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Hank tells us about laser fusion, the sequencing of the gorilla genome, some evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, a revolution in gaming, and his top five Irish scientists.

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Laser Fusion:
Gorilla Genome:
Robert Boyle:
John Tyndall:
Ernest Walton:

Lasers [Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Lab]
Gorilla [Public Domain]
Meteorite [Press Photo]
Tyndall [Public Domain]
Hank: Hello, back in my office and by now you've probably figured out that when we're in here we're doing news and I have lots of cool news for you today including a revolution in gaming technology and five awesome scientists you've probably never heard of including the guy who figured out why the sky is blue.

[Intro music plays]

Hank: Now, for our first bit of news I am psyched to be able to use two incredibly amazing words in the same sentence and those are "laser" and "fusion."

Hank: And also we have possibly the coolest name for a laboratory in the world the "National Ignition Facility" which is a government-funded lab in California that is home to the world's largest laser.

Hank [voice-over]: Scientists there want to use that laser to super-heat a pellet of hydrogen until it undergoes fusion.

Hank: A couple of days ago, officials at the NIF said that within the year they'll reach an important milestone in this quest which is ignition: creating a self-sustaining fusion reaction that will generate as much power as we put into it.

Hank: But this wouldn't be a fusion story if it didn't include a big "but"--and this one has several big buts like: but they're not saying they'll actually be able to create a surplus of energy. And also, but the NIF has been saying they've been a year away from creating ignition since 2009. Also, but the National Academy of Scientists said just last week that instead of betting the farm on laser fusion the government should probably be also looking into other ways to create fusion like using giant super-heating magnets and that also sounds quite cool.

Hank: But still, laser fusion.

Hank: Alright, next, scientists said last week that they had sequenced the genome of the gorilla--the last of the great to have its genetic code broken down so that we could see who our closest relatives really are. Turns out the chimps retain the title of being our nearest evolutionary cousins. Unsurprisingly, our genes are 98.6% the same, but gorillas are close behind with a genome that's 98.25% the same as ours.

Hank: Maybe more interesting is that researchers found that 15% of the gorilla genome is way more similar to humans than to chimps and gorillas have genes that cause diseases like dementia and thickened heart tissue but those genes don't appear to actually affect the apes' health. The research team--which published its findings in the journal Science--included that gorillas probably parted ways with the human-chimp lineage about 10 million years ago.

Hank: I couldn't help but notice that the scientists didn't weigh in on when the apes will take over the planet and become our masters. Just saying.

Hank: Finally, are we all from outer space?

Hank: Okay. A new study of 14 meteorites like this one--discovered in Antarctica--found that they all contained traces of amino acids, pretty much the building blocks of our bodies: the base units of proteins. Astrobiologists at NASA's Space Flight Center have found amino acids in some meteorites before but this time they were found in meteorites that have gone through some much more extreme conditions, like, more extreme than space.

Hank: Including enduring enormous temperatures up to 1100 degrees Celsius. So this has scientists thinking about new ways that amino acids might have been fabricated from basic elements from space plus the fact that they survived such tremendous heat increases the likelihood--the scientists said--that life may have emerged elsewhere in the universe. It supports the idea that the origin of life may have been helped along by impacts from meteorites and comets. So, yes, we may all be aliens.

Hank: Alright, now if you're gaming while you're watching this you should probably stop because now we're actually going to be talking about games and that would just be too meta. Potentially a revolutionary development in the world of gaming: the invention of the first ever orchestrated game. Game orchestration is the concept that lets two players or two groups of players interact with each other at different levels. While one is playing the game, the other, called an orchestrator, is actually designing and redesigning the game in real time changing the experiences for the other player. The concept was developed by computer scientist Nicholas Graham at Queens University in Kingston, Canada and a few weeks ago, with the help of programmer Irina Schumann, he unveiled the first orchestrated game called Liberi Live.

Hank [voice-over]: Now, the guy at the top right is playing the game. There is the ball that he has to keep rolling over obstacles while picking up bonus coins and stuff while the guy playing on the flat panel on the left is changing the course for the other player.

