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Duration:07:10
Uploaded:2015-01-21
Last sync:2019-06-13 17:30
Taking a break from our Amazon Adventures to bring you answers to all of life's biggest questions! .... or, just whatever you asked me on Twitter (@ehmee) or the Facebooks.

Here's that PLOSBiology paper from 2011 about known species: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1001130

Come hang out in our Subreddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/thebrainscoop/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thebrainscoop

Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Editor, Camera:
Tom McNamara

Theme music:
Michael Aranda

Created By:
Hank Green

Production Assistant:
Katie Kirby

Filmed on Location and Supported by:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL
(http://www.fieldmuseum.org)

Thanks to the Nerdfighteria Wiki members, Martina Šafusová, and Tony Chu for transcribing and/or translating this episode. You'll be able to find them at our new theme park to thank them in person.
[intro music]

Hey everybody! We're back from Peru! I didn't die! I didn't get any diseases! That I know of...yet. I've been watching too much Animals or Creatures Inside Me and I might have worm in my eyeball. Anyway, we're going to take a break from Peru footage and answer some of your questions. 

Propitlikeithot asks, "What are the challenges in getting science to appeal to the young? We can see your show is HUGELY helpful to this. Winky face."

I really don't think we have any problem with making science appealing to "the youth." Zero. Kids, until told otherwise, are naturally curious about the world around them and how it works. The challenge is that children grow up being told by the media and by their peers that being sexy and popular are far more appealing and important traits then being inquisitive, smart, independent, creative thinkers. We're told that it's better to keep our heads down and follow the crowd than ask too many questions and risk becoming annoying, but the nature of science is all about embracing those questions.


Michael P. Owen (@owenmp) asks, "What are the biggest trends or subjects expected in museum science over the next 10 years?"

At least for natural history museums, the classification and databasing of specimens is going to continue well into the next decade. A 2011 report published in PLOS Biology estimated we've only discovered 9 to 14 percent of all life on earth, which is about 8.7 million species. One and a quarter million species are known to science so far, and even considering that taxonomists describe around 20,000 new species every year, that still leaves seven and a half million lifeforms virtually unknown. But we're getting there! In 2014 Field Museum scientists described more than 200 new species to science. Four a week isn't so bad! Left to our own devices it'll only take our scientists, if they're working alone, 37,500 years to describe them all. 


Sanai Bowman asks, "What do entomologists do in the winter?"

A lot of our entomologists study insects from all over the planet, so they get to peace out of this frigid Chicago weather for a while and go to tropical parts of the world. It's a pretty brilliant idea. The rest of them are just cataloguing and researching, which is great too.


Lauvtrekin asks, "When scientists find a fossil/animal remains/new species in the wild versus in a museum collection, who owns it?"

This really depends on who's collecting the specimen and what sort of permits or permissions they have. It also depends on the nature of the object you're collecting--whether it's roadkill, birds, insects, or archaeological remains. They're all different. If you are, let's say, a paleontologist in the United States and you find an amazing sauropod skeleton on Farmer Bob's land, depending on your agreement with Farmer Bob, he either owns all of the sauropod, will pay you for the fine, or part of a fine, or if you were there without his permission, he'll probably send you to jail. If you're Farmer Bob and you found the sauropod, congratulations! Now you get to make the decision to hire a scientist to excavate it and donate it to a museum for study, or put the fossil up for sale in an auction or in the private market. If you're a paleontologist and you're on public land, unless you have explicit permission from the government, you're gonna have a bad time. Remember, no matter what you're studying or collecting, get your forms and paperwork done. When in doubt, don't pick it up unless you have a piece of paper giving you permission.


Dredreidel asks, "What part of your daily life has changed the most since you've come back from Peru?"

Well, I no longer have to bathe in a black water river with electric eels every day. Mostly, I've noticed how truly spoiled I've been my entire life with great sanitation and working flush toilets, access to immediate and high quality healthcare, and all of the other incredible privileges I've been able to experience as a white middle class American woman. I've also dreamed about that Goliath bird-eating tarantula almost every night since I've been back...and wonder how it's doing.


Dillon Staley (@dstaley) asks, "Scariest moment in Peru?"

Well, I felt like I was taking a gamble on any food after Tom vomited the first evening at camp, so that was pretty scary. But the most legitimately frightened I felt was caused by very sudden moments. I learned that you're far more likely to smell something or hear a critter before you ever see it. And the most dangerous things are those unseen or remnant traces. Like coming across a tree scarred with the claw marks of a jaguar. You can be walking down a trail and all a sudden, despite the heat and humidity, you experience a sudden chill, and the hair on the back of your neck stands up...but you don't know why.


Mlarents asks, "What are museums doing wrong?"

We've got too much stuff and we don't know how to share it in a way that's both factual and engaging. The science conducted at museums can be awfully dense, so we're often precluded from telling certain stories, because of a fear for how the material will be received by the public. Because of limited resources, we sometimes are conservative in these attempts to reach our audiences, and we try to have as many reassurances in place that programs will be successful before we actually go ahead with them. That hesitation makes it feel as though museums aren't places of immediacy, and the lag gives the impression that aren't as culturally or scientifically relevant as they actually are. But, museums are really excited to embrace new change and experiment with things like digital media, like The Brain Scoop.


Clyde Herrington asks, "What is the best hypothesis for the attraction of nocturnal insects to light? It's just so counter to survival."

The general consensus is that we really don't know. Not enough testing or research has been conducted in order to come up with a reliable conclusion. But, it is safe to say that light pollution as it exists in our 21st century world is a phenomena that has only come into play over the last few hundred years. It could be that the lights disrupt their natural circadian rhythms, or that the frequencies put out by artificial lights disrupt their internal GPS. But we can't really know for sure.


Sara Zacuto asks, "If you could dispel one myth about what you do, what would it be?"

Probably that it's all fun and games. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of fun and games. There's also a lot of emails, financial reports, strategic planning meetings, and not nearly enough dead animals.


Casey Ellis asks, "What do you see for The Brain Scoop in the next five years? How will it grow and change?"

We're gonna have a Brain Scoop theme park. It'll have roller coasters that plunge through the digestive tract of giant model animals so that you can experience the life of food after it's ingested. There will be Emily look-alikes everywhere to smile creepily at you and say, "it still has brains on it," while posing for pictures. Dancing Soon Raccoon mascots. It'll have a restaurant called the Road Kill Cafe where we serve rejected museum specimens like moldy plants, unidentifiable fungi, and no-gos from Anna's freezer. Just kidding. Although now that sounds kind of fun. We'd like to expand our staff so that we can upload even more videos that reflect the incredible and dynamic variety of science that happens every day at the Field Museum, and start producing some merchandise. More meetups!


Magicondragonback asks, "When will there be more dissections?"

Soon! We have so much footage to get through from Peru. Anna Goldman told me she thinks she has tapirs in her freezer!


[outro music]

...it still has brains on it.