Welcome to STEMology – Show Notes

Season 1, Episode 33

Placebo parties, bacterial appetizers, scary smells and Biblastrophies

In today’s episode of STEMology… Sophie & dave will discuss about…

How placebo may alleviate pains, why some bacteria eat your flesh while others don’t, brain’s quick reactions to dangerous smells, and how a meteorite impact destroyed the whole city

Placebo Parties

This is clear ability of the placebos to reduce pain and other symptoms, as well as release brain chemicals, like dopamine serotonin. And so the whole idea is you take these pills, you believe that they’ll work. And then it releases some of the things that you need in order to feel like they have worked.

Vibrio vulnificus is one of the fastest killing human pathogens with a striking mortality rate of more than 50%, but not all strains of this bacteria can kill humans….. so the question becomes, why is some of these guys jerks and why are the rest of them just like real chilled out??

And the short answer is genetics

Scary Smells

This is important and in terms of sort of just health in general, survival for people. If you smell things like rotten food that smells bad and you know, we don’t want to eat, rotten food cause it’s gonna make us sick … So it does make sense. We would react more quickly to dangerous things


Remnants of melded, plaster melt minerals, including platinum, Iridium, nickel gold, silver, zircon, chroma and quartz.  But, Dave, the crazy thing is, to melt these things you need to get to temperatures like 2000 degrees Celsius, which far higher than they were able to get to in the middle bronze age.

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 s1e33

[00:00:00] David: Welcome to episode 33 of STEMology

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

[00:00:10] David: Your hosts are Dr. Sophie Calabretto and Dr. David Farmer.

[00:00:14] Sophie: in today’s episode of STEMology, we’ll be chatting about placebo parties

[00:00:18] David: bacterial appetizers

[00:00:20] Sophie: Scary smells

[00:00:22] David: and biblastrophies.

Placebo Parties

[00:00:25] Sophie this week, we’re talking about a company called Zeebo from south Burlington, Vermont who are selling sugar pills, but what’s weird about it is not that they’re selling sugar pills. It’s that they’re selling sugar pills and we as scientists don’t have to be angry at them for doing it.

[00:00:39] Sophie: No. Do you know what I have my title for this story is, and it

[00:00:42] made me laugh so much and it is so irrelevant in every way. It just says placebo Domingo,

[00:00:48] David: I enjoy it very much

[00:00:50] Sophie: Who does not love a three tenants pun about placebos anyway. Uh, Yeah. So they’re selling sugar pills. They’re selling placebos, Dave, but they’re being real [00:01:00] straightforward about it.

[00:01:01] And in fact, like, It’s part of their, marketing ploy. it’s. interesting. This is

[00:01:05] David: So their tagline is , . You are the active ingredient or you are the active ingredient, or you are the active ingredient. One of those

[00:01:13] Sophie: What about your, the active ingredient?

[00:01:15] David: You are the active ingredient.

[00:01:18] Sophie: yes. So Dave, with Zeebo effect, you can design your own placebo experience, focus on concentration, power, clarity calm and symptom relief.

[00:01:27] David: Yeah. what’s fascinating about the placebo effect is that it’s real. It’s.

[00:01:31] Sophie: Yeah.

[00:01:32] David: It’s it’s so real that when you design a clinical trial to test of a medicine works, you have to include a placebo group because otherwise you risk ruining your results because the placebo effect is in some instances, very, very powerful indeed.

[00:01:44] And it has all to do with your, not the sugar and the sugar pill that has nothing to do with it, but your expectation of what you will get from the treatment. So it’s more to do with the fact that a doctor comes to you and says, this treatment will do such and such,

[00:01:57] that creates an expectation in you of that process [00:02:00] and somehow your brain turns that into a real effect.

[00:02:03] Sophie: Like it’s literally mind over matter. You believed that you will get better. And so it’s interesting. They make an interesting point when we get into, you know, so they’ve started doing

[00:02:11] David: yeah.

[00:02:12] Sophie: Trials about like actually looking at placebos rather than including placebos in a trial, as you need to, they’re actually doing trials of placebos.

[00:02:20] But Yeah,

[00:02:21] the interesting point is like, they really only help things where you can perceive an improvement. So for example, you know, there has to be, if you have symptoms, the idea is you take these things, they improve these symptoms. Dave, just really quickly about placebos.

[00:02:34] Do you know that they do placebo surgery?

[00:02:37] David: Yeah, I know that in surgical intervention studies. Yeah. They have to. And part of that is because the extent of placebo benefit that you get has a lot to do. Like I said, with the expectation that

[00:02:48] you get, so the drama of what happens you has a lot to do with that. So that means that the following weird things are true.

[00:02:56] For example, one is that two placebo pills can be more [00:03:00] effective than one placebo pills, even though they have the

[00:03:02] same,

[00:03:03] Sophie: the same, amount of nothing or the same amount of like cellulose in them.

