Welcome to STEMology – Show Notes

Season 1, Episode 1

Slugs, Catnip, the Milky Way, Recycling Jumbos and De-baked Cookies

In this episode Dr Sophie Calabretto and Dr David Farmer talk about…

Slugs that can regenerate their entire body

That’s the messed up bit. So the body stays alive and the heart keeps beating somehow

Why you should start rubbing catnip on yourself

So every time I want to go outside and have a barbecue, my cats are going on a binge

How our position in the Milky Way means we are doomed

They are sort of quantifying safety as proximity to astrophysical transience

Jumbo jets can now enter the circular economy thanks to a newly created recycling method

They’ve done something very simple and very sensible, which is that they’ve looked at the existing recycling process and then they’ve just optimized it

How our cookies are being de-baked

What Chrome are going to do is get rid of these third-party cookies. But they still want to track you because, the way that Google makes money is with targeted advertising.


This is a “kind of, sort of, vaguely close” copy of the words that David & Sophie speak in this episode.

IT IS NOT 100% accurate.  We are very sorry if we have spelt something completely incorrectly.  If it means a lot to you to have it corrected, email us at stemology@ramaley.media

STEMology s1e1

INTRO [00:00:00]

[00:00:00] Dave: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode one of STEM ology, a podcast that is your one-stop podcast shop for the interesting fun, and sometimes just patently bizarre news in science, technology, engineering, or maths.

[00:00:11]Your hosts are Dr. David Farmer and Dr. Sophie Calabretto

[00:00:14]Sophie: [00:00:14] In today’s episode, we’re going to talk to you about slugs that can regenerate their entire bodies.

[00:00:20] Why should start rubbing catnip on yourself?

[00:00:22]Dave: [00:00:22] How our position in the Milky way means we are doomed

[00:00:25] how jumbled jets can no enter the circular economy thanks to a newly recreated recycling method

[00:00:30] Sophie: [00:00:30] And how our cookies are being de-baked.

Slug Story [00:00:40]

[00:00:40]Dave: [00:00:41] Have you ever heard the expression to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face?

[00:00:45] Sophie: [00:00:45] I have heard that expression.

[00:00:47] Dave: [00:00:47] So, it seems like today we’re talking about a slug that cuts off its own whole body in order to spite the parasites that live upon it.

[00:00:55] Sophie: [00:00:55] so I’ve heard of this slug and this story weirded me out a bit.

[00:00:58] Dave: [00:00:58] So this was a study that came out of Japan, the narrow women’s university in Japan specifically, and basically what they observed. They just happened to observe it. They were studying these slugs for other reasons, a species of sea slug called Sacco gloss. And if anyone’s wondering, and they noticed. I dunno what it

[00:01:17] Sophie: [00:01:17] sucking it’s SAP sucking slug. It sucks SAP.

[00:01:21] Sorry,

[00:01:21] Dave: [00:01:21] you call it when you could just say SAP sucking slugs. It sounds like, a diction exercise.

[00:01:27] Sophie: [00:01:27] SAP sucking sea slog, it’s a tongue twisted. That’s why

[00:01:29] Dave: [00:01:29] Yeah. Yeah.

[00:01:30] Sophie: [00:01:30] the sack of Gotham. I think.

[00:01:31] Dave: [00:01:31] Did you, could you say it quickly three times please?

[00:01:34] Sophie: [00:01:34] Sap sucking sea slub, sap sucking sea slug… No, I got one and a half. Dave, me, tell me some science about sea slugs, please.

[00:01:42] Dave.

[00:01:43] Dave: [00:01:43] So what they observed is they observed something amazing. They were studying these sea slugs for other reasons. And one day, one of the researchers walked up to a dish and to their astonishment noticed that this slug had detached its head from its entire body. Right. And then also also to their astonishment, they found that the body died and that the head did not, the head kept on living.

