Welcome to STEMology – Show Notes

Season 1, Episode 12

A tricksy processor, a 3rd thumb, tardigrades survival, and the journey into the deep deep blue

In today’s episode of STEMology, we’re going to talk to you about …

Morpheus – a processor that can halting hackers, how attaching a 3rd thumb has lead scientists to understanding more in the human brain, tardigrades can survive a lot of things, but not crashing into a planet, and while going to Mars is pretty cool and exciting, successfully travelling to the deepest part of Earth’s ocean has just been completed by an Aussie & a Kiwi.

Tricksy processors

So the idea is they’ve come up with this processor that literally turns itself into a jigsaw puzzle. So as  hackers are trying to hack, it changes itself in real time.

A Third Thumb

This study seems to be one of the first studies that looks at when you augment someone, when you give them a robotic something or other that they didn’t have before, what happens to their brain to accommodate that?

Tardigrades Drive-by

One of the interesting implications of this study is that it  may allow us to look for life elsewhere in the solar system.

Journey to the deepest part of the ocean

They get down there and they talk about how amazing is to be in this ecosystem that’s almost completely unexplored

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


[00:00:00] David: [00:00:00] welcome to episode 12 of STEMology.

[00:00:02]Sophie: [00:00:02] A podcast sharing some of the interesting, fun, and sometimes just patently bizarre news in science technology, engineering, or maths,

[00:00:09]David: [00:00:09] Your hosts are Dr. Sophie Calabretto and Dr. David Farmer.

[00:00:13]Sophie: [00:00:13] On today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about tricksy processors, a third thumb, tardigrade drive by

[00:00:21]David: [00:00:21] And a journey into the deep, deep, deep blue.

Tricksy Processor

[00:00:24]  Tricksy processors. So a program I’m sponsored by the us defense advanced research program agency, or DARPA as anyone who’s ever played The Metal Gear Solid franchise of games will know, and have developed and tested a security computer processor that thwarts hackers by randomly changing its underlying structure and making it virtually impossible to hack. This was really complicated.

[00:00:55]Sophie: [00:00:55] Yeah, it was Dave. I like to think that I know some things about computers and it turns out I know nothing about anything. So yeah. So the, the problem that we have is we’ve got these hackers who are these folks who like to hack into our computers and just wreak havok. They might be doing bad things, or they might be just doing annoying things. And often it comes down to the fact that we have like vulnerabilities in software and different things like that. if you’ve ever done any kind of coding and I’ve done a little bit, but nowhere in the way that I could code a software program, codes are full of bugs and it’s sort of downright impossible to get rid of bugs as is.

[00:01:30] And, I think, especially my understanding is these types of security bugs aren’t often obvious because they don’t change the functionality of the software itself. So, you know, you’ve got like a bug, which means that something visual doesn’t render, it’s obvious. Cause like the program’s not doing what it’s meant to,

[00:01:46] David: [00:01:46] Cause it  doesn’t work

[00:01:47]Sophie: [00:01:47] it doesn’t work. But you can have like the program working with these security bugs. Yeah. So the idea is they’ve come up with this processor that literally turns itself into a jigsaw puzzle. So as  hackers are trying to hack, it changes itself in real time.

[00:02:02]David: [00:02:02] Yeah, but the way I understood it,  I had to go into the link, like the article link, and then I had to go to one article link away and there’s quite a nice kind of common person, lay present description of that I think I understand. Where  basically they say that, it’s like driving a car and in order for a person to drive a car, you need to be able to, you know, use the gear stick and the steering wheel and the blinkers.

[00:02:25] And that’s basically all you need to do. If this is a computer program, any normal computer program needs to do fairly basic normal computer program stuff, but there’s all these other things in your car that work like, whether it’s a V6 or a V8 engine and how the transmission works and all of these quite difficult things.

[00:02:43] And those are the kinds of things that apparently, and again, to make about computer chips, again, these are things that computer hackers need to know. So, the objective here is to make a computer chip that can be used by normal programmers and by people, but is not usable by hackers.

[00:03:01] So basically they’re changing these things which are called undefined semantics and the undefined semantics of the things about the things about the car and the metaphor that you don’t need to know in order to drive the car as a normal person. Does that make sense?