[00:03:07] David: Yeah, but you, as the patient, think while I’m getting two, instead of one, that’s got to be more effective. a placebo injection is more effective than a placebo pill.

[00:03:14] And so if you extrapolate that up to surgery surgery, like where you, um, you know, you go under general anesthetic and someone cuts into you. Like that’s a really dramatic thing to happen to you. So if you’re testing a surgical intervention, you need to have a really strong placebo in there because the placebo effect for that intervention is going to be really strong.

[00:03:32] Sophie: Yeah. I didn’t know that. So I was like, yeah, as you said, it’s like, they literally, they will undergo anesthesia and receive surgical incisions, but like to look like the procedure, but not the procedure itself. Dave, when for procedures, when the patient is awake physicians who imitate the sounds and sensations of the procedures or show patients a video of like the procedure happening.

[00:03:52] But it’s just like to someone else, I didn’t know that that’s not really what we’re talking about, but I went what, but yeah. So This is idea. So Zeebo, [00:04:00] so we’ve got this company who is now marketing placebos. And so I think part of it is like they work with, you know, people doing clinical trials and stuff, but they can actually, they sell to individuals.

[00:04:09] So you can go on their website and order yourself a bunch of placebo. To treat your symptoms.

[00:04:17] David: Yes. And this is a really, really interesting point, right? Because one of the difficulties. So let’s say there’s this benefit of giving people placebo pills or placebo interventions of any kinds, the difficulty with doing it is informed consent, right? Medicine operates are in for front informed consent. The doctor is a specialist who comes to you and says, in my opinion, this is wrong with you.

[00:04:39] I advise you to do X, Y or Z, but the choice is up to you. You’re the patient and informed consent is your right. Right. So that becomes difficult in terms of the placebo. Because if I have to give you the expectation that it’s going to work for it to work, like this is going to relieve your pain.

[00:04:56] If I’m telling you a lie, In order to produce the [00:05:00] effect that becomes very problematic in

[00:05:01] terms of medical ethics, right?

[00:05:05] So these guys, and they seem to have some data, which is a little bit convoluted, but lines seem to go in the right direction, answers a question, which I’ve had for a long time, which is, if you tell people we’re going to give you a placebo pill, it doesn’t really have any active ingredients, but it’s going to give you some benefit.

[00:05:22] Anyway. What happens and the answer to what happens is, and it’s in several circumstances is you get a little bit better.

[00:05:28] Sophie: Yeah. So apparently placebos have been proven to, proven, able to alleviate symptoms of things like Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injuries, several psychiatric disorders. They also listed irritable bowel syndrome, which I’ve got a problem with Dave only because it’s not a real thing. Irritable bowel syndrome is a collection of symptoms.

[00:05:45] You have digestive issues that have from something else and they’re undiagnosed. It’s not pretend that placebo is a fixing irritable bowel syndrome. cause it’s not a real, you can’t fix something that’s not real. This is just my little issue. But, Yeah,

[00:05:55] so there’s, apparently we’ve had some like proper studies done and they come out, it comes out [00:06:00] of a group of researchers in the society for interdisciplinary placebo studies or SIPS, which has nearly 200 members hailing from universities, hospitals, and research institutes across north America, Europe and Asia.

[00:06:15] And they are aiming to use multi-disciplinary tool. So there are people like neuroscientists, psychologists, cognitive scientists, historians, you know, et cetera. And they essentially want to examine the physiological and psychological mechanisms underlying the placebo effect to develop ethically acceptable methods to harness sort of this placebo effect.

[00:06:33] And so the founder of Zeebo says that they’re part of this movement. So this movement of basically using placebos ethically to treat people’s symptoms.

[00:06:44] David: which if it bears, I’m basically behind.

[00:06:47] Sophie: Yeah, for sure. Like if I, yeah. The idea of taking, you know, as in the Zeebo pills, specifically, Dave, they’ve got an inert filler called microcrystalline cellulose, which is pure natural fiber. So if you take in fiber [00:07:00] pills and they make you feel better. Although, there’s a very small amount of food color and it’s blue number three, and it’s used to give the certified kosher and halal Zeebo gelatin capsules the perfect look. So they look they’re the little blue and white capsules of printed with Zeb o and you’ll be pleased to know as well that all ingredients are sourced from and processed by a certified manufacturers in the USA. But yes, so the two studies, well there’s been a few studies, but in particular, there was one that came out of the University of Michigan,

[00:07:26] looking at non deceptive placebos. So they will presented openly as an active, and they found that the placebos reduced both subjects, self-reported feelings of emotional distress. And then also, I don’t know if you can tell me what this is Dave, but there’s they had an objective metric called the elite positive potential, which is an EEG measured neuro biomarker used to gauge emotional distress.