[00:02:06] And then over the course of not even like a month or a year or something like that, but weeks. Weeks. It had grown an entirely new body and it was a whole sea slug once more.

[00:02:17] Sophie: [00:02:17] And I’d also heard that it was within a few hours that head starts feeding again. Right? So we’ve got a body that will sort of die, basically the body doesn’t die until it starts decomposing.

[00:02:27] That’s the messed up bit. So the body stays alive and the heart keeps beating somehow, which we might just hop into. Later that day, his head starts feeding after a couple of hours, neck wound heals within a few days and then the heart regenerates within a week. And then within, like, as you said, like a few weeks, whole new slug,

[00:02:45]Dave: [00:02:45] It’s just amazing. Right? And the amazing thing is, so they were, they were interested in two things. One was like, why they would do this. Um, the reason they reckon that they do it is they noticed that the slugs that drop their entire body were completely riddled with parasites. In fact, they were so riddled with parasites that they were a threat to the reproductive ability of the slug.

[00:03:05] So just bear to just get rid of the whole body and be ahead and then regrow. And so

[00:03:10] Sophie: [00:03:10] just nip, nip it in the bud, I think is what

[00:03:12] Dave: [00:03:12] literally nip it

[00:03:13] Sophie: [00:03:13] literally nipping the body in the bud. Yep.

[00:03:15] Dave: [00:03:15] It’s yeah. See that three times quickly. You don’t really have to. And so one of the other things I found amazing was did you see the bit about how the head stays alive?

[00:03:25] Sophie: [00:03:25] Yes. So the head starts eating, stays alive, regenerates a body, which to me seems counter-intuitive because if I cut my head off all of the bits that keep my body alive are not in my head or my brain STEM, I know that, you know, there are some things in my brain STEM that very much keep me alive, but once they’re separated from everything else, I think I’m in a spot of trouble Dave.

[00:03:45] Dave: [00:03:45] yes. So it turns out, so what I read was that, and the reason that that works at all is because the thing that the sea slugs eat is algae, which is a plant, right. And plants can photosynthesize. Cause they have these little things in their cells called chloroplasts. Right.

[00:03:59] Sophie: [00:03:59] And as they make their energy from the sun,

[00:04:02] Dave: [00:04:02] yay. And so basically they distribute these chloroplasts around the head and then they can basically behave like plants.

[00:04:09] So basically this head, this severed head is taking on the abilities of the things that it eats.

[00:04:15]Sophie: [00:04:15] And so that is that process of a animal using plant tricks for energy is klepto, plasty,

[00:04:22] Dave: [00:04:22] Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Like klepto, meaning stealing and plastic, meaning I don’t know. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:04:30] Sophie: [00:04:30] So basically as long as the head can eat chloroplasts, it can continue to photosynthesize for energy and then grow the rest of its body

[00:04:37] Dave: [00:04:37] but that’s amazing. That’s amazing. That’s like, that’s like eating chickens and gaining the ability to lay edible eggs.

[00:04:45] Sophie: [00:04:45] that’s terrifying that doesn’t, that happen to me at all

[00:04:47]Can I just get back to this parasite bit? So it drops its body for parasites, but this isn’t like some other kind of animal that like will drop parts of its body to get away from like a predator. Right. So we know that I don’t know a lizard drops, it’s like little wiggly tail and then the predators confused.

[00:05:00] Cause there’s like a wiggly tail and then another part of lizard that’s just runaway. Right. And also, um, in my research, this story came across my new favorite, disgusting animal, Dave, and that is a Africa, there are two species of African spiny mice. So they have the same kind of mechanism. They don’t drop their tail because they don’t think the tail is the thing that the predators are really after they can release their skin.

[00:05:21] So if a predator latches onto them, they can literally like. Jettison chunks of skin to get away from the predator. and So I think they can lose up to like 60% at once without it being like super problematic. And then they regrow everything. So it’s  the skin and the sweat glands and the hair follicle and like the fur and all that kind of stuff with  little to no scarring.

