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Holy F*cking Whaaaa?! It's the first episode of Holy Fucking Science!

This week our four panelists will be discussing the facts about minerals in an attempt to make each other stop and say, "Holy Fucking Science!"

The Panelists:

Caitlin Hofmeister -

Michael Aranda -

Hank Green -

Katelyn Salem -

KateTectonics -


Holy F*****g Science is a Podcast about science that is not for kids in which four people get together to try and astound and amaze each other with the realities of our glorious universe. Secondary goal: To make each other laugh.

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 (00:00) to (02:00)

[Holy Fucking Science Intro]

Hank: Hello! This is the moment at which we hope you will say: Holy Fucking Science! Sorry I should have let everybody say it at the same time. Everybody say it at the same time.

All: Holy Fucking Science!

Hank: That was fantastic everybody. I'm Hank, uh and I'm here with some of my friends and we have a new show that we're doing. It's called Holy Fucking Science. It's not for kids! Cuz we put it in the name there. In which people who love science get together and talk about things that they love, and the goal is everybody's bringing something to the table today that's hopefully gonna make somebody else say "HOLY FUCKING SCIENCE!" Hopefully we will surprise each other, maybe we will surprise some people at home with some things about the world, about the universe, or about the process of learning about the world and the universe that is science that will astound and amaze. And that's constantly happening, both people doing exceptional things in order to get at the data and also the data itself are always shocking me. And this has been a dream for a while and I know some SciShow people have known that we've had this idea for a long time. You know, we brought it up ages ago and we were like "this would be a fun idea" and now we're actually doing it, so it's happening. Let's introduce ourselves. We'll start with... go this way, so let's start with Kate.

Katelyn: My name is Katelyn Salem and I actually used to work for like a year or so at the DFTBA warehouse, but now I work with Michael, we're producing a geology series called Kate Techtonics and I host that.

Hank: There's the logo, on your little iPad. That's a little iPad.

Kate: It is, this is like the perfect little thing because it's not as big as that, but like still--

Hank: Still got a keyboard.

Kate: Yeah it's good. I like it.

Hank: Yeah.

Caitlin: And you write it too, you're like the creator.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

Kate: I write all the scientific stuff. We actually--
Michael: We recently hired fellow YouTuber Khyan Mansley
Hank: Oh, Khyan.
Michael: to write episodes with us. So Katelyn comes in with all the science facts
Caitlin: That's a sweet job. I would have done that job! (?~2:15)
Hank: You can't have it.
Katelyn: Seriously, if we had to choose any writer it would have, I would have wanted Khyan to do it because he's just so brilliant and so funny.
Michael: We had a meeting months ago, we were like, we need to offload some of this writing responsibility. Who should we hire? And like everybody in the room, without having previously talked about anything, we were just like, "Khyan!"
Hank: Well good for you, I should have had that idea, hired him first, but I didn't, so you can have him. I'm Hank Green, I am the creator of SciShow, host of SciShow, and producer of a bunch of different YouTube things: CrashCourse and vlogbrothers. And I should also say you have a geology degree, I have a biochemistry degree,
Katelyn: I do.
Hank: so this couch knows what they're talking about.
Katelyn: Brilliant!
Caitlin: We're the art school couch.
Michael: We went to film school.
Katelyn: That's the film side, this is the science side.
Hank: And, yeah, that's who I am.
Michael: My name is Michael Aranda. I'm a host on SciShow. I am going to be a host on CrashCourse next year. I've also sound design and music for CrashCourse for five years.
Hank: Not quite, you haven't quite got your five year
Michael: Almost, I've got two months, well, by the, when this episode airs, I will have about a month left before my five years.
Hank: Do you know about the five year present that we're giving to five year people?
Michael: I don't.
Hank: Oh, I'm not going to tell you.
Michael: Oh, ok.
Hank: It's real cool.
Michael: Ok.
Katelyn: Ooo, it's a secret.
Michael: February 20th was my start date.
Hank: Ok, we'll be sure to get that to you(?~3:43)
Caitlin: That's right by your birthday.
Michael: Yeah, um. Yeah, I do those things that I said I do.
Hank: Yeah. Cool.
Michael: Next!
Caitlin: I'm Caitlin Hofmeister, and I produce SciShow channels. And I have a degree in philosophy.