[00:07:47] And basically they found that taking this placebo supported genuine psychobiological effects of non deceptive placebo. So this is clear ability of the placebos to reduce pain and other symptoms, but as well as [00:08:00] release brain chemicals, like dopamine serotonin. And so the whole idea is  you take these pills, you believe that they’ll work.

[00:08:06] And then it releases some of the things that you need in order to feel like they have worked.

[00:08:11] David: That’s right. So they go on to say, and this is where I’m not sure if I agree with them because cognitive processes behind the placebo effect definitely play a role. Placebos cannot affect imperceptible phenomenon, like the size of a cancer or the kind of white cells in the blood. I don’t agree with that.

[00:08:27] and the reason I don’t agree with that, or the reason I have reason to suspect that that’s not true is because the brain actually talks to the immune system. The brain has quite a strong control over the immune system. So for example, if you present someone with a septic challenge, if you if they end up with bacteria in their bloods, then their immune system goes crazy.

[00:08:48] And the autonomic nervous system will actually act to dampen that down, like in a kind of reflex action. Like we want enough inflammation to kill the bugs, but we don’t want so much inflammation that we kill the host That kind of [00:09:00] thing. So it’s very conceivable to me that some cognitive stimulus could very well affect how the immune system is functioning and therefore affects something that’s not under our cognitive control.

[00:09:11] Where I start to agree with them is that probably goes past informed consent. It’s harder. what do you have to tell someone in order to produce an effect on their white blood cells? And can you do it while still giving them informed consent? Does the effect remain real? If that makes sense.

[00:09:28] Sophie: Yeah.

[00:09:29] Interesting. I just think this is like one of most interesting things I’ve ever, like, I’ve never thought about placebos in like a detailed way, but If you’re getting these active results and you write like, when does, oh, it’s all it’s. So we’re in muddy water Dave We’re in muddy placebo water right now.

[00:09:42] I think.

[00:09:42] David: But, um, fascinating stuff, really, really interesting. A really, really interesting idea. And as long as they stay on site, I’m with them. I think it’s a good idea.

[00:09:50] Sophie: Let’s all eat our sugar pills and feel better.

Bacterial Appetizers

[00:09:53] Sophie: [00:10:00] Dave, I’ve got a question for you.

[00:10:06] David: Yes, Sophie.

[00:10:08] Sophie: Why does some bacteria go rogue and turn deadly while others remain harmless to humans?

[00:10:15] David: Great question Sophie, a new study from the University of Central Florida has found that the environmental lifestyle of bacteria why some go rogue and some turn deadly,

[00:10:26] Sophie: it’s all about lifestyle. baby.

[00:10:27] David: it’s all about lifestyle. And here we’re particularly interested in not just any sort of nasty bacteria, but flesh eating bacteria.

[00:10:37] Sophie: I love it I just so we’re talking about Vibrio Vulnificus, which is a bacterium found in the Marine environment. So apparently Dave, thing, though, it can do a bunch of jerk things not just cause necrotizing fasciitis, which I love, which is, you know, your flesh eating, you see a bacterial infection where the flesh around like an open wound is, basically Yeah.

[00:10:55] dies and you’re being eaten alive by bacteria.

[00:10:59] Very quickly. I [00:11:00] think I have talked about necrotizing fasciitis and Jim Henson before on STEMology., which is a bit ridiculous, but, I think it came up randomly in conversation from memory. I could be lying everyone at home. Tell me if I’ve ever said anything before that is correct. But Jim, so when I was younger, there was this rumor that Jim Henson, as in like the Muppet guy

[00:11:18] died of necrotizing fasciitis.

[00:11:21] But he didn’t Dave. He died of toxic shock syndrome and related pneumonia. But Don Rickles, the comedian, Got necrotizing fasciitis, but then he had six surgeries. So Don Rickles is like, he’s quite famous. But if for everyone at home, who’s a little bit younger. He is Mr.

[00:11:36] Potato head in toy story. Um, and apparently he had to do it the, his later years he had to do his comedy from a chair because he had all these like surgeries on his leg. as his left leg got necrotizing fasciitis. Anyway, so apparently I digress. So our Vibrio Vulnificus can cause necrotizing fasciitis.

[00:11:53] So basically you don’t need to like cut yourself, swim around in one of these things, it gets there and eats your flesh also, septicemia. [00:12:00] So you can do things like eat raw oysters contaminated with this bad strain and you get septicemia, but this is better.

[00:12:07] David: and to be fair, cooked, oysters are revolting

[00:12:09] Sophie: Yeah. Like I mean, yes.

[00:12:11] David: Take your Kilpatrick. I mean, leave the bacon and the cheese, take the cooked oyster away.

[00:12:16] Sophie: Just take it away.

[00:12:17] And then that usually happens in people who have, are already immunocompromised and have underlying health conditions. So that’s not gonna happen to everyone, but the best one is as well. You can just also get like gastro. I feel like that’s, if I’m going to get anything from Vibrio vulnificus I just want the gastro, like, I’m not septicemia.

