The Planetary News Radio – Episode 8: New Fracking Methods, a Hidden Ocean on Pluto, and Other Science News

Hello. Welcome to The Planetary News Radio Episode 8 with your host, Bryan White. Today I’m going to do a segment called Science in the News, and this is kind of like taking the pulse of the internet in regard to science. What I have is just a list of headlines of recent science based trending articles and I haven’t researched the articles, I haven’t read them. All I’m doing is I’m just looking at headlines, and I’m taking the pulse. I just want to know what’s going on in a general sense, just to get an idea of where things are at with popular topics in science and so I don’t miss anything major or important.

The first thing up on this list is “PhD Programs drop standardized exam”. That’s important because PhD [(and other graduate)] programs historically have required a GRE (graduate record examination) to get into graduate. It’s a standardized way to measure capacity or ability and there’s been a lot of criticism about using standardized tests and measure graduate level capacity. And so you see a lot of institutions are dropping GREs entirely for [entry into] graduate programs. One of the first places to do this was UC Berkeley, which dropped the GRE for its biology program and now presumably we are seeing more schools dropping this, and I see that is a good thing for science. I think that if you create a standardized test and people train themselves to pass and do well on standardised tests, then all you end up with our people who are really good at doing standardized tests. So I’m glad to see that a lot of institutions or shifting away from this and maybe taking a more holistic approach to graduate entry, let’s see what’s next.

“Elon Musk’s 12,000 StarLink satellite network has a big problem”. I’ve been seeing a lot about this. So Elon Musk wants to create a satellite Internet called Starling and could presumably have hundreds or thousands of satellites. He’s launched 60 so far, so there’s a string of 60 satellites now orbiting around the earth, and they’re in a very low orbit right now. And so I believe the orbit slowly adjusts itself, but right now they’re in a low orbit, and so you can see the satellite’s fairly easily from the ground, so that’s a problem. It’s [potentially] very distracting for astronomers, and you see a lot of complaints about this network. So the concern is that when the full system is 12,000 satellites long, how much of the sky will be blocked out by this network? So it’s a legitimate concern, but we don’t really know yet. Some other uses of the network might offset that. For example, Elon Musk has said that this network would also be capable of removing space junk. So maybe as the satellites age, they can be repurposed to collect and bring down other pieces of debris in orbit and maybe balance out total space junk floating around Earth. So in general, space junk is a problem. That’s really good topic to talk about later.

Astronomers spot Forbidden Planet in Neptunian Desert”. So this is a planet that’s been spotted where it’s not supposed to exist, and that probably means that the planet is too close to its star. In other words, it hasn’t been obliterated by the star. That’s interesting, because planets that are close to their stars lose matter and mass slowly gets stripped away by radiation, so you see planets [that orbit to close] slowly getting absorbed by their stars. So you would not expect a planet to persist for very long in that range. That suggests, interesting things about this planet. Either there’s something strange about the star or something strange about the planet, and I don’t know, So this makes me curious. I want to go look at it more. But right now I’m not. This is just the headlines, So this isn’t really interesting thing to go look at later. [Scientists hypothesize either the planet began much larger than it currently is or it only recently migrated into the Neptunian zone (< ~1 million years ago)].

“Watch the first solar eclipse ever captured on film”. A year 1900 total solar eclipse. The oldest one ever [recorded]. So there’s a video of a solar eclipse, but not only a solar eclipse, the first ever video of a solar eclipse, has been released. That’s interesting because the year was 1900 and it kind of makes you think for a minute how long humans have been doing astronomy, much before film was invented. We already had a sophisticated understanding of astronomy, and so we think this film is something hi tech [compared to a simple 1900’s telescope], but astronomy, in all of its complexity, really needed only a low tech solution [(telescope)] to collect data. And so we’ve had telescopes for hundreds of years but only movies for only 100 years. That’s an interesting fact to know.

[This story again, “Ancient supernova prompted human ancestors to walk upright”. I talked about that an entire episode last time, which, if you missed, is the idea that a supernova caused a increase risk in forest fires or an increased rate of forest fires. And that might have driven humans to walk upright in ancient humans to walk upright. And so a new theory in the arena of human by P does and theories so that I would expect to develop more.

The James Webb telescope emerges successfully from final thermal vacuum test. So the James Webb telescope is going to be the new Hubble, the new most advanced telescope that we put into orbit around the Earth. So the fact that that’s getting close to being completed is really important and hopefully will begin to see amazing results from that fairly quickly.

Now here’s an interesting one, “Swapping water for CO2 could make fracking greener and more effective”, fracking being a short word for hydraulic fracturing, which is the act of injecting high pressure fluids under ground in order to cause fractures. So it’s a hydraulic fracture, and as those fractures are caused, then oil and gas will seep through into the cracks, and then that oil and gas could be extracted from the rock, but only under the [presence] of that fracturing. And so how you do that fracturing? Historically it has been done with water. So you inject the ground with water and what this article is suggesting that that could be done with carbon dioxide instead of water.

Why is that important? Well, for one hydraulic fracturing absolutely wrecks the water and ecosystem anywhere that it’s done at, because once you use the water, you can’t just dump it back in to a river or a stream. That water is now toxic, so you need two things: You need, one a source of water, and that water cannot go back, and then: Two, you need a place to put the water because not only can you not put the water back, it’s now toxic, and so it’s worse than just being used up. It’s completely unusable for some period of time, so there’s all sorts of ways that this could be done. Either the water is reused and could be used multiple times, but then presumably eventually the chemistry of the water would be altered such that it can only be reused a certain number of times and eventually has to be stored somewhere. And the other way is to just store the water in a pool and wait for to evaporate. And so when you do that, all the chemicals are left behind which creates a waste pit that is highly toxic. And a lot of these toxic components, like radio nuclides bio-accumulate in the environment. So if that pit leaks, if ground water leaks from that and carries the concentrated toxins from the hydraulic fracturing, that will bio-accumulate because fish will absorb the radionuclides and then animals eat the fish, so on and so forth [up the food chain].

These waste pits really jeopardize entire ecosystems. So hydraulic fracturing is really damaging to the ecosystem outside of the [actual] fracturing [itself]. So on top of all of that [above-ground] damage, you’re also cracking the earth in a way that can cause earthquakes. The idea that the water component might be able to be removed, if we could use a CO2 instead of water as the fracturing material, that would be great. As I discussed previously, it’s really tough to make moral change in America’s current political spectrum. So the moral issue here being that hydraulic fracturing is bad for the environment and things that are bad for the environment are bad. But we can’t stop because we need the oil and we need the gas because our economy depends on it. But if we could do something small, like shift away from water and [use CO2 instead], that could help offset some of that damage. That would be great. So I support that. If that is the case, that could be done. That’s great. We could see an immediate lessening of the damage of hydraulic fracturing. You’re still causing permanent damage to the ground. We don’t know what the long term effects will because it’s only been done for the past, say, 50 years routinely, so we don’t know the long term damage of fracturing these rocks underground. We do know that short term they do cause earthquakes.

