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The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe => Podcast Episodes => Topic started by: Quetzalcoatl on April 14, 2019, 11:00:17 AM

Title: Episode #718
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on April 14, 2019, 11:00:17 AM
News Items: Quantum Acupuncture, Flying Cars and Space Planes, Picture of Black Hole, Quantum Engine; Who's That Noisy; Questions and E-mails: Mexican Wave, Plastic Bags; Science or Fiction
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on April 14, 2019, 11:00:54 AM
Since Steve forgot or maybe was just too busy, I made this thread for this episode. :)
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: daniel1948 on April 14, 2019, 04:15:49 PM
Thank you, Quetz, for starting this thread.

The segment on VTOLs (flying cars) was a fail on several levels. For one, in comparing efficiencies, they assumed the car would have 1.5 poeple in it, and the flying car would be full to capacity. What makes them think that people who will not car-pool would car-pool in their flying cars. For another, they compared the congestion of roads with the emptiness of the sky. Sure, the first person to own a flying car will have the sky nearly to him/her/it-self. But if flying cars became affordable, the skies would become just as congested as the roads, with the added complication of crossing paths at any point in the sky, rather than just in intersections, as wil cars. Lastly (for now) we already have VTOLs, and they are extremely useful. They're called helicopters. Multi-rotor aircraft might have advantages, and autonomous aircraft will eliminate the need to have or be a pilot.

We will see more VTOLs as the tech improves, and even now there are routes that are cheaper to fly commercial than to drive, so there's nothing really new there. But the hype is way overblown. There will be applications where a VTOL will be the clear choice, as is already the case. The hiking lodges I visit are accessible only by helicopter. But getting a significant percentage of drivers off the road and into the sky is a pipe dream.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Friendly Angel on April 14, 2019, 05:46:49 PM
Quote
"Fruit machine" is a term for a device developed in Canada by Frank Robert Wake[1] that was supposed to be able to identify gay men (derogatorily referred to as "fruits"). The subjects were made to view pornography; the device then measured the diameter of the pupils of the eyes (pupillary response test), perspiration, and pulse for a supposed erotic response.

The "fruit machine" was employed in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s during a campaign to eliminate all gay men from the civil service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the military. A substantial number of workers did lose their jobs. Although funding for the "fruit machine" project was cut off in the late 1960s, the investigations continued, and the RCMP collected files on over 9,000 "suspected" gay people.[2]

The chair employed resembled that used by dentists. It had a pulley with a camera going towards the pupils, with a black box located in front of it that displayed pictures. The pictures ranged from the mundane to sexually explicit photos of men and women. It had previously been determined that the pupils would dilate in relation to the amount of interest in the picture per the technique termed 'the pupillary response test'.[3]

People were first led to believe that the machine's purpose was to rate stress. After knowledge of its real purpose became widespread, few people volunteered for it.

(https://calgarygayhistory.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/screen-shot-2017-08-18-at-9-37-09-am.png?w=768)
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: 2397 on April 14, 2019, 09:27:26 PM
The segment on VTOLs (flying cars) was a fail on several levels. For one, in comparing efficiencies, they assumed the car would have 1.5 poeple in it, and the flying car would be full to capacity.

Indeed. Jay was talking about how they're more efficient if you pack them full and travel large distances, i.e. so that you travel in the most optimal way for the most amount of time. Which is how air travel in general has become more efficient, compared to (one type of) personal transportation on the ground. More people in the same space. Traveling by yourself in a car is not necessarily better than being stuffed inside a tube in the sky.

Of course, flying is still far less efficient than if you do the same thing, stuffing people into a series of tubes, on the ground. They could've mentioned more than just the two examples of transportation.

But getting a significant percentage of drivers off the road and into the sky is a pipe dream.

To be honest, I'd hate it if people started flying everywhere instead of being confined to the road system, especially if it meant randomly but frequently flying over areas far away from traditional traffic.

I'm already opposed to helicopter traffic becoming more common. They're too much of a disturbance to be justified, unless there's a significant need for them. There's some guy in Norway who wants to fly helicopters to chop ice off of a glacier to sell "luxury ice cubes". I don't think I've heard of a more inefficient way to accomplish something that can be made easily and cheaply available at home. At the very least there should be a 1000% luxury tax. Make sure that the stupidly rich contribute to public budgets if they have money to throw away like that.

We don't need people to spread out more, we need people to learn to love where they live, love their neighborhood, or to move to where they want to be.