[00:12:33] I’m not looking for necrotizing fasciitis, but Yeah. So the whole idea is that Vibrio vulnificus is one of the fastest killing human pathogens with a striking mortality rate of more than 50% Dave, but not all strains of this bacteria can kill humans. And in fact, most of them can’t cause any harm or so the question becomes, why is some of these guys jerks and why are the rest of them just like real chilled out.

[00:12:59] David: And the short [00:13:00] answer is genetics. Um,

[00:13:02] Sophie: So I’m going to be honest, like having like looked at the paper, I was like, I didn’t quite understand the conclusions being drawn, but basically they collected a bunch from the Indian river lagoon, which is in east central Florida, just because like the bacteria endemic to that region, so it great region to look in, and then they sort of wanted to investigate potential genomic and ecological factors that might facilitate the emergence of these like deadly variants.

[00:13:26] And they found that like, they looked at a bunch of things and it had to do with genetics and the environment, that’s it.

[00:13:31] David: So put very simply, and I think I’m putting this very simply, they went to two sampling site.

[00:13:37] on this lagoon

[00:13:38] and on site A they found a lot of what they call the C one type of Vibrio vulnificus and it’s site B. They found a lot of the C2. Now there’s a lot of overlap between the C one strains. It turns out from their analysis.

[00:13:53] There’s a lot of analysis between the C1 strains that they found at site a and when they look at the genomes of [00:14:00] clinical strains, which is to say, strains of the bacteria that have been isolated from actual clinical cases so where the bacteria has caused disease, they see a lot of overlap.

[00:14:09] So basically this first site, the ecological environment of the first site.

[00:14:14] So all the salinity and the nutrient content of the water

[00:14:18] and all these things correlates with the genetic background of the bacterium. And that seems associated.

[00:14:27] The, eaty ones. And the reason that’s useful is because then you can start to say, well, now we can come up with some public health guidelines or maybe some guidelines for oyster fishermen to

[00:14:39] say, if these particular conditions are prevalent, then maybe you’re looking at a slightly more eaty version of bacteria being around.

[00:14:46] Sophie: And don’t sell those oysters. We get that it’s livelihood, but like don’t sell the oysters with the eaty bacteria.

[00:14:52] David: Yes. So they did this with a combination of things. They looked at the phylogenomics, which is the intersection of the fields of evolution and genomics, which

[00:14:58] was very, very [00:15:00] difficult to understand.

[00:15:01] Sophie: sure was.

[00:15:03] David: but basically that was the summary. There was all about looking at the relationship between the ecological environment, the genetics and how eaty the bacteria was.

[00:15:10] Conversely site B were more, the C2 type. They overlaps more with the C2 type, which are not easy to sight. They seem to have an environment that was conducive to raising up bacteria that were nonpathogenic. So they don’t cause disease.

[00:15:23] Sophie: They’re just like, maybe it’s just like a more positive community. They just like had better

[00:15:26] David: Yeah.

[00:15:28] Sophie: that were keeping the bacterium off the streets.

[00:15:30] David: It takes a lagoon.

[00:15:31] Sophie: It takes a lagoon to raise a bacterium.. For Everyone who would like that on a STEMology t-shirt please email stemology@ramaley.media. Yeah, no. So I thought this was, yeah, I didn’t, I’m going to be honest. I loved the idea of learning about flesh eating bacteria. And I did a little bit, but this paper was very complicated, but yeah, there you go. environment can shape people to become good or bad. It can also shape the bacteria

[00:15:53] David: Yes. And the final interesting point about the environments is that there’s likely to be a strong anthropogenic [00:16:00] influence on both of these two sites. So site a, where we had the pathogenic strain is located in a protected area where not many people from Cape Canaveral can access. So it’s not very human.

[00:16:10] Um, and that had a lot of the pathogenics where a site B experiences nutrient over enrichment, which is basically like fecal waste discharge. So because it’s in an area with more poop, the bacterium have more to eat. So there’s more nutrients in the ecosystem.

[00:16:24] So that seems to give rise to this less eaty phenotype in the bacterium.

[00:16:29] So it seems like not only is the environment important, the environment is important in the way that we influence it.

[00:16:36] Sophie: Yeah. So basically we also, in this case, people have kind of done good things. We’ve destroyed the environment by filling it with our poop, but it’s safer for us, So it’s the first time that we’ve used poop for good.

[00:16:46] David: Maybe the first time we’ve used poop for good.


Scary smell

[00:16:58] Sophie: from evil smelling [00:17:00] poop to evil smells, being processed earlier than positive smells to trigger and physical avoidance response in the human brain. Smooth

[00:17:09] David: very nice. Nailed it. First time. No difficulties whatsoever. So this is some in the research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by the Karolinska Institute, which is our favourite PNAS, which is a fairly, astute and prestigious combination of variables. And basically showing that when you smell things that have a negative valence and

[00:17:30] basically negative valence here means that we think they’re bad broadly speaking, then you avoid them.