 (04:00) to (06:00)

Caitlin: And film, and creative writing. Which is why I'm jealous of Khyan.
Katelyn: All three!?
Hank: Bring it!
Katelyn: I didn't know that.
Caitlin: Yeah, I double majored in philosophy and creative writing. Which is the perfect double major, because you just write plays.
Hank: Hmm, the dialogues.
Caitlin: Yeah, exactly.
Hank: I wrote one of those once, it was a little embarrassing.
Caitin: They take up a lot of page space, so
Hank: yeah, you just. I can imagine people arguing about stuff.
Caitlin: Nietzsche said... Yup, yup.
Michael: I think some of my favorite conversations that I've ever had with you we had to travel to New York for a thing and we were just in the Uber going back to the airport and we were talking about philosophy stuff. Caitlin's good at talking about philosophy stuff.
Hank: Yeah, CrashCourse Philosophy melted my brain.
Michael: I think, I don't know if I've said this publicly yet, but CrashCourse Philosophy has been my favorite to do the post-production on because it's the subject that has tickled my brain the most as we've been going through it.
Hank: We'd really like to do more of it, but that's not what this show is about. So. I think that what will happen, is we will do this thing where we start out, talk a little bit about something, which we just did. And then we'll just go into the thing.
Michael: Okay.
Hank: And I don't know who wants to go first; we haven't established the rules. Who ate last?
Michael: I ate at about 11:45 am.
Hank: Oh, gosh!
Caitlin: Are you hungry?
Hank: Let's get you some wheat grass!
Katelyn: Is that how late it was? Cause I ate the same time that you did.
Hank: Oh, my gosh, you guys.
Michael: That's pretty typical.
Hank: Which of you finished...?
Katelyn: I feel like I finished last after you did.
Michael: Yeah, I finished before you did.
Hank: Ok, so you haven't eaten in the longest amount of time, so you should go first so that by the time(?~5:40)
Michael: After I'm done talking I can just go get a burger.
Hank: Seriously!
Michael: Yup.
Hank: Well, I'm worried that you're gonna go all the way to the end, and you're gonna be, like, "Well I have a fascinating thing...," and then you're just gonna, your eyes, you'll see sparkles and then be like, "Oh, well it's fantastic Michael's taught us about how humans need food."
Michael: ok.
Hank: You are not good at taking care of yourself. Continue.
Michael: You're right.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

Michael: I have many skills, and that is not one of them...So I'm here to talk to you today about Lithium.

Hank: I know--

Katelyn: I know what Lithium is.

Hank: I know it is the third lightest of all the elements, and I know that people, I think, just they take the element to change their mood(?~6:22).

Michael: Yeah that's--

Caitlin: Lithium is weird, yeah. Cause it's a drug, and it's a metal.

Katelyn: And it's in batteries!

Caitlin: And there's something else about Lithium-7 that's like really weird and doesn't make sense in the Universe.

Hank: Yeah, definitely in batteries.

Katelyn: Batteries! Lithium batteries.


Caitlin: Yeah

Hank: Yeah

Miahael: So Lithium is third on the periodic table. It is one of the most elementary elements in that it was one of the three that were created by the Big Bang itself.

Hank: Okay.

Michael: More of it was created in stars afterward, but that was--It was one of the OG's, and it is found fairly prevalently throughout  the Earth's crust and in the oceans.

Hank: It's a-It's stable. It's a stable thing. It's not, like, going anywhere.

Michael: Well...what I--

Hank: So all the stuff--All the Lithium that gets made is sticking around(?~7:07). Yeah.

Michael: What I read was that it's not found in its naturally occuring state on Earth because it is--it reacts with other stuff  very eaisly, so it's always tied up with other stuff.

Hank: Ahhh..Right, right, right.

Caitlin: Oh so it--

Katelyn: Needs to be bound to something else.

All: Yeah

Hank: So it's like on that side...of the table where it really wants some electrons.

Michael: Yeah, and uhh because it's so prevalent it can end up in...water supply.

Hank: Sure.