Build more rails for freight, electrify boats and optimize transportation across oceans, even if it means slower delivery. If some things don't last long enough for it, then stop shipping it, stop using it or start producing it closer. And stop expanding airports. As much as we need to eat less meat, we need less tourism. But instead, airports and governments are expecting and investing in increasing traffic.

As Cara pointed out with plastics, it's not just about the GHG emissions. Tourists are literally killing animals (https://abc.net.au/news/2016-02-18/baby-dolphin-killed-by-crowd-of-beachgoers-in-argentina/7182070) to take pictures with them, and cause direct damage in addition to the impact on the climate. At least plastics have a purpose and also help reduce waste. Luxury travel becomes increasingly pointless as we improve our ability to experience the world remotely (and can do more things with technology in general). People travel the world to take photos to share online, and spend a lot of time looking at screens, and there's no difference between you producing the photos vs. you looking at the photos someone who lives there took and published. Or you could hire a local photographer to get the exact shots and footage you want, if it's that important.

If people took more of an interest in their own neighborhood, they could both enjoy it and take the time to learn how to preserve it for themselves, and for their kids and community.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: arthwollipot on April 14, 2019, 11:37:10 PM
This episode saw all of Australia tweet at Cara saying "Ee-myoo is correct! Ee-moo is wrong!"
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Ah.hell on April 15, 2019, 09:48:01 AM
I found the follow up to the discussion on the Mexican wave to be even more eye roll inducing than the original.  Cara explaining her ignorance by saying, "Well Americans are Racists so......".  Then followed up with some special pleading to insist that plastic bags really are that bad. 

Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: lonely moa on April 15, 2019, 02:35:43 PM
The issue of single use shopping bags is that plastic is killing marine animals and birds.  Those bags have been phased out in Godzone well before legislation.





Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: daniel1948 on April 16, 2019, 12:58:42 PM
Steve did acknowledge that energy efficiency is only the first part of the equation, and that pollution must also be considered. I have two cloth shopping bags that I bought about a dozen years ago, and another that was a promotional give-away from about ten hears ago. I use them all about 2 or 3 times a week. So each of them has been used around 1,500 times, and still going strong. In addition to using no more energy than their original manufacture, they are not being thrown into the ocean every time I go shopping.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: ninja2 on April 17, 2019, 06:39:04 AM
As a long time South Aussie listener of SGU my ears instinctively prick up whenever something antipodean comes up. For example I was both delighted and impressed by your pronunciation lessons our the fine city of Melbourne ('Melbun' :)) for which I gave you 10 out of 10.

Then, by way of contrast, I was **highly** amused by your touristy pronunciations for Emu and Kookaburra. Please allow me a few seconds to further your honorary Aussie credentials a little:

1) Emu is pronounced e-µ not e-moo, where µ is the 12th character of the Greek alphabet, pronounced 'mu'. Or given your science obsession you may prefer: µ is the conventional symbol for permeability in electro-magnetism, as in B = µH :) I don't know what e-moo is, other than very funny.

2) Kookaburra is pronounced cook-a-burra not Kook-a-burra. The way you guys say Kookaburra makes me chuckle so. Sounds like some kooky bird that laughs until it falls off it's psychological perch :)

Oh, and one last little thing, you Americans really need some genuine Aussie beetroot on your burgers, it's **absolutely** the secret ingredient behind delicious  ...
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Ron Obvious on April 17, 2019, 07:05:57 AM
2) Kookaburra is pronounced cook-a-burra not Kook-a-burra.

Well, that it makes it all clear then.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: seamas on April 17, 2019, 10:40:09 AM
2) Kookaburra is pronounced cook-a-burra not Kook-a-burra.

Well, that it makes it all clear then.

My daughter, when in preschool pronounced it kookiberry.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Tassie Dave on April 17, 2019, 04:18:56 PM
Oh, and one last little thing, you Americans really need some genuine Aussie beetroot on your burgers, it's **absolutely** the secret ingredient behind delicious  ...

No, beetroot is horrible  ???

As long as you don't ask them to pour pea soup over a meat pie (The Pie Floater). That is one thing from South Australia that's never taken off outside that state. For obvious reasons
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pie_floater

2) Kookaburra is pronounced cook-a-burra not Kook-a-burra.

Well, that it makes it all clear then.

Cook (as in make food) -a-burra not Coo-Kah-burra
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: The Latinist on April 17, 2019, 04:58:47 PM
1) Emu is pronounced e-µ not e-moo, where µ is the 12th character of the Greek alphabet, pronounced 'mu'.