[00:17:36] You avoid them. And the signal to avoid them comes, goes very quickly, whereas the signal to move towards something which smells nice, maybe it doesn’t happen as quick.

[00:17:45] Sophie: Yeah.

[00:17:45] So basically humans are just always about self preservation as today, even when smelling.

[00:17:50] David: Yes. That’s absolutely right. So what’s interesting about this study is it’s the first time that, well, it’s not the first time, but it’s the first time we’ve made a discovery [00:18:00] by recording activity from the olfactory bulb.

[00:18:03] Sophie: Yeah. So.

[00:18:03] I was hoping you would explain the brain things. you know, I’ve got the gist of it, Dave, but there’s some brain stuff in here that I thought you could tell us

[00:18:09] David: It’s a brain stuff. So the olfactory bulb is kind of set apart from the brain a little bit. It’s a very, very ancient part of the brain is my understanding because obviously it’s got a very, very important role.

[00:18:19] It’s smells. It’s a part of the brain that is very much larger in animals like rats and other

[00:18:26] rodents, because obviously they’re so smell focused.

[00:18:29] So basically it’s a little specialized part of the brain near the front, which is very, very plastic and lays down a lot of new neurons. And the reason it does that, because it’s very involved in not just smelling, but associating smells with memories because

[00:18:44] obviously that kind of thing is really important to our survival. The particular smell by be associated with a time, you know, we found something nutritious and delicious to eat, or the time we encountered a predator or the time that we have too many Quantros and profiteroles one Christmas and [00:19:00] puked our little tiny underage guts out. And no can’t smell those things without thinking of that time,

[00:19:04] Sophie: Like passion pop.

[00:19:06] David: passion pop sounds like something one would drink when they’re under age and immigrated.

[00:19:10] Sophie: Yeah. It was, um, Yeah.

[00:19:12] So, you know, this is important and in terms of sort of just health in general, survival for people. So, you know, if you smell things like rotten food that smells bad and you know, we don’t want to eat, run food cause it’s gonna make us sick. We smell, you know, certain chemicals that are dangerous.

[00:19:25] they’re also going to potentially cause harm. So it, does make sense. we would react more quickly to dangerous things. Just like, you know, we did a while back, we did a story about screams and we respond to sort of different kinds of screams. Although we, it was, it was a pleasure. I can’t even remember now.

[00:19:41] David: pleasurable screams. There was definitely some screaming, like you’re getting rattled going on.

[00:19:44] Sophie: Yeah. that’s right. Just constantly. . And then it was about dog screaming, I believe is where we ended up.

[00:19:50] David: What these researchers are really interested in is where is that decision made? So obviously we have these smells that we think are good and smells that we think are bad, and it’s important to determine which is which, and determine it [00:20:00] quickly. where is that decision actually made?

[00:20:02] And these researchers suspected but didn’t know that the olfactory bulb would be one of the first places. So you’ve got the neurons from the nose that go to the olfactory bulb. So it’s only a neuron, a way

[00:20:14] that the olfactory bulb would be a spot where this decision was actually made. So the decision would be made very quickly. So they made electroencephalogram recordings of the olfactory bulb for almost the first time.

[00:20:26] Sophie: So this was the novel technique bit. So apparently like the reason that we haven’t been able to do this in the past is because we haven’t had a non-invasive method to kind of measure these, the movement of these singles, but SIG Singles.

[00:20:38] signals movement signals. But now we do, can do this.

[00:20:43] David: That’s right. So people have apparently tried this before, but it hasn’t worked and they pause it

[00:20:48] a few reasons why it hasn’t worked. So basically an electroencephalogram is when you put little conductive patches on the head, or

[00:20:55] basically you put them over the area of the brain that you want to record.

[00:20:58] So you can do this of the [00:21:00] olfactory bulb. If you put them at the bridge of the nose, apparently.

[00:21:02] But there are two problems. And one of them is to do with how people have approached the experiments. And the other is just mechanical and mechanical difficulty is that people blink and they twitch, which produces electrical artifacts, which means it ruins the recording.

[00:21:16] The other problem is that people have long suppose. apparently, that most of the brain activity, most coordinated brain activity occurs in the lower band. So basically anything below 30 Hertz. So usually people chop all of the frequencies of the recording above 30 Hertz. And it turns out that might not be a wise thing to do because there may be some important activity happening above those frequencies.

[00:21:44] Sophie: right. Okay.

[00:21:45] David: So, what they did here was on a bunch of people, they put electroencephalogram pads on the bridge of the nose and made recordings for, a long time. They then omitted all the ones where the people blinked or twitched. [00:22:00] And then they looked at the correlation between the activity in these pads

[00:22:04] when they were exposed to an odor.