All right, let’s look at what’s next. “Mysterious SpaceX crew dragon explosion is still being investigated”, so the SpaceX Crew Dragon is SpaceX’s human piloted, reusable component of the SpaceX fleet. There was an explosion recently during the testing of this module, which is maybe a setback on the timeline for when that module will become usable. We don’t know this [happened and it] is still being investigated. It’s not necessarily good or bad news. You would expect explosions that happen during early testing phases, although with a crew module of an explosion happening is really bad because you will have people in the system. So this system has to be way better than the automated ones. The automated ones might crash all the time, or more frequently. That’s fine. There’s no people on there. The risk of loss of life is much more important. So hopefully SpaceX will be able to achieve the same result as it has with its automated systems as with its crewed systems, and so that we can have safe crewed spaceflight again, which we haven’t had, really, at least in the United States. We have been dependent on other countries, mostly Russia, since the space shuttle program was ended which has probably been 10 years now, or something like that.

So what else? “Sonic black holes produced Hawking radiation may confirm famous theory”. So hawking radiation is really interesting because when black holes were first discovered, the idea that the black hole would infinitely continue increasing in Mass was really it was important to know if that were the case. And so eventually hawking decided or determined that it’s not the case that black holes actually do lose energy in the form of radiation. They named Hawking radiation after Stephen Hawking’s theory that black hole could even evaporate eventually. So a very large black hole that’s still gaining mass is not going to evaporate, but a small one, [or shrinking one], once it goes past a certain point, if it’s not gaining any more mass, it’s only losing energy through hawking radiation energy being converted from mass, [at which point it could evaporate]. The very small black hole might evaporate very quickly, and so that’s interesting that hawking radiation is being confirmed. We’re always looking for empirical confirmations of these theoretical concepts, especially with theoretical physics.

Here’s another one, “Ammonia detected on the surface of Pluto’s hints at subterranean water”. This is really interesting because we keep finding out that planets and moons and dwarf moons and even large asteroids might have water on them. Not just water in the rocks but actual underwater oceans or frozen surface oceans frozen, and now Pluto is in the list of celestial bodies that might have an underground ocean along with Europa and a few others.

And that’s a good segue way to this next one, “Without a champion Europa Lander falls to NASA’s back burner, and another one on that big space challenges could put NASA’s European missions on ice”. That is not good to hear. Europa, as I just mentioned, is one of the first moons in this in our solar system that has water has an ocean under its surface. So we really want to explore Europa. That’s one of the places we think has a high probability of having at least microbial life. Even there on the surface or underwater in the ocean. So Europa should be a really high priority target. It sounds like NASA’s losing that priority. Maybe moon missions are being pushed up. So we should track that we should follow up on that.

“Your sea floor may be destined to become diamonds”. Well, that makes sense because the sea floor rotates and subducts under the continents and goes down to the core of the Earth, where it would presumably undergo conditions to form diamonds in some cases. So I’m not sure why it may be I’d have to look at the article again. I’m just looking at the headline and just going off, the headline says. And what I would think about it. And so my question now would be why, with the sea floor not become diamonds, that’s my question.

What’s next? “NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover finds a clay cache”. Oh, that’s interesting. Why would play be important? So one of the theories for the origins of life is focused around clay because clay has some interesting electromagnetic properties that might allow things like ions and it’s early cellular proto-cell structures to develop [into cells]. The other, more popular, theory being hydrothermal vents. So the clay itself could be [considered an] organic material. So if you think of clay as something that is related to organic materials, if Mars has a cache of clay, that could be a cache of organic materials. It could also contain bio-materials. So that’s why finding clay would be really interesting. And presumably Mars should have clay because it had a water cycle. If there’s some exposed clay on the surface, that would be a really lucky find.

And it looks like that’s all I had on my list today. So thanks for listening again. I’m going to keep mentioning these two things. That’s Bryan White signing off with The Planetary News Radio. Thanks for listening.

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The Planetary News Radio – Episode 7: Preserving Biodiversity – Insects, Fungus, and Plastic

Hello. Welcome to the Planetary News Radio Episode 7 with Bryan White. The date is May 29th. It’s around four o’clock in the afternoon in Corvallis, Oregon. I’m outside again. So I apologize in advance for any strange sounds, although I’m in a quiet area, and that’s a good segue way to what I’m going to talk about today, which are insects. Now, the air temperature is finally warming up and I saw a Mayfly today, a little late in the season, although I haven’t been looking for them. But mayflies typically will emerge in May into adulthood. The order name for mayflies is Ephemeroptera, probably from the root ephemeral meaning temporary, which is strange because they’re actually quite long lived as larva, so Mayfly larva might spend two or three years eating in the stream and then swim up, moult, metamorphose into an adult, reproduce, and then die all in about a week. In fact, they’re so short lived as adults that their mouth parts are fused shut. They don’t eat anymore. So unlike a butterfly, that eats as a caterpillar and continues to eat as an adult, Mayflies are done once they pass through the larval form. And so that’s what’s going on now. Mayflies. They’re out and about, seasonal insects.

[Which brings me to the topic of this podcast,] “Why are insects special”? I mentioned in the previous talk about my idea for why we should preserve all biodiversity. Why should we value all biodiversity? It’s not physically possible to preserve every species, but we can certainly agree that there is a scientific value to preserving biodiversity, and insects are a great example. Insects or one of the most speciose as animal groups go. They might be the most speciose animal group, aside from maybe nematodes. Estimates of the total number of species for insects might range somewhere to 5 million, [up to 30 million including undiscovered species] with the total number of all animal species being [at least] 10 million. So that would mean insects make up maybe [at least] half of all animal species by count, maybe not by biomass, but that’s an incredible amount of diversity.