I find this post amusing because in my own accent (and, I imagine, that of the Novellas who live quite near to me) there is no distinction between the pronunciation of the Greek letter 'mu' and word 'moo.'  This is a matter of accent, and it's called yod-dropping.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Ah.hell on April 17, 2019, 05:40:10 PM
1) Emu is pronounced e-µ not e-moo, where µ is the 12th character of the Greek alphabet, pronounced 'mu'.

I find this post amusing because in my own accent (and, I imagine, that of the Novellas who live quite near to me) there is no distinction between the pronunciation of the Greek letter 'mu' and word 'moo.'  This is a matter of accent, and it's called yod-dropping.
F@$#ing yod droppers!
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Alex Simmons on April 17, 2019, 05:45:31 PM
1) Emu is pronounced e-µ not e-moo, where µ is the 12th character of the Greek alphabet, pronounced 'mu'.

I find this post amusing because in my own accent (and, I imagine, that of the Novellas who live quite near to me) there is no distinction between the pronunciation of the Greek letter 'mu' and word 'moo.'  This is a matter of accent, and it's called yod-dropping.

Considering that the Greek pronunciation of µ is "mi", as in "mee" but a shortened "ee" sound.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: arthwollipot on April 17, 2019, 11:08:37 PM
The first syllable of "kookaburra" rhymes with "cook", not with "puke".
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: God Bomb on April 17, 2019, 11:20:15 PM
any plans to move this topic to the correct forum?

1.  Plastic bags, in recent years I've notices that the plastic bags from supermarkets tend to disintegrate within a few weeks or months.  I used to keep some bags within bags in a closet to use for those small waste bins, but I had to stop doing it because when I pulled out them out they just broke apart into small pieces.  Are modern plastic bags less dangerous?  Or does the plastic just disintegrate into into smaller and smaller bits without actually breaking down chemically?

2.  Cara's closing "huzzah" was cute in its apparent sincerity.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Alex Simmons on April 18, 2019, 06:11:04 AM
1.  Plastic bags, in recent years I've notices that the plastic bags from supermarkets tend to disintegrate within a few weeks or months.
At our local supermarket, they no longer have the old style plastic bags. Everyone is encouraged to bring their own bags (which we do most of the time). They do have large bins with emptied cardboard produce boxes that people can also choose to use.

But they will supply a biodegradable plastic bag for 15c if you request it.

In 1998 I had a stint working in Frankfurt, Germany. No plastic bags in the supermarkets then. You were expected to bring your own bag. No ifs or buts. On my first day there I had one of those comedy skit walks home trying to hold onto all the items I'd bought.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: 2397 on April 18, 2019, 07:52:15 AM
But they will supply a biodegradable plastic bag for 15c if you request it.

Presumably that's still a bag that has to be properly handled as trash, and won't turn into organic matter all on its own.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Belgarath on April 18, 2019, 08:25:32 AM
Normally I catch these when Steve forgets.  Thanks Quetz...

Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: daniel1948 on April 18, 2019, 10:35:44 AM
For well over a decade I've been using cloth shopping bags. On average once a year I forget them. I cannot remember ever seeing anyone else in the store bringing their own bags. Ever. Except in Revelstoke, B.C. (a very outdoorsy place) where some stores charge for bags. Same here in Maui. I've not seen anyone bring their own bags.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: lonely moa on April 18, 2019, 02:11:40 PM
For well over a decade I've been using cloth shopping bags. On average once a year I forget them. I cannot remember ever seeing anyone else in the store bringing their own bags. Ever. Except in Revelstoke, B.C. (a very outdoorsy place) where some stores charge for bags. Same here in Maui. I've not seen anyone bring their own bags.

The USA is more backward than I thought if that's the case... but look who they elected to run the country.  Everyone brings their own bags to shop here.  The store will sell you a nice re-usable or hand you a box (they have done that forever), however... but they have totally phased out the white bag thing.  Save our birds, fish and all marine life.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Ah.hell on April 18, 2019, 02:45:11 PM
Single use and reusable bags are common in most parts of the US.  Most groceries have recyclying bins for the reusable one in my experience.   I only get them when I need a garbage bag, sometimes I even steel them from the recycle bin. 

Also, I find it hard to believe that the US could be more backwards than you previously thought. 
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Friendly Angel on April 18, 2019, 05:03:18 PM
OK, so how should I feel about the 30-50 plastic dog poop bags I go through every week?  They go in the trash.

