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Hank breaks the news to you about your brain on football, the reality behind the latest moon-base plan, and an epic win -- and fail -- in the animal kingdom.

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Sources:
http://www.wired.com/playbook/2011/02/duerson-suicide-brain-study/
http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v306/n2/full/scientificamerican0212-66.html
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Video:
Credit: University of Southampton/NOC
Images:
http://www.nps.gov/ever/parknews/alienspecies.htm
http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/natdiglib&CISOPTR=14038&CISOBOX=1&REC=1
http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/natdiglib&CISOPTR=11542&CISOBOX=1&REC=3
Hank Green: Hello and welcome to my office, where I spend a lot of time thinking about important questions, like "WTF?" and "how come?" and, one of my favorites, "what the frick is going on?" And the answers to those questions and many others, my friends, is right here in SciShow. And this week we’re going to be talking about your brain on football, the reality behind the latest Moon-base plan, and an epic win -- and fail -- in the animal kingdom. [SciShow intro] SEGMENT 1: CULTURE MEDIUM OK, let me start by saying that last Sunday I was watching the Giants eke out a win over the Patriots, but it is possible that I may now have to experience guilt for indulging in this national pastime of watching commercials, eating unhealthy food, and whooping when Ahmad Bradshaw sort of squatted down into the end zone with just 57 seconds left. Sorry Pats fans. Yes, it was a great game. And yes, football is a great game. A game of beauty and complexity and occasional front-flip touchdowns. But it is also a dangerous game. And this isn't just measured by bad backs and creaky knees. The life expectancy of an NFL player who plays for more than five years is under 60, and the suicide rate is 6 times higher than the national average. Suicide rate, though? That's gotta be a psychological problem, not a physical one, right? No, indeed my friends. In addition to the stresses put on these people's bodies, we can't forget the stresses that are being put on their brains. When Vince Wilfork drives his forehead into a giant wall of man-meat, there are physiological things happening. Brain cells literally stretch and contort and even tear. And when they tear, sometimes the body can't salvage them, but even if it can, the process can take months. Football players do not take months off to recover from concussions. They may not even take the rest of the game off. It's now known that getting a lot of small concussions is actually much worse for your brain than getting, like, one or two really big ones. Getting a concussion while recovering from a previous concussion is known to cause permanent mental impairment. And many NFL players have been shown, upon autopsy, to be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This disease can't be diagnosed in a living person, unfortunately -- it requires you take a slice of their brain -- but symptoms include severe depression, memory loss, aggressive behavior, and early dementia. To study this, the NFL has started a literal brain bank, a collection of the brains of NFL players, and many of them have CTE. This is not a trivial issue. David Duerson, a former Chicago Bear, wanted to keep his brain available for study by the NFL. So, when he shot himself, he shot himself in the chest. Autopsy showed that Duerson indeed suffered from CTE. The mechanisms of this disease and other degenerative brain diseases, like Alzheimer's or Lou Gehrig's disease, seem to be similar, shedding actually some light on this largest segment of 100% fatal diseases humanity faces. The physical demands on professional football players certainly have something to do with premature death. But I'm personally much more disturbed by the brain injuries. Not only do these diseases cause death, they make living miserable as well. My conscience is not clear on either count, but no amount of enjoyment by myself and my country could justify this. What I want to see more active research into the number of concussions sustained. I want to see refs enforcing stricter rules. I want accelerometers in players helmets measuring how hard they're being hit. I want mandatory bench time after concussions, rules that the NHL has already started to implement. Even with those rules in place, I don't know that I'll ever be able to enjoy football the same way again. Maybe it's time to do some research into why our idea of entertainment hasn’t evolved much since the days of the gladiators. SEGMENT 2: BOOSTER OK, and now, a Booster dose of facts to understand the science behind current events, in this case, the science of presidential politics. Now, I know that you didn't come here to talk politics -- and we really didn't plan on it -- but then candidate Newton LeRoy Gingrich went ahead and proposed a permanent Moon colony by the end of the decade. And how could we not talk about that? In a speech in Florida two weeks ago, Gingrich promised to set up an American Moon colony by the end of his second term, and yeah, he’s been getting some titters A) because Gingrich is already planning his second term, and B) politicians have been dreaming out loud about living on the Moon for decades, and yet I’m still stuck here on Earth in my Earth office instead of in my posh 1970s-style Moon-pad. Swanky! Fact is, government plans for Moon colonies go back to 