So what’s going on when that much diversity is happening [within a single taxonomic group]? A couple of things. One is that insects are different from vertebrates [in some key ways]. What allows them to adapt in terms of evolutionary time more quickly than vertebrates? [For one], they’re less constrained by their skeleton and by their body plan. So insects are more tolerant of maybe minor changes in their body structures: mouthparts, feeding structures, reproductive structures, and their flying/walking structures. So all of these things are much more flexible, whereas even a small change and the number of fingers that a human has could be could have a severe impact. Maybe not in modern times missing a finger isn’t too big of a deal. But maybe 1 million years ago, missing a finger was a big deal, and you might not have survived. So you see, chimpanzees have 10 fingers and humans have 10 fingers. We’re separated by 7 million years of evolution. [In the case of insects], within that same amount of time, [you’ll see them] duplicating appendages, losing appendages and things like that much more frequently, so insects are hyper adaptable. They’re out there filling all of these ecological niche spaces.

A good way to think about an ecological niche is that the environment is an N-dimensional hypervolume. There’s all these dimensions that could be occupied, [where each dimension represents a unique ecological environment], and an organism will go and occupy what it’s already adapted to, but then it might shift and adjust and fill various other dimensions in the ecological hyperspace. [After some more time] it might divide into more species, and those species might diverge and fill more of this space, until eventually the entire ecosystem space is filled by something. In a small ecosystem, this might be only one or two species. In a large ecosystem, it could be hundreds or thousands of species all the way up [through the trophic levels], from bacteria up to primary apex predators.

Insects are hyper adaptable, which means they can go into an ecosystem and fill all those little voids in the N-dimensional hypervolume that aren’t currently being occupied by an organism. You have primary producers, secondary producers, you have consumers, all within the insect world, so you have a full ecosystem just based on insects. That’s a lot of biodiversity. Every one of those ecological niches requires a genetic change in the organism, so every time a new species evolves, or diverges from an old species, one species splits for some reason, or even new variability within the species. Anytime a species gains in new adaptation, that’s a new piece in the genome. It’s a new genetic element that’s [translates into a] new physiological element. It’s a new piece of biological information, and my argument is that biological information is extremely important, but not just the genome. The genome isn’t enough. We need the phenotype, so we need to know how the genome builds itself. Builds the proteins in the organism. So we want to be able to see organism’s alive in their natural habitat in order to understand the genomic component to that diversity.

[To recap] what I’m just presenting here, is an argument that insects are very speciose, therefore, they have lots of biodiversity, and therefore they have lots of unique genetic elements. Now here’s a question someone might pose to me. Are any of those genetic elements useful? And the answer is, “I don’t know”. Maybe they might be. Some of them might be useful, and some of them might not. It depends on your definition of useful. For example, a fungus that grows on a tree might not be immediately useful, however, fungus growing on a tree [might be] breaking down wood lignin the molecule, and so this fungus is secreting a chemical that can break down lignin. Wood is a very strong material we know, because wood survive thousands and thousands of years intact. We use it to build houses, things like that. It’s kind of similar to plastic. Lignin is a polymer. Trees are building themselves as a polymer. So if we want to develop a chemical process for breaking down plastic [(a polymer)], we might look at something like a fungus that eats wood, [specifically] the wood rot class of fungus.

[Suppose someone did experiment to see if wood rot fungus could break down plastic, but it didn’t work. Then you might say,] “Well, lignin is too different from plastic. We can’t use this fungus to break down lignin because the molecule is too different from plastic”. And I might respond, “Well, okay, are there any organisms that do produce a molecule that do break down plastic”? [Which it just so happens that] there are. There are bacteria that will happily degrade petroleum based products like oil. However, these bacteria, they may be marine and have to be grown in [sea water], and so we want to do is create a genetically modified organism that has the structural properties of a fungus, [but the chemical properties of the bacteria]. We want to make a wood rot fungus that can degrade plastic, and so we could take the gene from the bacteria and [transfer it into the fungus so that the fungus can] produce the plastic degradation chemical. And now we have a fungus that can break down plastic.

[Using this method we end up with something] a little more useful than the bacteria, because now you could do is you could take a landfill and create an environment that will grow this fungus and plastic mashed in together, and we can erode the plastic. While you could do this directly with the bacteria [that can decay plastic], then you would have to do an active process because you have to keep the bacteria alive. You have to culture the bacteria, and so you need energy. And so my suggestion is to use the fungus because it doesn’t require extra input energy. All you do is you put it outside and you let it go, but it has [to have] that chemical [acquired from bacteria] to break down plastic, otherwise, it’ll just sit there. And maybe we can tweak the fungus a few other ways so it can grow in soil and we might have to modify its habitat a little bit. We want to keep the soil moist so the fungus has water to conduct its chemical reactions when it add some nutrients. But for the most part, [with] fungus, you just put it out and it grows. And if this fungus has a chemical that breaks down bacteria, we could create landfills that can destroy plastic. And that will help solve our plastic problem.

What about with insects? Well, maybe we could do the same thing. We can make a caterpillar that can break down plastic. Maybe there’s a parasite that lives inside of caterpillar that digests compounds similar to plastic, and so maybe there already is a caterpillar out there that can break down plastic. [The point is, if we have the available biodiversity, we can create as many different types of “plastic degrading organisms as feasible]. We could just have the fungus. Or we could have the fungus and the caterpillars, and so we could create an entire ecosystem where the fungus and the caterpillar are growing and living together. The caterpillars eat, deposit, nitrogen and things like that into the soil. The fungus grows, and it’s a whole little life cycle, all based on the degradation of plastic without any added energy input. We don’t need to run an expensive, dirty, fire based bioreactor that burns trash puts out chemicals. It’s all passive.

So how does that link back to my original statement? Well, if we lose that species of caterpillar, then we lose [the ability to create] that entire system. So if a caterpillar that could break down plastic goes extinct before we’ve figured out how to cultivate it in the lab, then we lose this entire opportunity to degrade plastic and this really efficient, really cool way. And we don’t know what’s out there, [there might be other organisms and biochemicals out there that we haven’t even imagined possible yet]. So every time we lose a species, we don’t know what we lost. Maybe we’re losing plastic degraders. And maybe it doesn’t matter most of the time, and probably 90% of the time it didn’t matter, [in terms of biochemical diversity when a species was lost]. Maybe the special biochemical adaptations that the organism had were already duplicated [in another species], and other members of the genus, or the order, [or some other] higher taxonomic level. Maybe that animal wasn’t that unique and so we didn’t really lose that much information. [But again,] we don’t know what’s out there, [so we don’t know what we’re losing in terms of physiological biodiversity]. We don’t [really have] anything cataloged [in a meaningful way to address this problem].