[00:22:06] So looked at the inhalation and then an odor was given and they looked at the correlation and activity in both the Beta and the Gamma bands. So the Beta band d is a band which really actually exists and they feature prominently in the film, high fidelity for anyone a film.

[00:22:23] So Beta is basically less than 30 Hertz.

[00:22:27] and whereas Gamma is 53 to 65 and what they found was Gamma activity was fast. It happened about 300 milliseconds after the odor was presented. And that was also associated with negative valence smells. So if you presented them with nasty smells and I tried to find out what the smells were and give a shorthand, but I couldn’t really,

[00:22:50] Sophie: I could, because I love to end up in a supplementary material section for smells. So I’ve just got some information about experiment one and experiment two. Apparently there [00:23:00] are three experiments. Never said I didn’t scroll far enough. So in the experiment one, six odorants we used listen to this.

[00:23:06] They were selected from the DREAM olfaction prediction challenge

[00:23:10] David: Oh, yeah.

[00:23:11] Sophie: Published average pleasantness ratings. So they could evenly span the entire valence dimension. DREAM is in capitals though. So I don’t know what dream stands for, but Yeah.

[00:23:20] they used, so in that one, they had, like lynalol, which is a floral with a touch of spiciness.

[00:23:26] We have I should have tried to say these before. I had to say them out loud for the first in a podcast. Yeah, ethyl butyrate, which apparently

[00:23:34] David: That’s rotten butter.

[00:23:35] Sophie: that one, apparently supposed to be like pineapple according to my searching

[00:23:38] David: Oh, really? I thought that was rotten butter. Okay, please go on.

[00:23:40] Sophie: So then we’ve got a two phenylethanol, which is a floral odor we have now this one here, who knows how to say this 1 Ohceton three. And then it’s capital OL not little ol. So I don’t know to say, oh, LSA, all, apparently that’s a strong, metallic, mushroom odor, which has meant to be, quite offensive. It could be your [00:24:00] Octanoic acid, Dave, that’s meant to be very like a rancid-like smell. rotten butter.

[00:24:05] And then they put your Diethyl disulfide, which has garlic like, so that was experiment one. Experiment two they use like, and in the pilot they use four odors, there was like strawberry, covering, which smells like a Swedish. Sweetish not Swedish sweet ish, minty smell, something they refer to as 50% fish odor.

[00:24:22] David: Nice.

[00:24:23] What’s the other half.

[00:24:24] Sophie: I don’t know Doesn’t matter, Ethanethiol , which is apparently to strongly disagreeable, but apparently there was a problem with contaminated strawberry. Like the strawberry smell was contaminated, so they only used it in the pilot and they couldn’t use it in the rest of it. But here is Dave.

[00:24:37] I have a question for you cause I then hit a sentence, which disturbed me quite a lot. it says all odors were diluted in neat diethyl phthalate. Now I know about diethyl phthalate, cause in a couple of the, sort of talked about particle image velocimetry before, when we’re talking insights of birds. But when I did a bunch of experiments, my PhD and afterwards where we were basically [00:25:00] doing some PIV, so we needed to shine a laser through these different mediums, but the problem is.

[00:25:05] you know, when light goes from air to like perspex to water, you’re going to get a change in the refractive index because it’s going to travel at a different speed. So rather than using water in this experiment, you use diethyl phthalate because that’s a good refractive index match for the, perspex, but diethyl phthalate is a plasticizer.

[00:25:22] So I’m not going to say any names, but I’m going to throw someone under the bus, slightly, a person who did these experiments one day. Didn’t rinse like they didn’t wash the experiment after we did it. And they just the sink with some residual diethyl phtalate. And we went into the lab a couple of weeks later and it had melted the perspex.

[00:25:37] It’s like a proper plasticizer. At our end. We were told like, if you breathe this stuff in too much, it’s going to ruin your baby-making organs. Like, it’s that messed up. But here, all the odors were diluted with it. So maybe diethyl phtalate isn’t as bad as they told me in the lab as a PhD student.

[00:25:53] David: So what they probably did. I don’t know, but what they probably did in this experiment was use something called a nebulizer, which is

[00:25:59] something [00:26:00] whips, the whatever fluid you put into it, entertaining a little droplets, so you can breathe them in.

[00:26:04] So the, the quantities of these things that they breathe in, were probably actually.

[00:26:09] Really small. Yeah. Yeah. Cause you’re talking tiny droplets with huge surface area. So you probably don’t need very many of them.

[00:26:16] Sophie: Okay. So it’s probably not melting your baby making organs for science.

[00:26:19] David: I don’t think so.

[00:26:20] Sophie: Cause I mean, I do feel like we need to trust the people who understand chemicals and odors to do this responsibly and it’s come out of suede. And I just feel like the suedes are pretty responsible in general. so.

[00:26:30] David: pretty chilled out.. They got, I mean, maybe they do just do the phallic stuff because it’s, you know, bad for you, but free healthcare. So just go for it.