(https://petco.scene7.com/is/image/PETCO/1235311-center-1?$ProductDetail-large$)
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: 2397 on April 18, 2019, 05:43:36 PM
As long as it goes in the trash, it's just about the GHG emissions, not plastic pollutants (assuming it's burned). And it's probably significantly less than the emissions from the meat they eat.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: CarbShark on April 18, 2019, 05:46:02 PM
OK, so how should I feel about the 30-50 plastic dog poop bags I go through every week?  They go in the trash.

(https://petco.scene7.com/is/image/PETCO/1235311-center-1?$ProductDetail-large$)
Are you  disposing them in a way that could allow them to reach the ocean?

If no then you should feel fine. If yes then make sure they are sent to the landfill. Don’t recycle those.


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Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Alex Simmons on April 18, 2019, 07:25:27 PM
But they will supply a biodegradable plastic bag for 15c if you request it.

Presumably that's still a bag that has to be properly handled as trash, and won't turn into organic matter all on its own.

Yes, still to landfill eventually. On the occasions we get one we keep them for another purpose, so typically a two use bag.

This item from a consumer advocacy group in Australia is interesting:
https://www.choice.com.au/shopping/everyday-shopping/supermarkets/articles/sustainable-shopping-bags

Quote
Which is the best single-use bag?
On days when you've forgotten to bring your reusable shopping bag and you just can't face buying yet another one to add to your collection, you'll probably end up with a single-use plastic bag. If you buy bin liners, you're also buying single-use plastic bags. Of these, recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bags come out best for their low environmental impact, with paper and biodegradable starch bags at the bottom of the list.

"Both biodegradable and paper bags use more energy and materials than thin plastic bags to make," says Allan. "And there is little advantage in biodegradable and degradable bags, because most bags end up in landfill where there is no benefit to breaking down – they just create more methane and a less stable landfill site."
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: lonely moa on April 19, 2019, 05:07:09 AM
OK, so how should I feel about the 30-50 plastic dog poop bags I go through every week?  They go in the trash.

(https://petco.scene7.com/is/image/PETCO/1235311-center-1?$ProductDetail-large$)

Gosh, we have had two dogs for decades, and have never used a plastic bag for their poos.  I guess we walk, run and ride where dog poos is fine, usually overwhelmed by sheep, cattle  or horse excrement. Sky and Joe wouldn't really like visiting places they might have to be on a lead and get their poop carried home.

I'd think a page from the Press would do the trick... into a fire at the end of the day.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Friendly Angel on April 19, 2019, 01:13:40 PM
As long as it goes in the trash, it's just about the GHG emissions, not plastic pollutants (assuming it's burned). And it's probably significantly less than the emissions from the meat they eat.

So I'm hearing from you and Carbshark that the difference between plastic grocery bags and plastic poop bags, is that the grocery bags are more likely to end up in the ocean or as general litter problems.  ie, if grocery bags all made their way to appropriate landfills (the way my poop bags do) there would be no issue with them.

Wife and daughter are vegan and I'm vegetarian, but I just can't bring myself to deny meat flavored kibble to Isaac... he's such a sweetie.

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/vmzPfHguugjqnnXhu6tfZivsRzUAxD8QGfnc-MYa5iXP8ZK7LOxNyLOdozkDD9bnxpYKqPGbhV8CcKPV9ib5v34rFEhs0yb9sOlzajlXbpNH-0wWX5fzOmw8bzwcROYbn3BDPTLOlQMFVBqMCrXw9qpYcSB6WEmCfufafj7-PT6u2mQIACkEcwNAeYrYXfoDJTGVd0Pm8uNnFTLO8WQegBpiUq3sFX3xqx3k94_1N8lTfQBKg6a-FjdFhOsydmNGHpQSNRU6_5L5-BNQuacpvspl3g4j4j1pf6t3CXgo-N6X2W_J098fV3-EBwyXSqm5taptFS94jRkmmOn5q89iXMhFMkpe4QXJWAL4nUYXY3YxYUhQ9bDeH3EcMLgPdmdjGhGsXtwRyfMMwKf3VS7Dy8_uDqdHdgUHA1Rd2D9ZO9zcCn_sJ7y39bInasCBmmOHSuBe3DJwCEN3m0tUNDLYjXQkjbV-zg8vq6tRmrpTlJ25k2930UKsrJ-fog92zlqVVkBiGRZHdW8WsM3njTiEgdiUVpDpCrLYePpRXRB_wDhmF3-o3UkGgX0v6v6EY0PLLZEbM5kiu4VeUcmrN0CtyJ4Uwo9Sy1ozJpnvqCcsWmTLaA04yEl6IhGZgQ1ArQsxvmzEBQiM1Sv9H7F0QPmJg-37d-KSuw9XRBsZ1RquleeFJNnSKLdymsR2x94wue3OlBv8zTP1j3yn1kX2ZZ8=w1280-h724-no)

Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: CarbShark on April 19, 2019, 02:01:31 PM
As long as it goes in the trash, it's just about the GHG emissions, not plastic pollutants (assuming it's burned). And it's probably significantly less than the emissions from the meat they eat.