Michael: Within the U.S. it varies between being not there at all up to 0.170 milligrams per liter in--

Caitlin: Okay.

Michael:--a given water supply. And the thing that I found interesting about this was that there are a number of studies that found that communities that have higher concentrations of lithium in their water supply have measurably less suicide, less homicide, and less rape.

 (08:00) to (10:00)

H: Holey fucking science.  That did it.  That did it for me.

K: So we should be taking...

H: Why don't we do that everywhere, just like flouride.

C: Yeah, just like have people vote on it.

H: Just pop it in a little bit.

C: Cuz like, does the thing have..

H: I saw this episode of Firefly, it was the movie, cuz they did this in the movie, Serenity, not-sorry spoiler.  Did not turn out well.

C: They put lithium in the water?

H: No, they like uh, they distributed a mood calming..

C: Ooohh

H: Compound to control the populous. 

C: Like the Giver.

H: Yeah, I uh, I imagine it's all over science fiction.

C: Like just to control people.

M: Uh, so this-  I think that the big study that first found this took place in Texas and then was corraborated by studies that took place in Japan and Greece and Austria, um, and interestingly, whether or not humans knew it was the lithium, using that as a medicine has been around for a really long time.  Like, uh, in ancient Greece and ancient Rome, people would soak in mineral baths that turned out to be high in lithium as a treatment for what they called "mania."  Um, and in America, Native Americans had these lithium rich mineral pools that they regarded as holy sites because they felt that they has healing properties.

H: Mhm, well I've heard that about hot springs nearby, like chillin in the hot springs like "aw this feels so good" and then someone was like "well it's also got lithium in it" and i was like "i don't know if you're full of shit or not, and there's no way for me to tell, so put your pants on, wierdo!"

C: Did he offer you a sip of beer? That always happens to me at the hot springs.

K: That's why they're so chill at the hot springs, they're just soaking up all that lithium.

 (10:00) to (12:00)

H: Yeah, got that lithium and you're like, "I don't need pants anymore!"

C: Yeah.

H: fuck that!

M: i got lithium, I don't need pants.

H: Yeah, oh man, I've had some hot spring experiences in Montana, and it may have something to do with the lithium.

K: I've never been to the hot springs so no I don't know if I want to now.

H: You can do it with clothes on, just not like, a lot of people are naked.  And one time I was at the hot spring with some friends and we were going nudey, and uh, and some attractive young women were with me, and there's this guy who's a good looking young man, but he seemed to live there, and he- what I believe he thought was, "there's an exchange that's going to happen now, you are going to be naked in front of me, in exchange for me playing the panflute for you."  And that's what happened.  He stood at the top of the waterfall at Goldbuck hot springs, and played us the panflute, and I was like...

C: I assumed it was Goldbuck hot springs.

H: Yeah.  Yeah, probably-

C: It's probably the easiest place to live.

H: Yeah.  Yeah, yeah, you really, you don't have to leave Goldbuck.

M: That reminds me of Dark Crystal.  Remember that movie?

H: Sure, yeah.

M: Eh, the, the gelfling at the beginning, he's playing a little flute naked next to the river.  Anyway.

H: Tell me more about lithium.

C: *pantamines something*

M: I bet he did, he's naked.  Alright lithium.  So you know cocaine was an ingredient in Coca-Cola, when Coca0Cola was originally a thing, lithium was an ingredient in 7-Up.

H: Huh.

M: When 7-Up was originally a thing.

H: Why did they take that out?

M: Apparently in like the 1940s, some governing body was like, "Don't do that anymore" so lithium was banned as an additive.

H: Right a little- you know, interestingly, same similar thing.  So you can't sell a food that has medicine in it, and, just like- and the weird donut place, Voodoo Donuts in Portland got in trouble for selling a donut for people who had drank too much that had Pepto in it.

C: Oh, yeah.

 (12:00) to (14:00)

H: It had Pepto Bismol in the donut.

M: That sounds disgusting.

K: It does.

H: And they had to stop, it was quite popular.

M: Holy fucking donut.

H: That;s not- so they uh, yeah.

