A few weeks ago, I made a video about hydra, the little freshwater creatures, not the mythical beast or the Marvel villains. I got people up in my comments talking about a conspiracy theory I’d never heard of. According to this theory, “THEY” are adding HYDRA to the vaccines (along with NANOCHIPS with NANO-ONIONS)! My cat is more wise than i am with regard to YouTube comments (in that he has no idea they exist).
So, I started reading about what the best practices are for talking with conspiracy theory believers and science deniers. And that led to the video I uploaded last weekend.
I was inspired by this talk by Naomi Oreskes called “Why Trust Science?” Dr. Oreskes wrote a book about that topic that was published before COVID-19. It is especially relevant now, thanks to all of the anti-science talk on social media. She asks a simple but important question: why should we trust science, and more practically, why should people trust scientists?
Ultimately, scientists are people. Science is a human endeavor. There will be problems. But scientists are accountable to reality. Scientists are accountable to experiment. Scientists are accountable to observation and data. That’s the final, highest authority.
On a mostly unrelated note, here are two terrible aquatic creature jokes I made up:
- What do you call a baby frog caught in a storm? A SQUALL-iwog.
- What’s a jellyfish’s favorite exercise? Pull Ups (polyps).
I just posted a Video about Hydra and Humanized Organisms. A long, strange train of thought resulted in this comic, too. Art credit goes to Snowman – I love it.
I got to thinking about humanized organisms while I was reading about hydra. Hydra make good models to study the biology of aging because they seem to be immortal: they don’t seem to age at all. If we knew how they accomplished it, it might help us understand how to slow aging. How do we know that they don’t age?
Prof. Daniel Martinez observed groups of hydra for years. He carefully fed them and kept them in separate tubes. Each one was observed making buds – little baby hydra – but the old hydra was put into a fresh tube alone every time. The researchers waited for any of them to get old and die… and none did. Well, maybe they didn’t wait long enough? We can only compare them to other creatures in the same weight class.
Longevity tracks body size and time to first offspring. So orcas (weight 1 million grams, first offspring at 25 years) live far longer than voles (weight 10 grams, first offspring within a few weeks of birth). Hydra weigh in at a fraction of a gram and have their first offspring a few days after being born. But they are still alive and reproducing for years, thousands of times longer than the trend would predict.
What allows hydra to accomplish this? How do they regenerate? What’s special about their stem cells that they don’t deplete? Can we study hydra in a way that’s relevant to human longevity?
We sometimes think (in our age of progress) that if we look back, we must see very primitive creatures.
But even if we go back ten thousand years, we don’t find primitive humans. We find modern humans. Genetically, we have not changed very much in 10,000 years. What has changed? We have learned a huge amount of chemistry, biology, etc. Of course we didn’t know which bits were useful. It took a hundred years to figure out. That’s how science works.
The discoveries of past centuries created some rapid changes. Example of progress: within a few hundred years we went from knowing what gunpowder was, to seizing guano Islands, to synthesizing ammonium nitrate to nuclear weapons.
Ancient impulses with modern weapons are weird. I have this picture in my head of an angry person saying “I’m going to get that guy. I’m going to go lay claim to a guano Island, refine potassium nitrate, make black powder, and use an explosion to propel a small metal ball through his body.” Then the pre-modern human says “I’d just hit him with this rock. Simpler.”
Hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves drives depletion of melanocyte stem cells | Nature
Why do we go gray after stress? Linkages between nerves and stem cells in our hair follicles! This happened to me in the month before my dissertation: I got gray in my beard. So strange.
Have the Boomers Pinched Their Children’s Futures? – with Lord David Willetts – YouTube
I am not an economist, but I think this talk articulates important issues. Larger cohorts have a strange weight in democracies.
Gregor Czaykowski on Twitter: “ha ha happy new year https://t.co/29c2r0hrBk” / Twitter
Ze Frank is doing videos on Time.com. I’m a fan of Mr. Frank from years ago when he was doing The Show. In the same spirit, he’s doing 3 minute videos at Time.com.
The one that is most salient for The Big Upshot is his little introduction to the Healthcare Debate, which I think sums up a lot of the absurdity. Have a look, you’ll get a chuckle, I think.
Ze Frank on the Healthcare “Debate”