outbreaks of disease, one of which would go on and become the first true global pandemic.

The Plague of Justinian

This became known as the Plague of Justinian and it did the most damage around the Mediterranean and Middle East, just destroying the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires.
It featured all the plague hits – buboes, vomiting, and swift death, and it wiped out 40-60% of the population.
It became known as the Plague of Justinian because Justinian was a Byzantine emperor at the time and while this was going on, he insisted on having a big old war.
He was trying to reunite the Western and Eastern arms of the Roman Empire, and he was brutal about it. According to the court historian, Justinian demanded plague survivors pay the taxes of their deceased neighbors to pay for his wars.
So, Famine, Plague, War… We’re running out of horsemen here.

Climate Disaster

But it wasn’t just a Mediterranean problem, archaeological evidence shows there were floods in Peru around 540
It’s not known if the volcanic eruption had anything to do with it, but it led to the large scale migration of the ancient Moche civilization, who abandoned their cities and disappeared. 

Economic Collapse

Back in Europe, the economy collapsed for more than 100 years.
They actually know this because silver mining leaves traces in the atmosphere and ice core samples show a huge gap in the century following 536.
Is it Really the Very Worst?
So, to review, 536 was a Year Without a Summer that kicked off a period of starvation, plague, war, climate change, and economic upheaval. In other words, “Trying times”
What was it like to actually live through the worst year ever?
As humans, with a limited life span, we have a hard time seeing the historical context of the times we live in. For the most part, we just keep our heads down and try to make it another day.
But labels like “worst” and “best” depend on historical context. After all, one bad year might spark a century of innovation.

The Personal Touch

But between the plague, famines, and floods, there’s a high probability that one of those would have personally affected you in the period kicked off by 536.
And this is at all levels of society. I mentioned Emperor Justinian’s court historian earlier – he lost a wife, kids, and grandkids to the plague
But he had no idea what was going on in South America. Didn’t even know it existed.

Worst Years Today

Whereas today we know all the problems happening all around the world all the time. On top of the plague and now war.
I don’t know I think there’s an argument to be made that our communication infrastructure could be causing us to feel more anxiety, confusion, and panic than at early times in history.
So in that sense… Maybe we actually are living through some of the Worst Years Ever
But of course that same communication technology is making us more able to find solutions to these problems and innovate and adapt.  Maybe that will be our legacy.
Look, the last few years have been…not great. But when we look back in the decades to follow, when our descendants look back in the coming centuries, with some historical context, maybe it won’t all be bad.
Maybe it’ll be seen as the catalyst for a period of radical advancement that set the world on a whole new course.
What that course turns out to be is up to us.

There’s A “Bermuda Triangle” In Space

There’s an area of space called the South Atlantic Anomaly, or the SAA, where the Earth’s magnetic field is significantly weaker, allowing solar and cosmic radiation dangerously close to the atmosphere. From the beginning of the space age, it has caused issues with satellites and astronauts as they passed through it, with some satellites actually being destroyed because of it.

But… why is it there? What causes it? And should we be concerned about it?

TRANSCRIPT:

Humans have known about the geomagnetic field for at least 2400 years with compasses and navigational equipment. But it was only mapped for the first time in 1701, by Sir Edmond Halley, the comet guy.Humans have known about the geomagnetic field for at least 2400 years with compasses and navigational equipment. But it was only mapped for the first time in 1701, by Sir Edmond Halley, the comet guy.

To make his map, Halley sailed the Atlantic for nearly 2 years and collected observations at 170 locations
Scientists these days make maps using complex instruments on the ground and in space, but they have to be careful about those space based observations
Because there’s one region of the Earth’s magnetic field that’s particularly dangerous to pass over. It’s this one spot where the field is particularly weak and has had consequences for satellites from the beginning of the space age. It’s known as the South Atlantic Anomaly.