[00:26:39] Sophie: That’s true, but yeah. Anyway, So all the information about the smells, David, buried deep within the supplementary material.

[00:26:44] David: Yeah. So basically they found two different frequencies of signal and the gamma and the beta,

[00:26:48] the gamma was fast and related to negative valence. The beta was slow and related to positive valence.

[00:26:53] So basically they’re saying this represents a decision-making process in the olfactory bulb,

[00:26:59] Sophie: [00:27:00] That you don’t even know about.

[00:27:01] David: but you don’t even know about that tells you very quickly, which one is good.

[00:27:05] And so what they also found was that when there was a gamma signal, so negative smell and a gamma signal, the person will lean back.

[00:27:14] Sophie: Yeah, I liked that ,

[00:27:16] David: And only when presented with negative valence smells would that happen. And they make a really interesting point, which is that if you’re bending over and smelling toxic fumes, it’s more important that you lean back than it is that if smell something favorable that you lean forward, it’s hard to imagine a situation where that would be advantageous.

[00:27:34] Sophie: for sure. Yeah. So basically like it is Causing you to unconsciously lean back from this like very negative smell, but yeah, you’re right. There’s like, you’ve got all the time in the world to smell good smells. You don’t need to be rushing into that

[00:27:45] David: That’s right. Just sit back, enjoy the smell,

[00:27:47] Sophie: unless terrible. In which case wrench your neck back unconsciously. but you know, thanks to this particular, this gamma band Dave. [00:28:00]


[00:28:07] David: From wrenching necks

[00:28:09] Sophie: to the biblical description of the destruction of Sodom explained by an exploding meteor..

[00:28:15] David: So this is a research team, including East Carolina Universities, Dr Sid Mitra.

[00:28:21] And they’ve presented evidence that a middle bronze age city called Tall el Hammam interestingly, a mound of Eaton ruins is referred to as Tall in Arabic.

[00:28:32] Um, and this is found in the Jordan Valley, Northeast of the dead sea.

[00:28:34] And they say it was destroyed by a cosmic airburst.

[00:28:38] Sophie: Dave. I love you found this article. I loved everything about it. So it’s we’ve got like archeology. We like a site that has like a massive palace complex. It’s got like thick walls. Monumental gateway all have been destroyed, but Dave, then we’ve got a destruction layer. It’s 1.5 meters thick it’s citywide.

[00:28:55] A destruction layer of carbon and Ash, right? Which dates back to [00:29:00] 1,650 BCE contains crazy things like shocked quartz, melted pottery in mud bricks, diamond like carbon. So remnants of melded, plaster melt minerals, including platinum, Iridium, nickel gold, silver, zircon, chroma and quartz. But Dave, the crazy thing is to melt these things, you need to get to temperatures like 2000 degrees Celsius, which far higher than they were able to get to in the middle bronze age.

[00:29:30] They could not generate fire of that temperature. So it’s like, well, what has caused this crazy layer of like superheated melted, like metals and other stuff. And they think that, as you said, it had to do with. Either a meteor impact, meteorite impacts Sorry, it’s meteorite when it hits or a bolide, which I had never heard of, which is a meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.

[00:29:53] David: Yeah, that’s right. So you’re talking about apparently asteroids or comets, which are a few to tens [00:30:00] of meters in diameter. as opposed to a shooting star, which is likely to be something smaller that burns up in the atmosphere, this is something that makes it into the atmosphere and explodes, and it doesn’t just explode, but it explodes with energy, which is thousands of times more than the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

[00:30:16] For example.

[00:30:17] Sophie: Yeah.

[00:30:17] So what they did is they, so they are hypothesized, they went, okay. So we’ve got all these things that have happened. They did a bunch of experiments going, like we need, the temperature would have to be higher. and so then. The hypothesis was the meteorite impact or the bowline, and they compared the airburst to a 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Russia 50 meter widebolide detonated. Do you know what really funny now that I read that out loud, I’m pretty sure Tunguska is a name of an Ex-files episode, which I’m

[00:30:44] David: Very possibly, believe you. it’s also worth saying, so this isn’t just some you alluded to it with the palace comment, but this wasn’t just some little village that was destroyed. So apparently Tall el Hammam was an urban core of a city [00:31:00] state that flourished nonstop for 3000 years Bronze age from 4,700 BCE until 1650 BCE.

[00:31:08] So this was a huge

[00:31:10] huge settee for the time that was just completely wiped out overnight. You also mentioned a lot of the things they found in one of the lines of evidence for, the city being destroyed by this bolide

[00:31:23] was that if it had been bad enough to kill people, they should find evidence of human remains and that did you get this?

[00:31:31] and the, what do they call it again? The shock Clair,

[00:31:33] Sophie: Destruction layer.