[00:05:43] So the people who did that research actually went, Hey, this is a gene that these mice have. Do humans have a similar gene that we could switch back on and then start regenerating damaged tissue. So I think the answer is like, we don’t know yet, but I mean, that would be cool. It’s not whole organs. So if I lost it, you know, my kidney dropped out.

[00:06:02] I wouldn’t be able to regrow that using this particular gene, but it would be good for my skin.

[00:06:07] Dave: [00:06:07] That’s amazing and disgusting. That’s

[00:06:09] Sophie: [00:06:09] it gross.

[00:06:10] Dave: [00:06:10] We need a

[00:06:11] Sophie: [00:06:11] Spiny mice, Google a spiny mouse.

[00:06:14] Dave: [00:06:14] So yeah, slugs regrown their bodies. I thought it was pretty cool.

[00:06:19]Sophie: [00:06:19] It is pretty cool.

Catnip story

[00:06:32] So Dave, you’ve got cats, right?

[00:06:34] Dave: [00:06:34] I’ve got two cats.

[00:06:36] Sophie: [00:06:36] You’ve got two cats and a, do they have a lots of toys with catnip?

[00:06:40] Dave: [00:06:40] Yes, they do actually. And I would go as far as to say that their, their favorite toys,

[00:06:44]Sophie: [00:06:44] And is it because they make them go just a little bit crazy?

[00:06:47] Dave: [00:06:47] they get a little bit high and they go a little bit crazy and they have a lovely time.

[00:06:52]Sophie: [00:06:52] Well know, it’s good to hear. So we read this article this week about catnip Dave, where we know that it makes cats go nuts, but it turns out that catnip is actually a really good natural insect repellent. Right? So we’ve got all these synthetic insect repellents that we use that we spray ourselves. Cause we hate mosies and stuff.

[00:07:10] And it turns out that catnip does this naturally. But it works in a slightly different way. And that’s what we’ve just found out.

[00:07:15]Dave: [00:07:15] So it’s apparently it’s been known for a long time that catnip works really well as an insect repellent, but not how. And these researchers at Northwestern University have worked out how.  Before I talk about that, we should talk a little bit about how the normal one works, the synthetic one that’s in all the regular ones, right? DEET.

[00:07:34] Sophie: [00:07:34] I learned DEET.

[00:07:36] Dave: [00:07:36] or did you, or  as it’s also known.

[00:07:41] Sophie: [00:07:41] Yes, or just sometimes diastal, Taleo, mind, you don’t need your N N Metta. That’s your, that’s your fancy version. And then like your lay person version of just your day or tell your mind.

[00:07:51] Dave: [00:07:51] Okay. That’s okay.

[00:07:53] Sophie: [00:07:53] Yeah.

[00:07:54] Dave: [00:07:54] much. Really. Isn’t it.

[00:07:55] Sophie: [00:07:55] But so that one, so that works, um, because it targets the mosquitoes odor and taste receptors. Right? So basically it means that the insect can’t actually recognize the chemical cues, that signal human prey.

[00:08:06]It’s really, it’s making us invisible basically.

[00:08:09] Dave: [00:08:09] Yeah. And so I read that those, those things are found in sweat and breath, which I didn’t know. I thought it was all carbon dioxide, but no, apparently they can smell our sweat and our breath.

[00:08:18] Sophie: [00:08:18] Oh, so it masks my stinky breath and my sweaty, sweaty something.

[00:08:25] Dave: [00:08:25] It would be stinky, but if you’re a mosquito, it would smell really nice.

[00:08:27]Sophie: [00:08:27] Or like in the witches,  how kids smell awful, like clean children smell awful to the witches and that’s how they find them. So you should get like really dirty as a child and then you won’t get hunted down by a terrifying Ronald Dahl characters.