A REGION OF FLUX

The oldest detection of the South Atlantic Anomaly — or SAA — I could find is from August 1960
A team of scientists at the Lebedev Institute of Physics, Moscow noted “intense charged particle flux” at 300 kilometers over the southern Atlantic Ocean
The satellite that registered the flux counted 100 times more particle collisions than in regions outside
300 kilometers is much closer to Earth’s surface than most of the inner Van Allen Belt – The altitude of the belt varies, but it typically goes no lower than 600 kmWhy is the SAA an exception?
It’s because for some reason the field strength right here is weaker, bottoming out around 22,000 nanoteslas, which is  about half the typical strength at that latitude
Weaker geomagnetism means high-energy particles can get closer to Earth before they’re deflected by the magnetic field

A weak field means a lower Van Allen Belt, and more energetic particles
Since it was first detected in 1960, the belt has been detected as low as 200 km
You might be wondering if this spot is more dangerous for humans and, yeah, it is. Thankfully few humans need to go there – more on that in a second

SINGLE EVENT UPSETS

What does need to go there are satellites – and this is a problem.
Communication and scientific satellites can be affected in this region, most commonly by Single Event Upsets, or SEUs.
This is when an energetic particle interacts with a satellite’s computer, which can  cause a discharge in computer memory
For us non-computer scientists, that means a small amount of information stored in the computer is lost
To get slightly in the weeds for a second, computers store information as bits — ones and zeroes

These bits are combined to represent documents, videos, and anything else stored on the computer
In a satellite, a bit might be part of instructions for how to relay a TV signal or how to burn fuel to stay at the right height
So you can see why losing part of that information would cause problems, not just in keeping it from operating correctly but just staying in orbit.
But this is a known problem, so some manufacturers add shielding to protect against SEUs, but this can get expensive, and adds weight.

BACKUPS AND OTHER STRATEGIES

So more often than not, satellites that pass over the SAA have to compensate for SEUs in another way
Depending on the satellite’s mission, this might involve checking data against a backup – Sometimes whole backup computers are built into a satellite
Other times, all that’s necessary is a little common sense
Landsat, a type of mapping satellite operated by the US Geological Survey, occasionally show spots of bright white on its photos, sometimes followed immediately by a dark spot.
This means that a particle oversaturated the camera’s detector. The white spot, the dark spot happens when the detector recovers.
But the Landsat operators know this, so they know they can discard the affected part of the image.

By the way, here’s a map of where Landsat SEUs have occurred. That big blob of red and yellow dots is inside the South Atlantic Anomaly.

Another strategy used by satellites is to power down sensitive equipment
All but one of the Hubble Space Telescope’s cameras are regularly powered down for this reason. Hubble actually spends 15% of its time over the SAA
Pictures from the camera that stays on are often affected by particle impacts, but operators expect this, they consider it a small price to pay for extra uptime

R.I.P. HITOMI

In fact, they’re a steal compared to the problems the SAA has caused for other satellites
In 2016, the Japan’s space agency JAXA lost a $270 million x-ray telescope called Hitomi. Probably because of the SAA.
An SEU, or something like it, made the satellite lose orientation. And when it tried to rotate back into position, it went out of control and spun itself to pieces
I should mention here that that’s an extreme case. Not all satellites have to pass through the anomaly and most that do make it out all right. And most cases of SEUs just cause minor problems. It’s not like this is the Bermuda Triangle or something.

Although, I covered the Bermuda Triangle and proved that it’s not any more dangerous than the rest of the ocean. So maybe this is like the Bermuda Triangle.
But this actually is slightly more dangerous. So maybe this is more of a Bermuda Triangle than the actual Bermuda Triangle.
Oh no, I’ve fallen down a logic spiral. Which is the Bermuda Triangle of sanity!
Anyway, satellites are one thing, but what about people passing through the anomaly?

ISS VS SAA

Because they do. Quite often. In fact, the International Space Station passes over it 3 to 4 times a day
ISS orbits between 330 and 435 km, so it does dip into the inner Van Allen Belt

But only a little. And it’s fast, so it’s only over the SAA for 3 to 5 minutes per pass
Still, the space station is exposed to higher levels of radiation during that time
So the hull provides some protection for astronauts and equipment, water stored in racks around the walls provide more
Water is actually a better shield than some types of metal, as it contains more particle-blocking nuclei
Long term studies show that ISS astronauts receive about 0.3 Sievert per year of radiation. That’s 60 times the average dose of a person on Earth; well shy of a fatal dose, but still significant.
Even mild radiation exposure over time can increase the risk of cancer. Standards at NASA allow for increasing that risk by no more than 3% over a career
No ISS astronaut has reached the limit and so far, none have shown evidence of radiation having a dramatic effect on their health

EYE FLASHES

But they have made some interesting observations. And by that I mean, sometimes they see things.
You’ve probably heard of the strange flashes of light some astronauts have seen. These are thought to come from high-energy particles shooting through the eye
They were first observed on Skylab, circa 1974, and were especially common during flyovers of the SAAh

Don Pettit, inventor of the zero-g coffee cup, described his experience with SAA flashes in a 2012 blog entry:“As we pass through this region, eye flashes will increase from one or two every 10 minutes to several per minute.”