[00:03:15]Sophie: [00:03:15] Yea exactly So if we were to then convert that into computer language for the people who should know what we’re talking about. So basically you’re talking about chips, which are these processes. And so your computer has these processes, which are basically  physical pieces of hardware that  run the software, they tell the other hardware what to do, right.

[00:03:31] They’re like the king pin of the computer. But then a processor Has its own kind of architecture, which is something that is called an instruction set architecture, which deals with the way that that processor handles information. So basically it’s the set of instructions that the software needs to run on that particular processor, so that’s sort of when the machine language and stuff comes in.

[00:03:51] David: [00:03:51] Yeah  so I read about that and people might know that from like the difference between a Kaby lake and a coffee lake processors. So these generations of computer families that have their own micro architecture and you can use lots of different processors on them, but the micro architecture is the Kaby lake here, the coffee lake pit, and they’re not compatible.

[00:04:07] Sophie: [00:04:07] Yes. And that’s the idea. So you’ve got your processors that has an architecture, which has your instruction set architecture. And then they have the micro architecture on top of that, which is like the guts that enables the execution of  that instruction set that is set by the instruction set architecture.

[00:04:22] which is the high level. So you’ve got a processor,a level of architecture and then a level micro architecture, and they all sort of talk to each other. And I think your car analogy was a good one. So the idea is, you know, the hacker needs to know about the micro architecture to be able to do anything bad to the computer, you can still faff about with the micro architecture while the software can still run at kind of like an architecture level. And so the idea is what they’ve managed to do. so Morpheus, which is this magical machine that can turn itself into a puzzle. basically it uses, um, ensembles of moving target defenses with churn is the way that they’ve described it. So  I was like with churn.

[00:05:00] Amazing. So yeah, the idea is what it does is.   It changes the way that the processor executes, or it changes the format of program data or the, all these kinds of things in a random way. But that happens at the micro architecture level, so software running on the processor is unaffected.  So that it does specific things like point to displacement and domain encryption. So a pointer is a reference to a location in the memory.

[00:05:27] So it sort of changes that.  So every Morpheus  sort of chip set starts off being different anyway, because it’s random. But then this churn bit is in real time, it can re randomize these values.  So essentially what you’re being presented with is a computer that doesn’t look like any other computer that you’ve seen.

[00:05:43] And then halfway through, you’re trying to hack into it. It then changes into another computer you’ve never seen and you’ll never see again.

[00:05:50]David: [00:05:50] Yes. And so basically what they seem to be arguing is that this doesn’t just defeat one kind of attack. It defeats a whole swathe of types of attack. So it’s a very, very general way of, thwarting hackers. And apparently last summer 525 security researchers spent three months trying to hack this processor and all attempts to do so failed.

[00:06:12]Sophie: [00:06:12] Yeah, so, I mean, to me, it sounds like why don’t we all just use this?

[00:06:16] David: [00:06:16] Great. I’m into it.

A Third Thumb

[00:06:18] From tricksy processors to tricksy digits. Seattle researchers have examined the way that using a robotic third thumb can impact the way the hand is represented in the brains of the users

[00:06:40] Sophie: [00:06:40] Yeah.

[00:06:40] I think the brain part is fun, but what I found more fun was just this robotic third thumb. for everyone playing at home and we have a production meeting where we pick stories and I was like, what is this third thumb, and then I saw a video and I was like, I don’t even care what anyone else says we’ve got to talk about this third thumb. So yeah, what they did is they created a robotic third thumb. And so the idea is it is attached next to the little finger on your hand. So essentially you have two thumbs on one hand, and then your four fingers in between, and this thumb is controlled by your toes.

[00:07:12] got these little pressure sensors that are attached to like the underside of your big toe that is wirelessly connected to the thumb. And so both toe sensors control different movements of the thumb and by immediately responding to subtle changes of pressure from the wearer

[00:07:26] So the idea is you’re this thumb move using your toes. and so they got 20 participants and they train them over five days to use this thumb, to do a bunch of different things. My favorite things from the video, Dave, were opening a bottle, like a screw top bottle with one hand also picking up five mandarins at once really easily, which I think, you know, imagine you had five children, one spare hand and they each needed a Mandarin.

[00:07:51] You’re sorted.