If we really wanted to answer the questions, “What are we losing [in terms of genetic engineering potential]?” and “Are we losing an important species?”, we have to catalog the species [in a meaningful way]. Now, how could we do that? Well, we have to find them and sequence their DNA. Sequencing DNA is really good for cataloging [and understanding diversity]. But if we want to actually create real biological systems, we need to have the animals or the organism’s alive. And so that’s why biodiversity [itself] is so important and why preserving [as much] biodiversity [as possible] is so important. If we think of [living organisms as being filled with] these as tiny molecular machines that are jam packed full of information that we can learn from for how to create our own systems, our own molecular machinery, then biodiversity becomes really important.

And sure, maybe someday in the future of humanity, there will be a time where we don’t need animals anymore. And maybe that’s a question for future humans to answer. [In a future where] biodiversity no longer serves a function in the human economy. [In other words, when even the knowledge we could gain from the genetics of animals is no longer relevant], will we still keep animals? Will our descendants 500 years from now have zoos just for fun, just to look at animals and remember where we originated from? Remember that we are animals. Maybe we’ll have zoos. Maybe we’ll make new animals. Maybe humans will merge and split and divide into 10 new different species. We don’t know what’s going to happen [in 500 years], but when we lose the species, we lose the option.

So that is more insight into my thinking and the reason I think this way is because again, as I mentioned previously, my goal is not to just be a animal rights activist. My goal is to be pragmatic. I’m saying there is a real pragmatic reason to keep animal diversity life, [and all] biodiversity alive. And so this argument should work across the entire political spectrum. I should be able to convince a fiscal conservative or liberal that preserving biodiversity is important because it’s an investment in humanity. It’s not just to feel good, although it might make us feel good. Feeling good about animals is just an added benefit. And trees, we are, after all, apes. We were born in the trees. We left them, but we still need them. It’s okay to like trees. We should enjoy wildlife and the outdoors and nature, and we should be able to have a good reason for keeping it around. So that’s what I’m offering, [a reason to preserve biodiversity that can appeal to all humans].

I’m sure I’ll talk more about this as I formalize the idea more, but I think this was a really good example. Insects and fungus. Interestingly, both organisms that use chitin as there primary structural bio-protein. There’s something special about chitin. It’s an interesting molecule for evolutionary genetics, but I won’t say more in this episode. I’ll let everyone think about this topic. This is Bryan White signing off with The Planetary News Radio. Have a good day.

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The Planetary News Radio – Episode 6: Supernovae and Bipedalism in Humans

Hello. Welcome to the Planetary News Radio Episode 6. Some good news. This podcast is now available on the iTunes store and the Google Play Store. Granted, I know I don’t have a lot of listeners right now, but if at some point in time in the future, a future listener finds this recording they can now use iTunes and Google to listen to other future recordings. So that’s good for future people. What about past past people, or past hominids? Humans being a group of apes that walk upright consistently specifically, really, modern humans and their direct ancestors that are not chimpanzees. There’s an article in the news, or several articles about a recent study done on hominid evolution, [specifically, on the evolution of bipedalism (walking upright)].

The evolution of walking upright is always a controversial topic, along with most of the topics in human evolution. Intelligence, bipedalism, opposable thumbs for being a very generalised species in terms of diet and living conditions. Humans have a couple or really multiple, very specific adaptations. They give us an advantage, bipedalism, being one of those intelligence being another one. Although intelligence is more recent than bipedalism. That’s a common misconception that humans intelligence is linked with bipedalism. It really isn’t. The first Hominins that walked up-right didn’t have larger brains than chimpanzees, or rather, the shared common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans had a brain the size of a chimpanzee, but bipedalism was important. We don’t know why, [and scientists] struggle to understand why. There’s lots of theories. Some of them makes sense. Some of them don’t. Some of them make more sense than others.

For example, the need to see over tall grass is obvious, and it seems important. The question is, “How strong of a driver of selection would that be”? Is that enough to basically create a whole new lineage of hominid? I think a more interesting theory [for a strong driver towards bipedalism] is the ability to carry things, because if you’re quadrupedal, in order to walk, you can’t carry anything. You might be able to lumber along with one thing in one arm, like a gorilla. Gorillas can carry a child or some food in one hand while lumbering along with the other hand, like people, and maybe they can do brief bouts of bipedalism. Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and a lot of monkeys can walk bipedally for something out of time. Usually, when they’re doing that, they’re either doing a threat display, they’re about to fight something or trying to scare another animal, trying to make themselves look bigger, or they’re carrying something (food or a baby). So I think, in terms of strength of [natural] selection, historically, that’s been a really good theory. And you see the evolution of opposable thumbs going in line with bipedalism, and then the enlargement of the brain is later.

So, really, humans are these apes that got really good at carrying things. Now, in the news today, there’s a trending article, and so why am I talking about this? So there’s a new theory that supernova could have made humans walk up, right, study says. And so I’m going to read the title of the article. “A massive supernova could have made humans walk upright”. Okay, How so? Let me read another title. “Walking upright evolution of bipedalism linked to supernova”. In new theory, this is very attention grabbing again. Ironically, what is the attention grabber here? Space. Supernova. A giant explosion in space. Let me read another another title. “Exploding stars led to humans walking on two legs, radical study suggests”.

Now let’s say that I stopped there and I didn’t read any of these articles or keep reading titles. And I just left with the idea that a star made humans walk upright. How could that be? I can’t imagine how that is possible. My first instinct is that what they’re trying to say is that people wanted to look up at the star and that’s why they walked upright. That wouldn’t make sense. There’s not enough selective pressure for that to be the case, so right off the bat, because of what I know about evolution, I dismissed that idea, and this seems like fake news, maybe, or just bad reporting.

If we keep reading [though, we eventually see a useful title], “Ancient supernova prompted our ancestors to walk upright to avoid forest fires”. Well, now I’m interested because that is something I didn’t think of, and it has a strong selection pressure because in order to avoid fires, that’s a life or death scenario. So in terms of natural selection, that makes a lot of sense. Natural selection, avoiding forest fires. That’s plausible. That’s strong. So I like this idea. I’ve only read the headlines. So how could supernova cause forest fires, though? Just using my own knowledge of physics and science, and ions were mentioned one of the headlines. Something about ions. So I suppose when a supernova happens and sends out a blast of radiation, material, solar dust, and in that material are ions, charged particles. When those particles get to the earth, they get through the atmosphere and they impact on the surface of the Earth. How did they cause forest fires? My suspicion is that the charged particles don’t actually cause fires themselves.