[00:31:34] David: the destruction layer. Yeah. So they, and they did, they found two skulls

[00:31:39] side by side and the forensic evidence suggests that the two bodies may have been decapitated, dismembered and disarticulated.

[00:31:46] Sophie: They’re the worst kind of disses,

[00:31:48] David: The worst. This is all

[00:31:50] Sophie: de’s and disses.

[00:31:51] David: and this is, and they have all happened to these same people.

[00:31:53] Sophie: Yeah. And so they’ve said also that there’s a high concentration of salt in the destruction layer, which could have ruined [00:32:00] agriculture in the area, which would then explain that the abandonment that they know that happened to more than a dozen towns and cities in the lower Jordan valley in the following centuries.

[00:32:10] David: So,

[00:32:10] for 300 to 600 years

[00:32:12] after this 120 regional settlements within a 25 kilometer radius were vacated. And apparently that’s particularly weird because this area that we’re talking about contains the most fertile

[00:32:23] agricultural land in hundreds of kilometers across Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

[00:32:28] So again like the settee being huge, The fact that this land was altogether abandoned for hundreds of years

[00:32:34] is weird.

[00:32:35] Sophie: it’s significant, it’s weird.

[00:32:36] and significant. you know, and so what they did is they went, okay, so we’ve hypothesized this, but like maybe something else could have happened. So they looked at other kinds of destruction, including volcanic or earthquake activity, wildfires, warfare, which I love, but like, it’s obviously not going to work because if we can’t make fire that hot, we’re not going to make like weapons that

[00:32:54] hot enough to a city lightning, et cetera, but basically none of these [00:33:00] different scenarios could actually explain the various lines of evidence that they had as well as the, not also, but as good a way as our cosmic impact or airburst.

[00:33:10] David: Yeah. So they had 17 different lines of evidence. So

[00:33:13] basically they made 17 different observations about this site and then compare it to these nine or 10, I think different ways that this might have been whiter. And the only ones that matched up were a bowl light. So an air burst.

[00:33:25] But also crater forming impact. So they’re not able to distinguish between a bolide that exploded in the air and one that actually hit the ground, but they reckon it was some kind of astronomical events. event, but a cosmic event.

[00:33:38] Well, not cosmic event, but something Spacey happened on earth.

[00:33:41] Sophie: something Spacey happened and everybody died, but then we get to my favorite bit, Dave quote a remarkable catastrophe, such as the destruction of Tall el Hammam by cosmic object may have generated an oral tradition that after being passed down through many generations, became the [00:34:00] source of the written story of biblical Sodom in Genesis.

[00:34:04] Now I love this, so I have not, I actually in lockdown, I started reading the Bible cause I just went, you know I have not read the Bible. And I’m like, this stories are interesting. it’s just from like a, just a narrative point of view. Very interesting.

[00:34:16] David: There’s a lot begetting at the end, the whole lot begetting.

[00:34:18] Sophie: Oh, and did you know that everyone, like at the root, at the beginning of the Bible, before we fucked God off, like everyone was like 900.

[00:34:24] It’s crazy. Everyone like real old. And then he went, you know what? You guys like 120 max, because you really pissing me off at the moment.

[00:34:31] David: Tops. And only once you figure out epidemiology.

[00:34:34] Sophie: That’s right. anyway, and so Genesis 1924 describes sulfur raining down out of the heavens and the destruction of the cities and all those living in them, as well as the vegetation and the land.

[00:34:45] And apparently, so this study is not actually trying to prove or disprove this

[00:34:48] David: Oh, yeah, they, say that in the most sciency way possible, there is ongoing debate as to whether Tall El hammam could be the biblical city of Sodom, but this issue is beyond the scope of investigation.

[00:34:59] Sophie: [00:35:00] Yeah. I love but yeah, apparently the timeline and the destruction could be consistent with these biblical events, which I just get, like, I don’t know. I just love when everything comes together, It’s just like, you know, it’s like science, as I said, we’ve got abandoned, destroyed villages.

[00:35:13] We’ve got superheated metal that they couldn’t have done. Then we have like meteorites and now we’ve got like the Bible. It’s just beautiful Dave.

[00:35:23] David: It’s beautiful, it’s a really interesting combination of elements that produces a really good story.

[00:35:28] Sophie: And then the only disappointing thing was when they did their furnace experiments, they used a differential scanning calorimeter and as we learned about Cal, you know, we had a bomb calorimeter the other week. The best kind. They use the boring one where you put your pan of nothing in your pan of something and you compare them.

[00:35:43] And I was like disappointing, but I would say probably the most appropriate for this study. just, not quite as dramatic as the bomb calorimeter, but I guess then they have exploding things from space. So that’s pretty dramatic

[00:35:54] David: pretty good, but mean, get some of that into the lab. Absolutely.

[00:35:57] Sophie: Yup a hundred percent love it.

[00:35:58] So there you go. That’s what [00:36:00] happened to Sodom. You heard it first on STEMology.