[00:07:53] David: [00:07:53] I mean, I’m sure a parents of five all over the place are rejoicing because they what I need as a third thumb to deal with all these children. So it’s a really, really interesting study and the thumb was developed by,  someone called Dani Clode  who’s based in London. , she’s really interesting. She’s developed this third thumb, but she’s also really interested in prosthetics as jewelry. So she’s got these very fancy prosthetics and also she’s got prosthetics that are not really like  direct replacements for the hand. They’re like vine tentacles and things like this.

[00:08:23] And she seems interesting cause She seems to be into this idea of, um, not just. Using prosthetics to replace things that were once there, but also using them to augment the body. And basically this study seems to be one of the first studies that looks at when you augment someone, when you give them a robotic something or other that they didn’t have before, what happens to their brain to accommodate that?

[00:08:46] Um, So we haven’t looked at this before, and it’s also kind of an important question because if you’re going to change your brain in order to accommodate the use of a limb, it can’t do anything bad hopefully, like you don’t really want to be destroying functionality in order so that you can pick out five mandarins at once.

[00:09:02] Sophie: [00:09:02] Yeah, exactly.  So what they did was  they trained up all of these people and before they did the training, I believe, they scan the  participants brains with FMRI . So while the participants were moving their fingers individually, they were looking at what was happening in the brain.

[00:09:17] And I feel like you’re better at brain stuff. Dave, is that about right?

[00:09:20]David: [00:09:20] Yeah, that’s right.  So they put them in an FMRI machine, which basically a very briefly FMRI looks at changes in where the blood is going in your brain because where the blood is going in, your brain is a very good indicator of which neurons are active or which groups of neurons are active.

[00:09:34] So basically they had them move the individual fingers in the brain, and then they could build up a representation of them in a place called  the separate, sensory motor cortex, and which is a place where you do moving of things , in the brain.

[00:09:47] Sophie: [00:09:47] So they did that and then they trained them up with their third thumb or The Thumb. And I like, so Thumb for everyone at home is capitalized. So if you ever write about The Thumb, Thumb has a capital T in this case. They Train them up. Um, and then they also had 10 people in a control group who just wore static versions of The Thumb and had to complete the same training.

[00:10:07] And then the idea was, um, yeah, it was a bit weird. This really cool thing.  It’s just going to now actually like impede you doing anything because you’ve got this like strange thumb, just attached to your hand.

[00:10:17] David: [00:10:17] some experimenter coming up to you, screaming, pick up five mandarins and you can’t do it. And they just keep screaming and they won’t stop.

[00:10:23]Sophie: [00:10:23] You just like, but if this thumb work, maybe I could, what’s the point of this game. So all this training that they did focused on tasks that help increase the cooperation between the hand and the thumb. And they’ve used the examples such as picking up multiple balls or wineglasses with hand. But as we’ve said, also mandarins can be used, and they found it, people quickly learn how to use this device without really overthinking it. And so they said that two people just naturally change their hand movements reported that sort of eventually the thumb started to feel like part of their own body.

[00:10:56] And they were even able to use the thumb when were distracted. So they said, okay, Building a wooden block tower while doing a math problem or while blindfolded, They could still successfully use the thumb with their hand as in they were using their whole hand. And then what they did is they went back and re scanned the brains of the participants who had been training with a thumb

[00:11:17] David: [00:11:17] That’s right. And what they found was that , there was a lower inter finger representational distance was basically means that in the brain, when they moved each of the individual fingers, that the regions are closer together. So it seems to suggest that what is happening is that the hand is represented more as a whole and less as individual fingers.

[00:11:38]and what’s interesting about that is they make this point that that’s what you seem to see. And people who do things like train, um, to become experts in playing the piano, or I suppose, pianists, you could call them. they make this really interesting point that we use tools and that tools will be used in the hand. And then you’ll, you’ll kind of have a sense of embodiment  of the tool. Like it will feel that it’s an extension of you and you know how to use it. If you’re experienced with using it. But they tend to replace the hand, whereas this is the hand is there, but the hand has been augmented. So what they found was that when people trained, they saw changes in the brain that were more in line with someone learning how to do something with their hands, like play the piano.

[00:12:16] And that kind of makes sense neuroscientifically because what tends to happen as you go further up in the brain is that you’re not so interested in individual muscle movements. You’re interested in commands like very broad commands too. For example, play like play the piano or play G sharp rather than move these very specific muscles in your hands.