How can ions cause forest fires? I suppose if you had a stream of charged particles impacting on a forest they might do a couple things and my sense is that what it could do is make that forest drier, more brittle, and so maybe it’s increasing a fire risk. And so what you’re what you’re experiencing is a landscape altered by the supernova, causing increased fire risk. Now, [in terms of selective pressures], not only do you have the benefit of being able to carry things, giving you an immediate benefit, you have the pressure of avoiding fires, and so between avoiding fires and carrying food that could help explain why bipedalism evolved so quickly and recently, relative to the entire evolutionary history of primates, which is around 40 to 50 million years. True bipedalism only evolved recently.

Now this does become problematic because there are other vertebrates that evolved bipedalism, the obvious case being dinosaurs and birds. So the question is, do we think that bipedalism could only be caused by forest fires? Are there other reasons that animals could evolve bipedalism? Let’s think about this logically, we know the dinosaurs evolved bipedalism and that they did not have opposable thumbs. So, in other words, dinosaurs weren’t carrying things yet they evolved be bipedal. So we have two reasons. We think, bipedalism evolved 1. To carry things and 2. To avoid forest fires, and we know for a fact the dinosaurs didn’t need to carry things. So we know that bipedalism must have evolved for at least one other reason then we suspect, which means that it might also evolve for many other reasons, sort of like the Drake hypothesis with finding life on other planets. If we find life on even just one other planet, the probability of finding life on many other planets increases exponentially. So how strong is this theory [of bipedalism]? Well, we’ve already proven that there’s other reasons why things could be bipedal because the dinosaurs are bipedal [not all bipedal dinosaurs] lived in forests, so they couldn’t have been avoiding forest fires. So now we know there are other reasons that animals could evolve bipedalism. So what does this mean for this theory? What does it mean for dinosaurs?

Now, I feel more curious about why dinosaurs evolved bipedalism. Now that I’ve thought about this through. So what else is inherent to bipedalism? Something about bipedalism, that’s shared between primates and dinosaurs, that doesn’t involve a forest doesn’t involve carrying things. What do dinosaurs and apes have in common? Well, apes don’t have tails. Dinosaurs do have tails. So it’s not a tail. They have a torso, a head, and a neck. They’re both social. That’s interesting. Dinosaurs and apes are both social animals. We know this because find evidence of nesting behavior with dinosaurs. So the origin of bird nesting [probably originated from their therapod dinosaur ancestors]. We know dinosaurs have a lot of vocalization adaptations, [for example in hadrosaurs where] we’ve found the enlarged nasal passages [that most likely were used for either mating or herd control].

[Both primates and dinosaurs are social, so could there be a social reason for bipedalism?]. [Maybe yes, if there were some social benefit to bipedalism]. Could a dinosaur communicate just as well if it were bipedal. [Take hadrosaurs for example again]. Hadrosaurs are vegetable eaters, not a carnivore. A hadrosaur does have some decently sized arms. It actually can get down on all fours, so hadrosaur can go back and forth between quadrupedal and bipedal. It’s not like a T. Rex. A T. Rex has almost completely lost its arms almost down to just little tiny fingers, so T. Rex cannot be quadrupedal. Hadrosaur can. So what’s the advantage there? Well, if a hadrosaur is dependent on eating plant material, some of that material might be from a marsh or a swamp. Some of that material might be from a tree. So if you’re bipedal you can stand on your two legs, you can reach up and get higher branches. You can reach down and get algae from a swamp, and you don’t need arms to do that. You just need a mouth. So the hadrosaur shuffling through a swamp [can reach food from the ground, like algae, and branches from trees, by standing on its hind legs].

So what about humans? Makes sense. Food. If you’re foraging for food, you need to be able to reach up, to find more fruit and reach down find roots and vegetables. [It gives animals an option to reach higher or lower places without having to grow an extended neck like a Brontosaurus or Giraffe]. So there’s a new reason to bipedal: Reaching food. I like that. So this is an example of how I like to solve evolutionary problems. We have the question initially – Is this a good hypothesis? Humans avoiding forest fires. That makes sense. It seems possible. Is it the only reason that humans evolved bipedalism? Probably not. It’s probably one of five, or more, major reasons. And I’m just guessing that because I know I talked about three [hypotheses] here. And so there’s probably more that we don’t know about that we haven’t thought about. So that’s the thing with evolution, there’s usually multiple reasons why things evolved, and so this is not a criticism [against this particular evolutionary hypothesis].

I did find that information about the forest fires from the titles, but about four out of five of the articles did not mention the fire. They just mentioned the supernova, and so it’s a little misleading in terms of a headline, but it’s not really purposely misleading. So I wouldn’t call this fake news. That’s just sensationalism. So sensationalism isn’t that bad. It gave me something to talk about it [and explain how using the scientific method can be applied to determine how plausible an idea is without doing any extra research]. I hope you enjoyed this talk. That’s Bryan White with The Planetary News Radio signing out. Thanks for listening. Have a good day.

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The Planetary News Radio – Episode 5: Fear and Censorship in Scientific Communication

Hello. Welcome to the Planetary News Radio Episode. The date is May 30th. It’s a cloudy day in Corvallis, but not raining. Enjoying the temperature. [Let’s talk today about] popular science and censorship. So a great example of censorship in science recently has been climate science. And this is it’s kind of scary how well accepted it is that the censorship is occurring. Strange things like purging the word climate from government documents put out by environmental agencies. So it’s very strange to experience, a blatant, systematic censorship like that by the government, well, specifically by the Trump administration. Attempts to quantify that [censorship] and paint a picture of how widespread that actually is are even more disturbing. I’m looking at an article here that counts the number of times that federal departments and agencies were involved in an act of censorship and sense put out by a group, Columbia Climate Law. So I don’t know if that’s associated with Columbia University or what that is. I haven’t really researched it. I’m just looking at a Scientific American article here, but before I talk about those numbers, let’s talk about my own personal experience with censorship [link to Columbia Climate Law Silencing Science Tracker].

When I was a graduate student, I worked in environmental genetics and the agencies that were interested in environmental genetics were sanitation departments and water districts, at least for the ones that I worked for. More broadly, the U.S. Geological Survey was interested in environmental DNA (eDNA) as a way to track fish or aquatic mammals or other vertebrates. And so I spent a lot of time working on informatics methods to identify species using genetics. And this was really one of those projects in science, which happens quite a bit where we all think we have a really good idea of what is going on. We have a hypothesis. We can test a hypothesis, but maybe it’s something that we’ve already known for years. And so when we went in to test the hypothesis that using genetics to identify species improves are our ability to identify a pollution in a stream, we were reasonably confident that this would be the case, and so it wasn’t really expected it not to be better. It was more of the question, “Could we do it?” And so a lot of what we did were methods studies, and so really, it was developing a method to apply this theory that we already thought would be good.