[00:08:39] Dave: [00:08:39] exactly. Except to mosquito the smell of breath or sweat smells like that, smell that you smell when you walk past the subway sandwich, who, I’m pretty sure I’m pretty sure they have like a wafting machine or

[00:08:51] Sophie: [00:08:51] yeah. They just, they just pump out that scent. There’s nothing that smells like weed sweet, but like strangely chemical attractive

[00:08:58] Dave: [00:08:58] Yeah, absolutely. That’s what I think is so, so DEET stops that, right? DEET it just blocks it, it blocks it entirely. And you’re invisible. So what I’ve read here is that these Northwestern university researchers have found that the catnip is effective for a different reason, which is that it activates something rather than blocking something to activate something.

[00:09:19] And what it activates is a receptor in the mosquitoes called trip a one, which is an irritant receptor. It’s an ancient irritant receptor. That’s really cool because we’re irritating the irritated out of biting us. And I think that’s just far more poetic way of repelling mosquitoes. Really?

[00:09:38] Sophie: [00:09:38] Yeah, so DEET makes me invisible, but catnip makes me just incredibly irritating. Love it.

[00:09:45] Dave: [00:09:45] Should we just rub catnip on ourselves? Is that a thing that we can do? I mean, it says that this has been a long time, but like

[00:09:52] Sophie: [00:09:52] I mean, it’s something we could do because it turns out that, the way that catnip affects an insect and clear doesn’t affect a cat, right? Cause your cats love catnip. They go batty for catnip, catnip doesn’t affect us in the way that it affects insects either. So in fact, those kinds of receptors that you were talking about for us sort of activated by things like wasabi and garlic, right.

[00:10:12] But catnip affect them. So it means that this is if you eat too much wasabi, you make that weird face. Whereas we could just like rub catnip all over our faces and we’d be fine. So, I mean, this is really interesting in terms of like, sort of the development of the next generation of repellents that exploit these things in nature.

[00:10:29] So, you know, there’s less synthetic chemicals. And it means that we can actually target mosquito specifically, right. Rather than just everything. This is for mosquitoes, but that your cats will still love you.

[00:10:38]Dave: [00:10:38] Every time I want to repel mosquitoes, which is quite a lot, then my cats will have to like, just get really mental. So every time I want to go outside and have a barbecue, my cats are going on a binge. Yeah.

[00:10:51] Sophie: [00:10:51] yeah, a hundred percent. So get rid of the mosquitoes. Welcome the cat hugs. Catnip, buy it in store now

Milky Way [00:10:59]

[00:10:59]  Dave: [00:11:00] so Sophie,  we live in the Milky way. That’s our exact address

[00:11:03] Sophie: [00:11:03] I, yeah, I definitely live, I think pretty much on one of the spiral, arms of the Milky way from my understanding.

[00:11:09] Dave: [00:11:09] Yeah. That’s what I get people to write on all my letters. I get very little mail. It seems to be working out really well. Um, so there’s this article that we’ve read this week about. Where the best place to live in the Milky way actually is. And it turns out that where we live

[00:11:26] Sophie: [00:11:26] Not great. Yeah. So I guess, I mean, there’s a lot of things to unpack in this particular article that we read it’s a little bit complicated. So basically they are sort of quantifying safety as proximity to astrophysical transience.

[00:11:42] Dave: [00:11:42] Okay.  what’s that?

[00:11:45] Sophie: [00:11:45] So it’s like a big cosmic event that basically involves like way too much radiation for us to survive. So we’re talking about things like gamma Ray bursts and like supernovae and stuff. When those things happen, there is just like so much radiation that if we were too close to that  radiation, it would like decimate us.

[00:12:02] So even if it didn’t  kill us directly, it would like mess up the Ozone layer. We wouldn’t be able to deal with it,

[00:12:07] Dave: [00:12:07] Okay. So stars stars go. Bang. Lots of radiation and that’s bad.

[00:12:12] Sophie: [00:12:12] That’s bad. So if we are too close to that badness, we will die. Right. So obviously.