[00:12:35] That’s the job of different parts.  So that’s a really, really interesting result and they seem to reckon it’s the first time that anyone’s looked at something like this under these settings. So it’s pretty cool.

[00:12:45] Sophie: [00:12:45] yeah, And then what they did as well, though, just at the very end, is they scanned a few of the participants a week later, and they found that the changes in the brain had subsided suggesting that the changes might not be long term. Although more research is needed to confirm this. sort of like they stopped using the thumb and their hand and brain didn’t need it anymore. And it started going back to normal

[00:13:08] David: [00:13:08] yeah, I thought that was an interesting result. and I think they seem to be saying, I guess if you start using something and it becomes harmful, it means you can stop using it and you’ll be okay. But it’s interesting because they didn’t train with the hand for very long. It was only days, right. It was five or seven days that they trained with the hand.

[00:13:23] Sophie: [00:13:23] five days. Yeah.

[00:13:24] David: [00:13:24] So then you’re getting these robust changes in brain activity. So then they go away when you stop using it, which is, I guess, not that surprising, but it’s interesting.

[00:13:32] Sophie: [00:13:32] It is interesting. So there you go um, robotic third thumb from UCL, but everyone right now go and look up Danny Clode. So it’s C L O D E I was particularly interested in the bone knitter and then the things that she did for the alternative limb project. So there was an arm with a pulse, but also the vine arm, which Dave sort of talked about before.

[00:13:50] Very, very cool. Go check her out and then while you’re there, get yourself a robotic third thumb.

Tardigrade Drive-by

[00:13:56] brains to shooting most piglets in bullets at very high speeds.

[00:14:12] So today we’re talking about tardigrades Dave. So, um, just before we get into why we’re talking about tidy grades, a lot of people haven’t heard of them, so I just want to go into them a little bit if that’s okay. So  the tardigrade also known as a water bear or Moss piglet.

[00:14:25] David: [00:14:25] I was not familiar with that particular designation for the humble  tardigrades Moss piglet.

[00:14:29] Sophie: [00:14:29] look, I ended up, I ended up in lots

[00:14:31] of holes on the internet sometime, but this was one of

[00:14:33] those days…

[00:14:33] So there these hundred to a thousand microns in length, mainly live in freshwater environments, but these are like the most versatile little dudes in the world, in the sense that they can tolerate so much stuff that we do to them and they’re very good at surviving. So they can do things like survive temperatures close to absolute zero, withstand heat beyond boiling point of water. They can shrug off doses of radiation that would be lethal to humans. They can  withstand air deprivation, dehydration, and starvation, and now they can withstand the impact of when we put them in a little nylon bullet and shoot them at high speeds into sand to see whether or not lifeforms can colonize other planets for meteorites?

[00:15:14]David: [00:15:14] This was a really, really, really cool story. So I didn’t realize this, but this started, with a kind of curiosity thing. So, the research was inspired by a 2019 Israeli mission called bare sheet, which I was not aware of. It was set to become the first privately funded trip to the moon, like not with people on it, but the first privately funded and landing on the moon.

[00:15:38] And it went awry. It went askew and awry and it crashed. but it was carrying a bunch of things and no, they hadn’t told anyone this, but they’ve actually included tardigrades on this moon Lander. Which is kind of not that cool because, you know, we don’t really want to be cross contaminating species with other planetary bodies. If we don’t know what’s there to begin with.  so this probe, which was said to be the first private mission to the moon, crashed and basically someone in fact, Alejandra Trespass, I hope I’m pronouncing that name correctly.  A PhD student at Queen Mary University of London wanted to know if these tardigrades could have survived the impact.

[00:16:18]Sophie: [00:16:18] Yeah.  So yeah, she approached her supervisor and they said, can we work out an ethical way to test this because crashing more tardigrades into the moon seems, um, I don’t know. It’s a little bit harsh. So what they did is, I liked the way it was described, after feeding about 20 tardigrades moss and mineral water, which I presume Dave, are their favorite foods but didn’t actually look it up.

[00:16:39] Um, what they did is they induced hibernation into these tardigrades. So it’s a so-called tun state, in which their metabolism decreases 2.1% of their normal activity. And if you have any tardigrades at home, the way to do this is just freeze them for 48 hours and they will start to hibernate. And then they placed two to four at a time in a hollow nylon bullet find them at increasing speeds using a two stage light gas gun. So two-stage light gas gun is basically like an experimental physics tool that just lets you achieve muzzle velocities far higher than a conventional gun. So the two stage bit is first stage has gun powder.