Some publications had represented data that would suggest using genetics to identify impacted streams. I shouldn’t just say polluted streams, [but streams] that were impacted by either human modification or by pollution or something like that, and it did make sense that genetics would improve our ability to do that because the way that we identify those streams, the way that was historically done was to identify species by looking at them visually. And so we know that some percentages species, especially insects, cannot be identified visually. So we knew there are more species out there. And so the idea was that if we’ve confined more species, then we’ll have a more sensitive tool. So it wasn’t really a question of, well, this will be better. It was more of a question of “How much does it cost? And can we do it? Is it practical?” And so we set out to answer those questions at the group that I was working for, and so I spent about three years working on that project. But every time we found a example where we would find more species or find specific species at different sites, this was always ignored. And so we thought that we had done a good job developing a tool that could improve our ability to detect human impact in the environment, but this was ignored by the supporting agencies of our group.

Not really ignored [outright], but ridiculously high standards were put on us, much higher than other studies. So everything was scrutinized. Money, sensitivity. Any mistake was highlighted. And so it’s overall if you add up everything. This was an act of censorship, and so individually the acts were not censorship. In other words, nobody ever said, “Oh, you can’t publish that result”. All right. Nobody has ever told me you cannot publish that result, however, I have had results that were scrutinized not because not for their scientific validity but for their philosophical impact. So we had many empirically correct results that suggested this would be a better method, and those results were ignored for philosophical questions. So I have experienced censorship and it was government censorship, and that was during the Obama administration. But this is not unusual in biology. Biology is one of the most censored scientific fields in modern times because of the philosophical component, because of the way that it makes people feel uncomfortable about their [world view].

It was not surprising to me that that study did not take off or that those methods were not implemented. And as far as my knowledge, those methods that we were developing are still not implemented by the United States government routinely. Now, there is one thing that has been implemented, and that is the use of eDNA. In that case, the cost of benefit argument worked in favor of the science.The ability to go out and collect a sample of water from a stream and be able to know what species of fish are in that stream based on the DNA and the water is a very powerful analysis because it can be done relatively inexpensively. Now the question is, well, why do you want to know what species are in the stream? And the second question is, Do you need to know how many? Because there’s a very specific limitation of the technology in genomic sequencing. And so the same technology that’s used to sequence a genome is the one that will be used to sequence water to identify DNA in that water sample.

There’s a limitation of that [genomic sequencing] technology that makes it very difficult to determine the abundance, the original abundance of the animals that created the DNA, and so the challenge of the eDNA work was to be able to determine abundance from the sample, and that has been worked on four years for five years now. eDNA is being implemented by the U.S. Geological Service in the United States. And so that’s a federal government agency acknowledging the usefulness of genetics for environmental monitoring. Now, as I read the article that I just read, the conclusion of the article is that developing this on a wide scale would be cost prohibitive. So again, is that an act of censorship? By saying that this technology that allows you two very quickly and rapidly assess the community structure of a stream using genetics is to cost prohibitive? Maybe, Maybe not. I don’t think so. I don’t believe that that is true [that it is more expensive]. The sequencing technology, the cost of DNA sequencing is almost negligible for the amount of sequencing [needed to conduct a routine stream sample]. So really the cost here it would be the labor to conduct the analysis. And so then the question is, what is the labor cost to conduct a genomic analysis versus the labor cost to conduct a visual analysis? And so when someone says that is to cost prohibitive to conduct genetic analysis, you’re saying that it costs more for someone to go out and collect a bottle of water from a stream and put it in their car and drive back to the lab or collect 10 bottles of water and put him in there in a in a cooler and drive those back to the lab later in the day, that it cost more to do that than it does to send a team of 20 people out to count fish visually in a stream. And not only that, but that the extra information gained by doing the genetic analysis is not useful at all has no monetary value.

So that’s what the federal state governments will say, is that genetic testing is to cost prohibitive. And so, let’s see. Let’s look at numbers here that have been published by this group. 51 Instances of Censorship in the Environmental Protection Agency, 35 by The Department of Interior, 25 of the White House, 17 by Health and Human Services, 16 by The Energy Department, 6 at NASA. [The reason] for these [censorship acts] could be science is told they can’t talk publicly, studies discounted in policy making budget cuts for scientific research programs, removing scientists visit from positions limiting the teaching of theories, self censorship, the research hindrance. So the censorship that I experienced would be classified under was self censorship by the scientists that I was working with because they all knew what not to say to avoid budget cuts. [Ultimately, that] research program was defunded.

[Listing types of censorship from the article]

We could not get funding, to research genetics. Some forced personnel changes were experienced that might have been considered censorship. [I didn’t see any] overt interference with education. That’s something you would expect to happen, [for example], at the EPA. [If I wanted to] put out a pamphlet or informational document on environmental DNA and [some authority in the] government said, “Well, you can’t put that out” or if I wanted to put out something on climate change and the government said, “No, you can’t do that”. Well, [we were never specifically told not put out educational materials]. So we tried, and spent a lot of time trying to educate people about [environmental] genetic testing. And so then it became apparent, though it didn’t matter how much people understood they were. Still, there was still a fear of the technology. And so in some cases you didn’t need to censor it because the people who would be making the decisions about money we’re so already inherently biased, and were already afraid of the implications, or just didn’t know just didn’t understand the implications [of adopting the technology], even if we tell them “Look, these are good implications for science, the scientific method will let us improve our current systems”. It didn’t matter. They’re afraid. And so fear is a big driver of censorship, and fear is a human is part of humanity.

We always have a tendency to fear the unknown, and that is part of what being a scientist is: Knowing that the unknown is scary. Particle physics is potentially scary. Genomics is scary. All of these things have impacts that we don’t understand. We don’t know how CRISPr gene modification is going to affect humanity in the next 10 years. We hope that it’s used for good, but it could be used for bad. We don’t know how particle physics is going to affect us in the next 10 years. If we discover a new particle that could modify gravity, that would be amazing. It could be terrifying. We don’t know. We don’t know enough about subatomic physics to conjecture what will happen with the development of new technologies. So does that mean we shouldn’t do it? Should we not investigate neutrinos because we might develop anti-gravity technology? No. I and so that’s why being a scientist is being an adventurer because it’s an adventure. We don’t know where genomics is going to bring us, but we should explore it.