[00:12:18] Dave: [00:12:18] Okay.

[00:12:19] Sophie: [00:12:19] Yep. So there’s lots of different places we could live in the Milky way. Theoretically, let’s just say that, you know, the whole thing is accessible to human life, which it isn’t, but there are lots of different places and lots of different times.

[00:12:28] So what this group has tried to do is they’ve created a model, which looks at the distance of a terrestrial planet from the center of the galaxy, right? So terrestrial planet is one that’s made of like rock and stuff that we can live on because if like the one that we live on, like the earth, uh, because if it was a gaseous planet, we would, I mean, we can’t stand on a gaseous planet.

[00:12:51] So they’ve looked at where these planets are. And then they’ve created this model where they predict how dangerous these transient  astrophysical events are so the gamma Ray bursts and the supernova, like how dangerous they would be based on the rate of specific star formation, because these things are all related to stars, right?

[00:13:11] So I want to start dies that’s when we get a supernova and then we get gamma Ray bursts with like, when stars crash into each other, you get them from supernovae, you get them from a bunch of things that involve stars. So we want to know about the star  formation in those locations and also the metalicity evolution in the galaxy itself.

[00:13:29]Dave: [00:13:29] So basically at the start of the galaxy, you’ve got mostly hydrogen and helium, and then get stars forming that are mostly made of those things. And then those stars run out of fuel and they collapse and it explodes. And that actually leads to the formation of bigger atoms.

[00:13:44] Right? Cause hydrogen and helium are really small. So then we get bigger ones and bigger ones and bigger ones til we get metals because metals

[00:13:50] Sophie: [00:13:50] Exactly. So yeah,  metalicity is just the abundance of heavy elements, right? So things that aren’t hydrogen and helium, how much of these other things are there because the fate of like a massive star has governed by its mass, but also its composition. So what of those heavy elements are in it?

[00:14:06] So this is all important, is this big thing. So it’s like, I’ve got my planet, whereas my planet, how close is it to stars? What events are happening, you know, in stars in time and space. It’s very, very complicated. This model also does like a lot of fancy things. Like it takes into account the probability of the formation of terrestrial planets, because we know that they form around certain types of stars, not all stars.

[00:14:29]and then they even took this as far as testing hypothesis that it was one of these gamma Ray bursts that took a leading role in the late Ordovician mass extinction. So there are like five excepted, mass extinctions, the Ordervicion one was like the first one, I think.

[00:14:44]And so this big, all encompassing model looks at when and where would be a great time to have been alive in Milky way. And Dave, when was that?

[00:14:53] Dave: [00:14:53] So th this is like you say, it’s all very big and complicated, but they come up with a very specific answer don’t they? Which is that it’s 6 billion years ago in the outer. So we want it to be further out in the Milky way than we are. And we want to be about 6 billion years ago,

[00:15:08] Sophie: [00:15:08] Okay. So at this stage is, seems unachievable for me and you and everyone listening at home. So what can we learn from this particular piece? Is this just a bit of fun?

[00:15:18]Dave: [00:15:18] It’s a fairly broad one because it’s a question of why. Why are we here? Why haven’t we been obliterated? Like why, why have we been permitted to exist? or why has it occurred that we have existed for long enough to ask if we exist? It’s

Recycling Jumbo Jets [00:15:32]

[00:15:32]Sophie: [00:15:32] Dave… Are you a rich man and do you own a carbon fibre bike.

[00:15:35]Dave: [00:15:35] I am neither a rich man nor the owner of a carbon fiber bike. Um, I have a bike that’s made out of steel, which makes me very hip, but also neither lightweight nor rich,

[00:15:48] Sophie: [00:15:48] Uh, you know, I don’t own a bike. Uh, so not, not for any of the above reasons, just because, uh, there are a lot of Hills in Sydney and I’m not gonna, you know, and the drivers are scary, so they make bikes and they make other things out of these very cool materials that are carbon fiber reinforced polymer

[00:16:05] Dave: [00:16:05] right? Yeah. Yeah.