Hank: Yeah, okay, it's not exactly Call of Duty but imagine the possibilities here. In addition to actually working your way through the game and competing with other players you actually mess with the game itself and mess with the other player. I mean, if Katherine got a hold of this she'd never let me win at anything. The technology itself is pretty awesome as well, orchestrators can change the design of the game just by flicking their fingertips across what Graham describes as an iPad the size as a coffee table.

Nicholas: The orchestrators can see a large part of the game world, but they see much more than the players do because they have this very large display and then they can use their fingers just to kind of point and drag and perform operations that will change the game world, will introduce new elements into the game world for example introduce new people or new monsters that you might be interacting with, or literally you can change the terrain of the world the person's playing.

Hank: Graham says that he hopes his team's invention will take gaming beyond the usual problem solving and shooting and open up a new level of imagination to game play.

Nicholas: What the benefit of it is is that it opens up the game to a lot more creativity. You could have people whose job it is to think of how to make the game a more interesting experience for other people. Think of that as a form of meta gaming, you know, the game is creating the game.

Hank: Oh, thanks, Nick, I definitely lost "The Game".

Hank: Of course Liberi Live isn't currently available for sale. That giant iPad the size of a coffee table probably isn't cheap, but they will be getting cheaper in the next few years.

Hank: In the meantime, his team is working on a role-playing version because of course that's what this should be being used for. All I can say is count me in.

Hank: Finally, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I would like to wrap up by celebrating some awesome Irish scientists and while you may think of Yeats and whiskey and fairies when you think of Ireland, Irish men and women throughout history have figured out some really important science stuff for which we are all grateful.

Hank: Scientists number 5: Dublin-born scientist Eleanor Maguire at the center of research using MRI technology to try and understand how the brain allows us to find our way around without getting lost and to remember the things that happened to us along the way. She won the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin award in 2008 for her research on memory and she's now developing ways of using brain scanners to help read people's minds.

Hank: Number 4: Lord Kelvin, physicist born in Belfast in the 19th century who was really into heat and did a lot of important work developing the first and second laws of thermodynamics which have, you know, turned out to be pretty important. But what Kelvin is probably best known for is discovering that there is a lower limit to temperature so he invented an absolute thermodynamic scale that scientists still use today and that's why, while you and I are using Celsius and Fahrenheit, scientists are measuring in Kelvins.

Hank: Number 3: John Tyndall. Not only did John Tyndall have the greatest leprechaun beard in the history of science ever period. He also figured out why the sky is blue. Thank you, thank you, John Tyndall, so that I can shut all of the little children up when they're asking. In the 1850s he did a bunch of pioneering work on radiant heat, the germ theory of disease, glacier motion, sound, and the diffusion of light in the atmosphere. This lead him to the discovery that molecules in a suspension scatter blue light more than red light--a dynamic known to this day as the Tyndall Effect.

Hank: Number 2: Robert Boyle. Now, there are a few guys out there who have been called the father of modern chemistry, but Robert Boyle was the first. Born in 1627, Boyle's dad was pretty much the richest dude in Ireland at the time so Boyle got to do, you know, like, whatever he wanted and apparently he wanted to do chemistry, which, you know, if I could do anything, I don't know if I would have been as good of a soul as Robert Boyle. He messed around with pressurized gasses and came up with Boyle's Law, which says that the pressure of a gas at a stable temperature is inversely proportional to its volume. But while most people at that time who called themselves chemists or alchemists who were trying to turn crap into gold, Boyle was really into chemical analysis, a term that he actually coined. He mixed together chemicals to see how they reacted with each other and typically noted every single niggling detail about his experiments right down to the direction of the wind, the position of the moon, and whether he had taken a poop that day. This experiment-focused approach to the study of the composition of substances eventually led to the founding of modern chemistry in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hank: And now, the number-one coolest Irish scientist of all time according to me is Ernest Walton. Along with his not-Irish partner John Cockcroft, Walton built the world's first particle accelerator at Cambridge University and was the first to figure out how to split an atom in a controlled process which basically gave us the nuclear technology we have today. For this he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1951 and to this day he is the only Irish person to receive a Nobel in science so that alone puts him at the top of my list.

Did I leave anyone out? Do you have a hot tip? Contact me through Facebook or Twitter or in the comments below and I'll see you in another two weeks with more SciShow News.