So while fears a big part of, human nature, so is exploration. And so when you have a government entity, the highest levels of the government, continually systematically censoring good science, that’s a problem. And really, this is hindering not just the United States but the entire planet. All of humanity is going to suffer because of the censorship, the anti-science climate in America, because we are the greatest, well, we’re the largest producer of scientific research still, to this day, out of all the countries that produce science. We have a responsibility to conduct the scientific method in a way that is open and fair. And so again, I’ll link back to how I’ve talked about moral consistency. It’s difficult for us to criticize China for its government, censoring its citizens, controlling its science, when we’re now doing the same thing here. So I don’t view the Trump administration as taking a different stance then the ruling administration in China in terms of science censorship. Now, sure, China’s more ingrained. They have the great firewall. They have control over Google in that country. But arguably the United States has a very be strong control of the entire Internet.

While the censorship isn’t [exactly] the same [between the US and China], It’s potentially as effective. So if you have a scientist in the United States who’s the top researcher in climate, and they are barred from speaking at a international scientific conference, then you have effectively stopped the transmission of that idea. And that’s the same thing that China is doing, stopping the transmission of ideas, or at least controlling the transmission. I’m sure that within China ideas are shared freely, and so the scientific research that is being done there is probably very advanced [regarding what’s] known within the country, and what’s published outside of the country is probably much more [limited/controlled]. These are different types of censorship, but, I imagine, that in some ways a scientist working for the government in China almost has more freedom. They’ve given up their ability to transmit ideas internationally, but China is very well aware of the fact that they have a climate problem. And so I imagine that the ruling class in China is very concerned about pollution and, I can imagine that a scientist working on pollution in China is potentially very highly regarded. Their work, if successful, might not be published broadly, at least not initially, because they’re very competitive and they want to use that within the country to promote the ruling class [first].

Whereas in America you see something almost worse, because now you’re telling a scientist you cannot tell anyone about your work. You cannot even tell your friends, and to me, that’s scary. If I can’t tell my friends about genetic testing, that is scary. If I can’t talk about but something that I believe is an empirical fact on climate, that’s scary. And so the regime that is in charge of the greatest scientific producer of scientific work in the history of the Earth is conducting a scary level of censorship. And I’m not trying to scare people by saying that, I’m using an emotive term, and what I mean is that we should be aware that that’s what’s going on. While I have never been barred from a scientific conference, I can imagine what it would feel like to be barred from a conference. I have been questioned for ideas that are well accepted in the scientific community. But again, I’ve never been personally barred from a conference. And so the conclusion here is censorship in the United States. It’s disturbing. I don’t know if I would use the word scary. I suppose I could, it depends on how you you feel about the year 2050. If you plan on being alive in the next 30 or so years, I would say that climate change could be scary. It should be. You should have a healthy, fearful respect for what could happen to the Earth in 30 years.

I think that think the presence of censorship is scary. So I think we should allow ourselves a little bit of fear and use that as motivation. And so maybe that’s the conclusion here is censorship should motivate us, and that’s what motivates me. So this project, aside from all the other things that I’ve talked about, this is a project about censorship as well, and so hopefully I will not be censored. Hopefully, my ideas are relevant, valid, and not censored, but maybe, hopefully my ideas are worth being censored because someone has to take a stance, and a lot of government employed scientists are not in that position. So that’s also kind of where I see is my position is, that since I’m not employed by the government, I can’t really be censored. It would be difficult for the government to censor me. In other words, I’m not going to lose my job over this podcast. This podcast is my job. So that’s my goal. To say what I think scientists can’t say in America. I want to be the voice of people that are being censored. So, if what I’m saying is something that’s worthy of being censored, that would make me proud.

[On that note,] I will sign off for the day. This is Bryan White with The Planetary News Radio, and I hope you enjoy this podcast. Thanks for listening.

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The Planetary News Radio – Episode 4: Logical Consistency and Science Driven Policy in the US

Hello. Welcome to the Planetary News Radio Episode 4 with your host Bryan White. It’s a beautiful day here in Corvallis, Oregon. So where are we at today? I want to talk a little bit about news. I’ve been talking a lot about projects. Today’s news topic is agriculture and agriculture is a science today, so it falls under the category of science news. So what’s going on in agriculture? America has an interesting relationship with agriculture. I suppose it’s one of our biggest industries, one of our biggest export industries. Historically it’s been something that’s really driven the growth of the American economy. Agriculture is central to the success of the American economy, the development of the economy, and feeding its own people who live here and feeding people around the world.

But that’s been changing in the last decade or so. Agriculture has more [uses] than just feeding people. Now, for example, we have renewable resources like ethanol, you’ll see a drive towards growing some crops that can both be used as food and also converted into ethanol fuel. And there’s some crops that can be used only for ethanol fuel. So we see farmers now having to make decisions. Do they grow a crop that will feed people, feed themselves? Will they grow a crop that can only be sold for fuel, or will they grow something that could be both? Like corn, corn can be used as a food, and it can be converted into bioethanol. Switchgrass, which can’t really be eaten but could be used maybe industrially as well, can [only be used for fuel]. So it’s a very complex decision process that farmers have to go through when they make a decision on what they will plant for the season.

Another example is soybeans. Soybeans are an amazing crop. They could be used for food and industrial purposes, but they’re not only just human food, they’re food for animals. So the decision to plant soybeans is generally a good decision. We know based on market supply and demand information about how much total demand there will be for soybeans between either people, industrial, or agricultural purposes, and so farmers could decide what crop they want to grow, or what [set of crops they] want to grow more of each season based on market information, and that’s great. That’s how a business should be run. And that continues today, with America being a leader in agriculture. Now that could become problematic if farmers begin to make decisions that are not based on market information. And so, for example, if a farmer knows that he or she will make a certain amount of money for growing soybeans, no matter what, whether or not those soybeans are sold or used by anyone, then that farmer has an incentive to grow soybeans because they know at a minimum they will make this amount of money.

Now they could choose to grow something else. They could choose to grow corn this year as their primary crop, but they might lose money because they might not be able to sell off the corn, and so they could instead take the safe bat and say, “Well, I’m going to grow soybeans. I know that the government will reimburse me if I’m not able to sell my crop or my crop fails”. And this is generally how farm subsidies have been working for decades since the Great Depression. America has a system in place to support its agriculture industry, and that’s great. That’s fine. I think the issue that I would take on this matter is a logical consistency issue. And so, really, what a farm subsidy is is a type of socialism. You have the government stepping in and saying that regardless of market, you will make this amount of money. And so then that is not capitalism, that is socialism.

