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Hank shares news about the biggest animal in the history of ever -- blue whales -- and explains the lessons learned in a new study of human morality, using smartphones.

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Hosted by: Hank Green
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 Blue Whales Recovering

Last week I told you about Dreadnoughtus, a dinosaur that not only wins the prize for the awesomest name ever it also is the most massive land animal ever measured having some 16 metric tons. But that is nothing...nothing compared to the largest animal that ever lived and is still living today; Blue Whales are, as far as we know,the biggest creatures the planet has ever seen. Their hearts are about the size of your car; their tongues weigh as much as an elephant; they can grow up to 30 meters in length; and easily weigh up to 180 metric tons. That's three times bigger than the Dreadnoughtus!

But about 50 years ago Blue Whales were almost extinct. For much of the 20 century they were hunted in huge numbers; as much as 30,000 of them were taken in a single year. By 1966 so few were left that hunting them was banned, and now biologists say the largest single population Blue's seems to have finally gotten back to its pre 20th century size. That group sometimes known as the "California Blue Whales" now numbers 2,200 individuals and according to a study of Archival whaling records and other data that's about how many there were before Blue Whale hunting became widespread in the 1890s.

This is big news for the biggest animal in the world because it seems to show that at least one population has gotten its numbers back to pre hunting levels. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the rest of the species. Back in the early 1900s they were probably between 200,000 and 300,000 Blue Whales in the world; today there are somewhere between 8,000 and 20,000. Considering that they're the biggest creatures ever, counting Blue whales is surprisingly hard. So biologists say the new study doesn't mean that whales are out of danger, far from it. Blue Whales lag behind other protected species like Humpbacks, which are recovering faster and all whales face new threats like warming oceans and getting hit by ships, thought to be a major cause of whale deaths these days.

So lets hope that their enormous size is the only thing that Blue Whales and Dinosaurs end up having in common.

 Smartphone Morality Experiment (2:05)

Now, it's not exactly news that we use our phones and the social media on them to dish on other people, the things are basically designed to transmit and receive gossip. But now a new study has used smartphones to track human morality and it's not as creepy as it sounds, probably. It is being built as the first real time real world study of moral and immoral behavior. German and American psychologists invented an app that's basically part alarm clock and part confession booth, and they gave it to 1,200 adults in the US and Canada. Five times a day for three days the app sent an alert to the subjects and asked them to stop and report what they and others around them were up to; the subjects were asked to describe whether they had committed, saw, or simply heard about either a moral or immoral act within the last hour and they got to decide for themselves what moral and immoral meant.

The psychologists say that the results corroborate a bunch of theories about how human morality works, we've just never been able to document them in the wild as it were. First of all based on the subjects own reporting people were twice as likely to learn about immoral acts from other people than moral ones. This seems to support the idea that gossip is important social glue; by dishing on other people we strengthen our ties to the people we're dishing with and in the process we feel better about ourselves. Psychologists have actually likened people gossiping to apes grooming each other. 

Also interesting, people who said that they performed a moral act earlier in the day were more likely to admit doing something immoral later that same day. Now whether that involves searching for celebrity photos or aggressively cuddling a non-compliant kitten we didn't now but it confirms the practice of "moral self-licensing", basically giving yourself permission to be bad after doing something good. But maybe the best news of all people who reported having some active kindness to them were much more likely to perform a moral deed that day, a phenomenon known as "moral contagion" aka pain it forward.

So the psychologists say that their experiment corroborates what we already suspected about ourselves, basically we're all just a bunch of apes with cellphones.

 What if? (4:12)

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow news brought to you by, which is giving away a free audio book to SciShow viewers . Head on over to where you can download books like "What if?", serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions narrated by Will Wheaton; or practically any book for free. So