1969 when humanity first set foot there, but money was too tight. Twenty years later, the first President Bush proposed building a permanent base on the Moon, too, but Congress wouldn't fund research for it. Then, in 2005, George W. Bush made a similar proposal, culminating in NASA's $100 billion Constellation Program which was also canceled because of the expense. Now, Gingrich's plan is estimated to cost anywhere from $250 to $500 billion dollars. So why would it end up any differently? Well, to be fair, two points have been lost in the coverage of Gingrich's grandiose idea. One, establishing a Moon base is ostensibly about mining, especially helium mining. Gingrich didn’t mention this in his speech, but he’s talked about it in the past as a way of making a Moon base viable. The non-radioactive isotope helium-3, which is used in things like MRIs and radiation detectors -- and which some believe could also be used for nuclear fission power -– is in short supply here on Earth. In fact, we have more on this shortage coming up in a SciShow Dose that we’ll be posting on, I think, the 21st. Now, there happens to be a lot of helium-3 near the lunar surface, but mining it in large quantities could prove challenging and expensive, especially getting it back to Earth. According to the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics (apparently Wisconsin has one of those), Moon miners would have to excavate 150 tons of lunar regolith –- that's the layer of loose dust, soil, and rock -– to obtain, like, one gram of helium-3. Yikes. The other overlooked part of Gingrich's proposal has to do with a manned mission to Mars, and it is much more practical. The idea here is offer enormous monetary incentive to the first private entity that can land a crew on Mars and return them to Earth. Enormous as in $10 billion. Under Gingrich’s Mars plan, NASA would annually allocate 10% of its budget to the fund until the total's reached. Mars Society president Robert Zubrin, who said recently, "the Mars Prize would unleash the courage and inventiveness of the American people, mobilize our technology, grow our economy, inspire our youth, and endow us with great new space capabilities." OK, so Gingrich is unlikely to be the next president. But whoever is might want to keep ideas like that in mind just because, well, I want my swanky Moon pad. SEGMENT 3: DATA POINTS Let me wrap up with Data Points, where I compare and contrast some recent developments in science. This week, we're talking about animals, who, on one hand, have been discovered in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. And, on the other, they seem to be having a miserable time where, like, old people go to retire. Point One: Scientists announced on January 10 the discovery of the deepest sea vents ever found, replete with all kinds of tiny, awesomely bizarre creatures, many of which appear to be brand-spanking new to science. The two vents were found in 2010 on the floor of the Caribbean Sea, just south of the Cayman Islands, one at a depth of 2,300 meters (1.43 miles) and the other breaking the record at a crushing 4,960 meters (3.1 miles). But in addition to reminding us that we know more about the Moon than what's at the bottom of the ocean, this discovery once again raises the bar for the ridiculousness of conditions in which we keep finding living things. The researchers, who reported their find in Nature Communications, said that temperatures near the vents are as hot as 485 °C (905 °F). Critical point: that’s where seawater stops acting like liquid and starts acting like gas! And yet, in this face-melting fog chock full of sulfides and copper, we've found new species, like a shrimp that, instead of having eyes, has a light-sensing organ on its back. Then there's Point Two: You've probably heard how thousands of invasive Burmese pythons have been plaguing my native state of Florida. Well, now they're officially out of control. A team of biologists last week released the results of years' worth of nighttime surveys of mammal activity along the roads of Everglades National Park, where critters are seen most often in python country. They found that from 2003-2011, entire species of mammal have stopped showing up. Over those eight years, the numbers of raccoon sightings dropped 99.3%, opossum observations dropped 98.9%, and bobcats 87.5%. And you don’t even want to know about the rabbits. [Mouths "Gone!"] So scientists can’t say for sure that the pythons are to blame. Who knows? Maybe all the mammals are just staying home at night because they got HBO or something. But what they have found is that mammals are more common today in areas where pythons have been only recently discovered, and the farther you get out of the python’s range, the more mammals you find. The research was published in the journal PNAS, you can find it in our citations, and this is a good time to tell you that we have a whole episode of SciShow on invasive species coming up in a few weeks, and I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I’ll just say that I get to interview a boa constrictor in person. If there's a takeaway from these two points, it’s probably that living in an incredibly hostile environment, like the deep sea, has its advantages -- namely, it seriously cuts down on the number of times you'll be eaten by a python. That's it for now. If you have a tip, an idea, or just a question you'd like us to answer, you can contact us through Facebook, Twitter, of course in the comments below. We'll see you next Friday with more SciShow news.