The absence of an economy based on market information would, by definition, at a minimum, not be capitalism. It could be something else. It sounds to me like socialism. It’s not communism because farmers still are independent. They have the option to grow something else. They’re not being told what to grow by the government. They’re not working for the government. They’re simply receiving a subsidy, a reimbursement the same way that a individual might receive a reimbursement for health care from the government or a reimbursement for food or welfare or education. And so all of these things, when we reimburse people from the government, we perform a redistribution of wealth act, and that is a type of socialism. So I would make the argument that the agriculture industry in America is highly socialized, and we see that continue regardless of the administration that is in the White House.

So that’s where my issue would arise. And I’ll say this as many times as they can. My stance on politics will always be moral consistency, so I’ll criticize any side of the political spectrum for being morally inconsistent. And so farming is a great example where I see moral inconsistency because you have a very right wing administration continually criticizing left wing principles like socialism while at the same time engaging in socialism.

That is what I define as moral inconsistency, or at least logical inconsistency. Moral suggests there would be a right or wrong, certainly it is a logical inconsistency to support socialism on one hand and deny it on the other on the principle of it being socialism. In other words, if I go out and I say, “Well, I’m not going to support a thing because it’s socialism” and then I support some things that are socialism and some things that aren’t, at a minimum, [I would be] logically inconsistent. Potentially, I’m morally inconsistent.

Another example, there would be oil drilling. If I say that my goal is to preserve and protect the environment, and then I go and I engaged in the act of extracting oil and gas from beneath the earth, thereby causing damage to the environment, I am again, at a minimum, logically inconsistent, potentially morally inconsistent because I’m saying my goal is to do something good. I want to protect the environment. And on the other hand, my goal is to do something bad, and destroy the environment. It’s an empirical fact that engaging in extracting industries causes permanent damage to the environment. That’s a empirically logical inconsistency. And again, this is regardless of political spectrum. Extracting industries continued under the Obama administration. Certainly they might have been more limited, less lands might have been opened for oil leases and more lands might have been protected. But the existence of an extraction industry still persists in the United States, and so the collective moral conscience of the United States is inconsistent, and that’s okay. That’s a struggle like the civil rights movement has been a struggle and will be a struggle, so being morally consistent will always be a struggle with humanity.

Now you could go the other end of the spectrum and say, “Well, the Nazis were morally consistent”. Their morals were terrible, but they were consistent. And so that’s scary.c Hopefully we don’t have those types of things happen. So I have to be careful of my own consistencies, right? So if I define something that’s good as being something that’s morally consistent, well, then potentially a fallacy could occur there, which would lead my own logic to determine that the Nazis were good, and yet it is uniformly acknowledged that the Nazis were bad. If I say something is good, if it’s morally consistent, that would only be under the condition that the moral itself is good. And that would lead me as the person making that judgment to have to make a moral decision. And so I have to decide in the example of the environment two things. One, I have to decide – Are my views consistent? Is my worldview consistent in my applying logic consistently across the board.  And [the second decision is], are my morals good.

Now this is a tricky decision, and potentially a dangerous decision. If I wanted to remain completely objective, then I would never make any moral decision ever, or I would never acknowledge anything moral, good or bad. Making a moral decision inherently forces you to choose a side on an argument, and so I have to decide what is good. And so my question would be, “Why do other people not also decide that protecting the environment is good?” What you have in this scenario is you have two things. One, you have moral consistency and the other you have moral direction, so moral direction is important. So in the case of the extraction industries, what I see with the right wing is two flaws. One, I see a moral inconsistency. I see the official platform of the Republican Party being that their goal is to promote and protect the environment. And at the same time I see their official goal to be to expand extraction industries. And those two things are empirically in opposition to each other. It is cognitive dissonance, and then, on the other hand, I also see moral direction. So I see the decision to increase extraction industries as a bad moral. So I view that as being wrong.

Now on the other side, I look at the left platform, say, for example, of the Obama administration. I see the morally inconsistency of the continued persistence of extraction industries. Another was Obama didn’t come in and say, “Well, I’m president now. Hydraulic fracturing is over.” The Democratic Party has the problem of moral inconsistency, the same as the Republican Party. However, I see the moral direction as being good. I see that Obama would be in opposition to the expansion of the extraction industries if it were up to him. So his own moral decision is that expanding extraction industries is wrong. However, given this constraints of the American political system, it is impossible for him to take the position that extraction cannot continue. Potentially, the American economy would collapse due to the lack of oil. So that’s a moral decision as well. That’s a utilitarian decision.

Well, [we know that] extracting oil is wrong, but we cannot stop because our lives depend on it. And so then looping back to agriculture. [We might] view the subsidization of agricultural products based on the whims of a political party as potentially wrong, or at least I view that is wrong. In other words, a sophisticated market analysis is not guiding the growth of food in America. Under a utilitarian perspective, we cannot stop the status quo because it would be too disruptive to the industry. So I understand that. So what’s the take home here? Well, if we had a way of presenting evidence based market analysis of what crops were needed to grow and present it in a way that was factual and scientific, and could be debated, but that ultimately an evidence based decision would be made that all sides of the political spectrum could agree on, then we wouldn’t have this problem.

In other words, right now we’re trusting the whims of an unknown. Again, the take home is moral consistency, [logical consistency], and moral direction, and [trying to look at] political events in an objective fashion. And so how do you do that? You use the language that I’m using, which is to talk about consistency and direction [- a framework]. And so the point of this is not to simply criticize the right because they’re the current administration, and the point is to not say that the left could do a better job. The point is to look at what’s happening right now in an objective fashion and learn from what is happening. What we might see now is a surplus of soybeans, for example, in the next year, and so we might see farmers having to destroy crops because they can’t sell them and then be reimbursed for those crops. And then we might see later in the same day, the administration that reimbursed those farmers for destroying crops, we might see the same administration reduce reimbursements for education and health care. And so when the inconsistency becomes apparent in that way, then we can talk about making progress in the American political system. And that’s my goal.

Ultimately, integrate the scientific method and the political method, and that should happen in voting and in the way that these types of economic decisions are made. And I’m not an economist, but I do know a thing or two about the scientific method, and so we’ll talk more about that theme again. I suppose these first few episodes are introducing themes and sort of the way that I will talk about things. Again, I hope this was interesting. Kind of getting a little more into my own personal thoughts on politics, and the way that I approach politics, being a scientist and trying to remain objective. So again, if you have questions, I have a Discord now, which is a chat. Yeah, and there will be a link to that on the feed, and I also in creating a Patreon so that I will be able to have support for this effort. So if you’d like to support me, if you’d like to ask questions or talk, visit the links in the feed and yeah. I hope you enjoyed this and enjoy talking about science and politics. So have a good day. That’s Bryan White signing off with the Planetary News. Bye.

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