[00:16:06] That’s right.

[00:16:06]Sophie: [00:16:06] So they make a lot of things. So as I said, you’ve got your bike, but you’ve got stuff like wind turbines, you’ve got sort of parts for airplanes. You’ve got stuff in like your mobile phones and laptops. And so what they are is super strong and super light. And like the way that they do that from my understanding is basically you take some kind of polymer, so you take like an, a proxy or a resin and you sort of turn it into this, open, this matrix.

[00:16:27]Dave: [00:16:27] So there’s a matrix and a reinforcement, right? So the matrix has a pox, which like people might know from, my dad would use to fix anything that couldn’t be fixed with gaffa tape. Like if it’s, if it’s not gaffer tape, it’s a proxy, you know,

[00:16:40] Sophie: [00:16:40] whereas a PO a proxy to me is, um, so I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these YouTube videos, but they’re also on Facebook and they pop up because they did something strange to my algorithm. And it’s just like a bunch of guys and they make tables out of wood and a proxy of resin. And so they’ve sort of clamped the wood down and then they mix all these cool colors into it, and then you watch it, like they pour it and then they, and then just watch the, make a table.

[00:16:59] And it’s got the cool thing that looks like a Lake in the middle of it and it’s made out of, so that’s what I think when I think of apoxy is wasting my life on Facebook.

[00:17:07] Dave: [00:17:07] But they’re actually, they’re actually really important. So like they’re particularly important when you want things to be very light, like you say. So just to put it into context, about half of an Airbus, A350, which is a just contemporary commercial jet, I’ve pulled out the air is made of these carbon opposite materials.

[00:17:24] Um, and again, if my dad had built it, the other half of it would be made up of gaffer tape, swear words and WD 40 nature, Brown paper and vinegar swore

[00:17:33] Sophie: [00:17:33] Robe robust

[00:17:35] Dave: [00:17:35] things.

[00:17:35] It’s used increasingly also to apparently retrofit and civil pieces of engineering. So bridges that were maybe built in the past a hundred years that are steel that are now having way more cars or way more trains have way more traffic going over, them being retrofit with this strong light stuff so that they can deal with the modern world.

[00:17:52] So, because this is being used so much, and these researchers at university of Sydney have,  come up with a better way of doing something really important, which is recycling It.

[00:18:01]Sophie: [00:18:01] Yeah, so obviously we talked about this, this great material that we can use for everything it’s strong and it’s light, but because it’s quite complicated in its manufacturer. It is a notoriously hard to recycle. So my understanding is the recycling process just kind of destroys all the useful properties of it.

[00:18:17] You know, so what you get out of the end is sort of not as strong and not as light and so normally they would just like stick it in landfill or incinerate it, which is a terrible idea. It’s not good for the environment, but these people have come up with a better way.

[00:18:29] So in the school of civil engineering at the university of Sydney, a better way, or in fact, an excellent way to recycle these polymers,

[00:18:37]Dave: [00:18:37] And they’ve done something very simple and very sensible, which is that they’ve looked at the existing recycling process and then they’ve just optimized it based on maximizing the strength of what you get out at the end. and I read a little bit about the recycling process and I like something very much about it.

[00:18:52] It’s a two-step process, right? The first step is pyrolysis, which basically means pyro is heat and lysis is breaking something down. So basically they made it very hot. And then the second stage is oxidation, which is also making it very hot, but in a slightly different way.

[00:19:08] So basically the two-step process is making it very hot.

[00:19:11] Sophie: [00:19:11] Right. And so my understanding is this is a sort of a balance in the way that they use this process, because what you want is the right amount of energy to initiate the chemical reaction, the composite. And so you can actually separate the carbon fiber from that surrounding resin matrix. Cause if you just let go full-out pyrolysis and oxidation, you just gonna like char it, get rid of some char and it’s still all going to be like gooey

[00:19:33] Dave: [00:19:33] Okay.