[00:17:18] And then the second stage is highly compressed hydrogen. So that would be your light gas, part of your two stage light gas gun. Um, and they just shot these four things at, sand targets, several meters away to basically see like how fast they would have to shoot them before these things no longer survived being shot in a bullet.

[00:17:38] David: [00:17:38] I’m glad they found an ethical way to do it because like we’re tardigrades, they’ve got catch and I’m like, where’s Steve. Oh, I don’t know. Last time I saw him, he was getting into a nylon bullet, but why did he do that? Well, he looked really sleepy. I don’t really know if he knew he was doing, um, I haven’t seen him since.

[00:17:53] Um, so yeah, they worked out that they could survive impacts of up to 900 meters per second. So if you fire them at sand at 900 meters per second, or about 3000 kilometers per hour, which is about 2.5 times the speed of sound, they can still survive.

[00:18:08] So that’s very, very fast.

[00:18:09]Sophie: [00:18:09] It’s incredibly fast. Yeah.

[00:18:11] David: [00:18:11] Fast as the fastest jet planes.

[00:18:13]Sophie: [00:18:13] Yeah, I don’t even know how fast, is that true? Do you know how fast are the fastest jet and I believe you, but yeah, so they went really fast and, um, they found that, and that had a momentary shock pressure to a limit of 1.1, four gigapascals, which for anyone who knows about pressure is insane. That is an insane amount of pressure. I went so far as to try to find out,  at what pressure does human bone crush. And it turns out Dave, that is not a trivial question to ask the internet, from what I can tell it’s anywhere between 0.01 and 0.08 to gigapascals. So it is like two orders of magnitude smaller than what a tardigrade can survive.

[00:18:55]David: [00:18:55] When loaded into a nylon bullet.

[00:18:57] Sophie: [00:18:57] Yeah, and show it into sand. But anyway, so the moral of the whole story is , that the shock pressure generated by bare sheets, metal frame hitting the moon wood would have been well above 1.1, four gigapascals so that, they’re pretty sure the tardigrades didn’t survive

[00:19:12] David: [00:19:12] The moon has not been colonized by an army of Israeli tardigrades

[00:19:17] Sophie: [00:19:17] yet. Cause the idea of life sort of moving between worlds as stowaways on like meteorites and asteroids and stuff is something called panspermia, which I’ve never heard of before. They’ve said that this means that like, it’s highly unlikely, but it’s not impossible because there was all this extra detail about, uh, meteorites impacting the moon and Mars.

[00:19:37] And then if you had something impacting earth and something flying off from the earth to the moon, the speeds that those were going out, and they were saying that.  If you had something that struck the earth and then whatever, from the earth flew off towards the moon, 40% of the material that then hit the moon would be traveling at speeds, low enough for a tardigrade to survive. And there’s like a similar passage for Mars to its moon, Phobos

[00:20:02]David: [00:20:02] Yeah. So basically what they’re saying is, so it very much depends on where you hit the earth and how, or where you hit Mars and how. So trespass said it shows the panspermia is hard, but not impossible. And, I feel like we can invoke the anthropic principle here a little bit. I mean, we’re in a massive universe where everything that can happen does happen. So this very much doesn’t rule out panspermia as a means of getting life from one place in the universe to some other place in the universe.

[00:20:29]Sophie: [00:20:29] Yeah, cause apparently some microbes can survive even faster impacts of up to 5,000 meters per second. So if there are microbes that can survive that and all of our previous conversations about tardigrades specifically, it seems like yeah we can’t say that this won’t happen, but we can say we don’t need to shoot tardigrades bullets anymore because they’ve done that.

[00:20:50]We’ve done the bullets. We’ve done the air deprivation, starvation, the dehydration. We put them in space, you know maybe they can just have a holiday now.