So I'm hearing from you and Carbshark that the difference between plastic grocery bags and plastic poop bags, is that the grocery bags are more likely to end up in the ocean or as general litter problems.  ie, if grocery bags all made their way to appropriate landfills (the way my poop bags do) there would be no issue with them.


This is what I believe.  And, most plastic grocery bags do end up in landfill.

I won't go so fas as Dunning does and claim that limits on plastic bags are counterproductive, but it's basically trying to solve the problem where the problem does not exist.

The problem is in India and Asia. It's easy for us to do something in the US, but the something we're doing (limiting single use plastics) doesn't help much, if at all.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: God Bomb on April 20, 2019, 01:57:30 PM
It may not be a problem in that sense, but using plastics made from petrochemicals once and disposing of them does seem like an unnecessary waste of resources.  there's two sides to this.  One is producing the bags, including use of raw materials, the demand it puts on the industry and the manufacturing process itself.  The other is waste disposal.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: CarbShark on April 20, 2019, 07:41:10 PM
It may not be a problem in that sense, but using plastics made from petrochemicals once and disposing of them does seem like an unnecessary waste of resources.  there's two sides to this.  One is producing the bags, including use of raw materials, the demand it puts on the industry and the manufacturing process itself.  The other is waste disposal.
No argument there.

One, polluting the seas with plastics, is a critical issue of a severe magnitude that threatens the life of anyone who relies on the sea for foods

The other is a relatively minor issue and plastic bags and other single use plastics are   Minor steps.


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Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: 2397 on April 21, 2019, 07:37:14 AM
Note that the largest source of plastic pollution in the oceans is fishing equipment being dumped in them.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: The Latinist on April 21, 2019, 08:46:47 AM
It may not be a problem in that sense, but using plastics made from petrochemicals once and disposing of them does seem like an unnecessary waste of resources.

But the study the SGU was talking about suggests that the resources required to create single-use bags are so far less than those required to create reusable ones that, for most people’s (re)usage patterns, they may actually have less environmental impact—at least on the production side.  That’s a core skeptical and lesson: what seems intuitive to us may in fact be wrong, and only by looking at actual data can we understand the truth.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: daniel1948 on April 21, 2019, 10:31:06 AM
What if we look at reusable bag production in the context of all consumer textiles? I suspect that the energy used would fade into insignificance, leaving post-use pollution as the much larger issue. Here in Hawaii plasic bags that find their way into the ocean are a serious hazard to marine life. Paper bags may use more energy, but that energy is tiny compared to all the other ways we squander energy, and the bags disintegrate in water.

Just a thought.

Also, "Most people wouldn't use them" seems like a poor argument against advocating the use of cloth bags.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: CarbShark on April 21, 2019, 11:59:39 AM
Note that the largest source of plastic pollution in the oceans is fishing equipment being dumped in them.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/
This is a very interesting article but its focus is not on plastic pollution in the oceans, but the plastics in one large area of the Pacific.

So while that supports my view that limiting consumer plastics in the US would have minimal impact on the amount of plastic pollution in the oceans it’s not definitive.


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Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: ralfsen on May 09, 2019, 06:00:55 AM
Cara from last episode: "I reached out to him and was like -Wow, that is so racist!"
Cara this episode: "First of all, I didn't say it was racist."

Ok then. Maybe go back and check what you said if you're unsure. It really couldn't be clearer.
I was just totally stumped as to why she thought it had to be racist when apparently she had no idea why it would be. Because Trump wants a wall? What? If you don't know what something means, you really need to find out before asserting that it is racist.
Title: Re: Episode #718
Post by: Ah.hell on May 09, 2019, 09:23:03 AM
Planet money did an episode on the subject of single use bags.   I number of studies by various organization in different countries have had the same or similar conclusion. 

If you care about climate change, banning plastic bags is not the way to do it. 

They didn't mention the issue of plastic in the environment but their conclusion was basically use a reusable bag but don't ban the single use bags.  Charge for them.