[00:19:33] Sophie: [00:19:33] of nowhere.

[00:19:33] So it’s so it’s that.

[00:19:34] Dave: [00:19:34] The apoxy resin and the Brown paper and the vinegar and all those things off of the carbon so that you can use it again.

[00:19:41] Sophie: [00:19:41] Yes. That’s my understanding. And so that’s what we didn’t use to be able to do before. Whereas now they’ve created this particular process, which means that I think you get something back it’s like sort of 90% as good as the original product was after recycling, which is pretty good. Like I would 90% I’d bet on that.

[00:19:58] Probably.

[00:19:58] Dave: [00:19:58] seems like a high number.

[00:19:59]Sophie: [00:19:59] Yeah.

[00:20:00] Dave: [00:20:00] So for anyone who has a carbon fiber bike listening at home, You’ll get 90% of the carbon fiber out, which means you’ve got 90% of the bike left to go over. And that’s a great step towards what we’re talking about in terms of a circular economy where we don’t generate waste anymore.

[00:20:16] We just generate different kinds of things that get fed back in at different points of the manufacturing process.

[00:20:23]Sophie: [00:20:23] exactly, but we’re doing it in a strong and light and efficient way now.

[00:20:27] Dave: [00:20:27] Yeah.

De-Baking Cookies [00:20:28] sophie, what browser do you use?

[00:20:30]Sophie: [00:20:30] It really depends on what I’m doing, but I’m more of like a Firefox Chrome kind of gal,  just because they’re convenient and I can do that thing where they remember all my passwords and then tell the other browser. So if anyone stole any of my things, I could have all of my information except my banking information, because I have learnt those passwords off by heart and I don’t store them in a browser.

[00:20:49]Dave: [00:20:49] That was a long answer to my question and I’m really grateful for it. Thanks.

[00:20:52] Sophie: [00:20:52] I’m very, I’m very complicated inside sometimes.

[00:20:56]Dave: [00:20:56] so one of the things that you mentioned Chrome, and one of the things that people worry about Chrome is that, cookies. Cookies and privacy, and Google, and being tracked across the internet.

[00:21:07]Sophie: [00:21:07] for sure. So I have, I actually have both of my browsers set up that when I close them, they will clear the cache delete everything that has been associated with those browsers. But I also have a lot of those little sort of ad blocker things and disconnect. And so I know when people are sort of flashing things and like sticking trackers all over my may.

[00:21:26] So when I traipse through the internet, I know I’m leaving a trail of trackers and cookies. I’m still doing it, but I’m aware of it.

[00:21:34] Dave: [00:21:35] we’ve read this week that apparently, Google are gonna stop using those cookies and, and trackers altogether and move towards something more privacy focused.

[00:21:44] Sophie: [00:21:44] Yeah. Now can I just get into cookies? Because I had to learn about cookies. Dave, I’ve heard a lot about cookies, but it turns out they’re the two main cookies that we deal with. As people on the internet are first party cookies and third party cookies. And first party cookies are actually good cookies.

[00:21:58] We enjoy these cookies a lot because they come from the

[00:22:01] Dave: [00:22:01] cause they’re like, okay, it’s not like there’s a first party where there’s cookies and then a second party without cookies. And then a third party that you attend and there are cookies again.

[00:22:10] Sophie: [00:22:10] Oh, no, an alternating cookie party.  There are in fact second party cookies, but they’re very irrelevant to us right now. So the first party cookies, when you go to a website, they live there and they help do things that make your user experience great. So if I’m internet shopping, a first party, cookie will remember what I’ve put in my shopping cart.

[00:22:29] They might remember things like my username and password, my language preferences, those kinds of things. And that’s the website that I’m accessing directly is doing that. So I feel good about that because  I’ve chosen to access that website.