[00:20:59]David: [00:20:59] Also,  they finally say that one of the interesting implications of this study is that it  may allow us to look for life elsewhere in the solar system. So one of Saturn’s moons Ensaladas, which is a watery one that shoots these plumes of water up into the air.  Because microorganisms, can potentially survive impacts of these sorts of magnitudes, what it means is we can fly space probes, uh, you know, a meager hundreds of meters per second, through those plumes and test the plumes for microorganisms. And they make this interesting point that if you find dead microorganisms, it’s very difficult to know how long we’ve been dead. But if they’re squirming around. Then you can say that they’re alive. So this is quite exciting because we might be able to use this finding to look for life elsewhere in the solar system. So it’s all pretty cool.

Deep Blue Sea

[00:21:48]Sophie: [00:21:58] From tardigrades in space to deep sea submarines. Dave, what has been happening in the world of deep sea submarines these days?

[00:22:07]David: [00:22:07] So submersible engineer, Tim McDonald, an Australian, has set a new depth record for Australia with a dive to the deepest point of the world’s oceans, challenger deep in the Mariana trench. And he did this in the world’s first re-usable full ocean depth submarine, which he himself helped to design.

[00:22:26] So he’s submarine pilot, engineer, and cool job title, horror order, Tim McDonald.

[00:22:32]Sophie: [00:22:32] And we should just add in now that he also had , a New Zealand mate, Rob Macallan in the submarine with him, I believe, but I don’t know about his involvement with creation. But Yeah So whenever we talk about trinkets on this show, and I’m going to call this submarine a trinket because I could Google it and I got the two facts about it. Only $37 million Dave.

[00:22:51] David: [00:22:51] Okay, but that’s not very much. I mean, that’s numerous Pepper the robots,

[00:22:55]Sophie: [00:22:55] Yeah.

[00:22:56]David: [00:22:56] That’s an army of Pepper the robots.

[00:22:58]Sophie: [00:22:58] Do you think pepper could pilot one of these submarines?

[00:23:03] David: [00:23:03] Well, I think there is a robot.  There’s a Japanese submarine that goes to the bottom of the mariana trench.

[00:23:07]Sophie: [00:23:07] but it, But is it like, is it like a cool dude living robot, like a pepper or is it like a computer robot?

[00:23:14] David: [00:23:14] No, I think it’s just a submarine pilot robot, which is kind of cool, but it’s not corporeal.

[00:23:19]Sophie: [00:23:19] No that’s yeah, that’s the one that I was looking for. But anyway, let’s talk more about this a submarine .So apparently, they worked on this submarine in secret for four years before unveiling it. So It was part of an international space race to engineer, a vehicle capable of repeat journey to the bottom of the ocean.

[00:23:36] So I hadn’t heard of that particular space race or ocean race, Dave

[00:23:40]David: [00:23:40] I feel like they should’ve come up with a better name for it.

[00:23:42]Sophie: [00:23:42] I guess I mean, space is just the area around us.

[00:23:46]David: [00:23:46] I guess that’s true. Yeah, it doesn’t have to be outer space.

[00:23:49] Sophie: [00:23:49] it’s the water space. Uh, But yeah, so this, uh, this particular submarine, Limiting Factor, is 4.6 meters long, 1.9 meters wide, 3.7 meters tall, it’s got this like super cool spherical pressure haul that the people sit in and as a weld free titanium pressure haul that is nine centimeters thick and is machined two within 99.933% of true spherical form, which is pretty impressive.

[00:24:19] And also like. Whatever they have to measure that must be impressive too. Cause that’s pretty precise, but apparently like the pressure can make the sphere shrink by six milimeter alone because they’re under such insane pressures. Interesting. Pressure. We just talked out a tardigrade. This thing can withstand pressures of up to 1400 bar, which is 0.14 gigapascals, which is still an order of magnitude lower than what a tardigrade can withstand. But I guess, you know, for something that we made and it’s much bigger and it fits two people in it, um, it is impressive. But Dave, I just wanted to let you know some facts that I found on the website. So, um, The good thing is, so there is life support on board, which involves, oxygen and CO2 scrubbers.

[00:25:03] And every time I hear CO2 scrubber, I think of event horizon. And then I was like, Oh, they went to a place that they weren’t meant to. And I was like, are we going to rip a hole in the space, time continuum at the bottom of the ocean?  Um, no, it doesn’t work like that, but there is 96 hours of emergency life support should your oxygen and CO2 scrubbers fail you. They have leather padded seats. And, uh, which ensure a comfortable eight to 12 hour dives in the interior that is both temperature and humidity controlled. So I felt like those were the main selling points. Cause it felt like I was buying a car that went to  the ocean.