I don’t know about you but I’m paranoid enough that that would FREAK ME OUT.
But… Why? Why is this here? What causes this?

MAGNETIC DECLINATION

Before I answer, let’s go back to Edmond Halley for a minute
To make his map of magnetic field lines, the famous stargazer took three different measurements: Latitude, longitude relative to London, and magnetic declination
That last one’s the kicker
Simply put, magnetic declination is the difference between true north and magnetic north
It’s also known as “compass variation” since it tracks the angle between north on a compass and the North Pole
If you thought that angle was zero, don’t feel bad, most people do. But in fact,  Earth’s magnetic axis is about 9.41 degrees from the rotational axis — note that this is the ref that gives 11 percent as an approximation in #1…looks #6 gives updated numbers for 2020, but please check my reading

Interestingly, I talked about this a little bit in my Bermuda Triangle video, too. It’s one of the explanations for it. See, it all comes back around…
By the way, you might see different numbers online, that’s because the magnetic axis shifts. It can actually move up to 55km a year.

So if you imagine the magnetic axis were a simple bar magnet, it wouldn’t lie in the dead center of Earth, it would have to be several hundred kilometers off-center. (a beat) Also magnetic north is technically a magnetic south pole, but I think we’re confused enough.

Point is, there are different theories to explain why there’s this difference in angle. The most accepted one has to do with how the geomagnetic field is generated

THE LUMPY, BUMPY CORE

Earth’s inner core is thought to be a sphere of solid iron. Or at least it used to be, recent models suggest it may be mix of materials in what they call a superionic state.
(over graphic or animation)This solid or semi-solid inner core has a diameter of about 2400 km. Surrounding that is a thick outer core — 2200 km thick. This is thought to be mostly liquid iron and nickel.

And it’s the movement of that liquid that generates most of Earth’s magnetic field. But… it’s not the perfect sphere we usually see it depicted as.
Nope, it’s lumpy. And bumpy.
And because of that, the magnetic field it generates is lumpy and bumpy as well. Meaning different intensities of field strength in different places.
The SAA is one of those places, specifically an area of low strength…possibly due a notable bump.
We have made maps of the core using seismic data that does show two large blobs deep below the SAA. So there you go.

THEIA’S REVENGE?

An interesting theory came out last year in 2021 that these bumps were actually caused by the Theia collision 4.5 billion year ago.
The Theia impact is also thought to be what stirred up the core and gave us a nice strong magnetic field in the first place.
But its thought that pieces of Theia became embedded in the core, causing the lumps that created the Anomaly.
But there are problems with this theory, notably the blobs of Theia appear to be under the Pacific, so why isn’t there a Northern Pacific Anomaly?
It’s still very much up for debate but it’s an interesting thought that we have satellites being slapped out of the sky by what is essentially the ghost of a dead planet. Sleep tight, kids.

DECAY AND REVERSAL

One last thing to mention, I talked about how magnetic north is moving a minute ago, well, over the last century, it’s also been getting weaker
Measurements from 1850 onward indicate it could completely decay in 1300 years

The study of magnetic traces in ancient minerals indicates that over time, the geomagnetic field can reverse. North can become south. Up becomes down. Human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!”
Yes, the poles flip from time to time, in fact it’s happened 183 times over the past 83 million years
It’s possible the current weakening of the magnetic field means we’re heading for another reversal. You might have heard about this in clickbait headlines. But this is conjecture
Despite the weakening trend, the present field is still relatively strong compared to values it’s had over the past 50,000 years.

SAA MONITORING

But this weakening has led to changes in the South Atlantic Anomaly. In fact, it’s been growing for the last 50 years.
It also appears to be splitting in two, forming eastern and western lobes
But, NASA and other space agencies are keeping a close eye on it, there are whole fleets of satellites monitoring the SAA and the geomagnetic field overall. And while they have been surprised by this, it seems to be more dynamic than they thought, there’s no real cause for alarm.
Despite what you might have read, a sudden geomagnetic flip is unlikely, and losing the field completely is more unlikely still.
The archaeological record shows countless changes and many reversals in the geomagnetic field
Life has always found a way

 

 

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