[00:22:40]Third party cookies are the bad ones. So it means that if there’s something like a little chat window pops up, or you’ve got advertising, you’ll have these people sneaking about, and they’re the ones that are dropping these trackers all over. you so  That when you traipse out into the internet, your history of what you’ve been doing, sort of comes with you. So I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience where you’ve bought something online and then you go on Facebook or something. And there’s one of those targeted ads on the side. And it’s the thing you literally just bought, which is very bad advertising, cause I’ve already bought it.

[00:23:08] So I don’t need it again. But the reason that that appears there exactly is because of these third-party cookies. So basically you’re being, you’re being watched all the time. And so yet what that, what Chrome are going to do is get rid of these third-party cookies. But they still want to track you because the way that Google makes money is with targeted advertising.

[00:23:28] So my understanding is rather than tracking an individual, they’ll sort of group you into these cohorts of sort of people who exhibit the same kind of behavior on the internet and sort of as a cohort, you get tracked

[00:23:40]Dave: [00:23:40] And the, the other big difference seems to be that rather than all of your information, being sent to some remote server, to be kind of like collated into some identity, that’s you, that can be targeted. That cohort process actually happens on your machine. So you have a machine, a computer or a phone, and it has Chrome browser on it.

[00:23:58] And then you do some internet stuff on it. And then on the local machine, it compiles this little identity that’s you.  The whole identity is not uploaded, but the metadata from it is so it’s in some way, anonymized and therefore you can be targeted with ads, but you don’t have to tell everyone on the internet, what you’re doing all the time.

[00:24:16]Sophie: [00:24:16] I mean, this seems good. So I feel like as a user of the internet, quite a bit, this makes me feel better about my, I guess, individual privacy. I think the fact that, I mean, some people might still be worried that data of theirs is being sent somewhere to do things that they don’t know.

[00:24:32] But then, I mean, if you’re, if you’re worried about that, you just shouldn’t use the internet ever because it’s too late.

[00:24:38] Dave: [00:24:38] I think this is an interesting one because people who are interested in internet privacy are concerned with internet privacy already, probably already don’t use this browser. They probably use a browser like a Brave browser, which is completely different in that they don’t track you. And they block all ads and trackers by default, and they still have ads, but they’re opt in ads basically.

[00:24:58] So basically you can opt into their program whereby you are sent ads appear as popups on your phone or on your browser. And if you click on them, you’re rewarded with, you know, cryptocurrency or a very small amount of money. And then you have two choices. You can either tip websites that you visit because usually websites generate revenue through ads.

[00:25:19]And you’re not looking at their ads. So this is an alternative way to give them some revenue. Or you can just say, no, I want to be paid to look at ads. I want my 0.001 cents please.  But yeah, I think it’s an interesting one because people who are really interested in privacy might already be doing that.

[00:25:34] So it’s really interesting that a mainstream browser is now choosing to engage in this behavior.

[00:25:38]Sophie: [00:25:38] I think, you know, it’s, it’s like a nice gesture on their part and maybe they think it means they’ll get more uses. They already control the world anyway.

[00:25:45] Dave: [00:25:45] they’ve already got a lot.


Sophie: [00:25:46] Thanks for listening to another great episode of STEMology. You’ll find links to all our stories in our show notes. So go visit www.stemology.com.au.

[00:25:57]Dave: [00:25:57] You can contact Sophie and I directly with your thoughts or interesting news at STEMology@ramaley.media.

[00:26:04] Sophie: [00:26:04] Your hosts are Dr. David Farmer and Dr. Sophie Calabretto

[00:26:08]Dave: [00:26:08] Executive producer is Melanie De Gioia.

[00:26:10] Awesome music is by Elizabeth Rose.

[00:26:12]Be sure to hit subscribe on your favourite listening app.

[00:26:14]Sophie: [00:26:14] And we look forward to sharing the latest in all things, science, technology, engineering, and maths with you next week.