[00:25:34]David: [00:25:34] Looking, at the options. So the crucial determining factor when choosing a submersible vehicle.

[00:25:39] Sophie: [00:25:39] Yeah. And especially like leather, not, it’s not like fake leather or, you know, some kind of other upholstery that I don’t think is up to my standards of a submarine

[00:25:47] David: [00:25:47] I feel like heated seats are going to be important when you’re 11 kilometers below the surface of the sea.

[00:25:54]Sophie: [00:25:54] it’s Yeah,  seems to deep doesn’t it? So apparently it was a  four hour journey down and then they hung out on the bottom of the floor for sort of like three to four hours. and then it was a little under four hours back to the surface and up to an hour to attach the tow line and get the pilots back on deck.

[00:26:10] David: [00:26:10] Yeah, it sounds like it’s an astonishing combination of very boring, very amazing. And then very harrowing. So they say for the four hour journey to the ocean floor, there’s nothing to do for them, but to listen to music and shoot the breeze, then they get down there and they talk about how amazing is to be in this ecosystem that’s almost completely unexplored and the hours that they have several hours down there and that’s just amazing. And then. Finally, they start talking about how it’s interesting from an engineering perspective. But when they say how it’s interesting from an engineering perspective, it sounds just harrowing.

[00:26:39] It’s like, oh, we’re just trying to track the components and figure out how long they last, how many cycles does the O-ring handle at full depth? How long to the connectors last? It’s like, I don’t want to be the guy who’s finding that at 11 kilometers beneath the ocean. It sounds so scary.

[00:26:52]Sophie: [00:26:52] yeah, that 96 hours of,  emergency life support, isn’t gonna help you if you’re full of water. I don’t think that’s how it works. but yeah, so this was a limiting factor. So it was privately funded by a Texas businessmen called Victor Vescovo. Dave, did you look up  Victor Vescovo I

[00:27:08] David: [00:27:08] didn’t tell me all about him

[00:27:09] Sophie: [00:27:09] you should do it later. Cause he’s great. There’s some videos and it’s like, yeah, if everything you’ve imagined with a man with a lot of money in things that he wants to do, like climb every mountain and goes deep into the ocean as possible. It’s that guy. but yeah, this was, uh, and it was built by Triton submarines who constructed the sub in secret amidst moves from the Chinese government, Virgin and film director, James Cameron.

[00:27:30] And I didn’t know how to take that Dave

[00:27:32] David: [00:27:32] Yeah. He’s like famously really, really into it.

[00:27:35] Sophie: [00:27:35] Yeah,  but yeah, so I guess the reason that this is interesting, I guess, is because we know that like at the very bottom of the ocean, we have totally different ecosystems and morphology and geology to the rest of the ocean.

[00:27:46] And, um, although I think 98% of the oceans are 6,000 meters or shallower. And, you know, so really the, the bits that we’re talking about being interested in represent 2% of the world’s ocean, but they represent a very big portion of what we don’t really know or understand, and we haven’t explored properly.

[00:28:03]um, So to do so all you need is, a Texas businessman, $37 million, and a Kiwi and an Australian who don’t mind going 11 kilometers into the ocean.

[00:28:14] David: [00:28:14] that’s right. And so they make a really interesting point, which was the two years ago, there had only been two dives ever to full ocean depth. And in the past two months alone, Limiting Factor has done nine. So this is exciting. This is exciting. And it’s just a Texan billionaire and his two antipedean mates doing something that only a government, a big corporation, or James Cameron have also done.


[00:28:36]  And thank you for listening to another fun episode of STEMology. Be sure to check out all the links to these great stories on our show notes.

[00:28:46] Go visit www.stemology.com.au.

[00:28:50]Sophie: [00:28:50] If you have any news that you think is STEM ology worthy, drop us an email stemology@ramaley.media. We would love to give you a mention, if you give us some good ideas,

[00:28:59]David: [00:28:59] Your hosts have been Dr. Sophie calabretto and Dr. David Farmer.

[00:29:03]Sophie: [00:29:03] This is a podcast from Ramaley Media.

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[00:29:09] We look forward to sharing the latest in all things, science, technology, engineering, and maths with you next week, and be sure to bring your friends.