C: We should try to, we don't have to sell it but we should try to make that. I wanna know what that tastes like. I feel like it tastes awful. Well, the Pep-donut? Pep-donut.

H: You don't hate Pepto- Pep-donut!

M: The, the amount. So, lithium is also used as a treatment for people who have bipolar disorder,

C: Mhm.

M: or depression, and it's you know, prescribed as a pill. The amount of lithium contained in that one dosage, that one pill is, uh, over on thousand times higher than the naturally occurring amount in the highest concentration in ground water. Um, so, the amount of variance in the ground water with lithium is relatively small, there's not a lot of difference between there being none and there being this little bit. But it seems to have this profound impact.

H: Well measurable.

M: Yeah.

H: Yeah.

M: Um,

C: But, and then, are there side effects to lithium, because like, I know that-

M: Lemme just flip my notes over.

C: Yes! Tell me more.

M: A few side effects as a result of people who take lithium for, um,

H: These much, much higher

M: Depression and, yeah, high, high dose stuff.  Over 10% of people who do that experience confusion, memory loss, hand tremors, muscle weakness, and then the, the big thing is kidney damage.  Uh, it apparently causes a lot of dehydration and is really hard on the kidneys. 

So the first time that I heard about this was through Radiolab, they did an episode where they talked about elements and one of the elements they talked about was lithium, and one of the guests they had on the show was talking about how she was taking lithium for being, uh, bipolar, and it destroyed her kidneys to the point where she had to stop taking the lithium, and the show ended before she has made that transition, but it was about like, what is your future gonna look like transitioning to some other kind of medication instead of lithium?

 (14:00) to (16:00)

And they also made a good point in that thing in that we normally think of medicine as being these really complex molecules that have very specific bonding sites that they need to attach to to do their work, but lithium is just, it's just three protons, three electrons, and four neutrons, it's just this really elemental thing, and it's interesting that it has a measurable impact.

H: Cuz it doesn't matter what salt it's a part of, like it couls be any kind of lithium, as long as the element's there it's active.

M: Mhm.

H: Weird.

K: If you were to give people a smaller dose... is there any research into smaller doses? Does it still have the same effect.

M: A big, common theme in I guess a lot of the science that we talk about on SciShow is like, "We don't know we need more research." And there's not a lot of research on the mechanism that causes lithium to have the effect that it has, um...

H: It's often harder with simpler chemicals cuz they don't tend to have specific bonding sites. So they'll affect like whole areas of the brain or multiple areas of the brain, whereas, like, cannibis, it interacts with like cannibis receptors in your brain. Heroin and, you know, heroin and opioids, they interact with seratonin receptors in your brain like it's very specific what they do, but with these like, ethanol is the same way whre it's like, "We're not sure," it does like, it's a reallly simple chemical and it just, it gets in there and it does a bunch of different things and the, the aggregate effect is what we know as drunkenness.

C: Right.

M: The theory that they presented within that episode of Radiolab was that, within your brain, to send electrical signals, you use sodium, that's the thing that transmits the uh...

H: Sure, sodium and lithium.

M: Lithium is very similar to sodium, so it can do the same job as sodium, but ever so slightly not as well.  

 (16:00) to (18:00)

So it slows down those impulses a little bit. So, in a person who is suffering from bipolar disorder, if there's a part of their brain that's going haywire, the, the slower lithium acts a little bit like "shhh." And calms that down, and allows them to function normally.

H: Well as much as I love the idea of being chilled out a little bit, I don't think it would be good for my brand.

C: No.

H: I need to be, a little bit..

C: You'd need to up your caffiene intake, yeah.

H: Yeah.

C: To counterbalance.

H: Oof.  I don't wanna do that, that makes me, that makes me uncomfortable.

C: What if you go somewhere without lithium in the water?

M: Yeah.

H: So that's just a part of the earth that's getting in our bodies and making us act different.

M: Mhm.

K: Mhm.

H: I wanna know how much lithium is in the water here in Missoula.  It seems like probably a good bit, people are really chill here.

C: Probably.

K: Pretty chill.

M: Yeah.

H: Alright well, you, ate second.

K: I was the next one to finish eating.  Uh, well I obviously want to talk about the hard science.

H: Sure.

K: I wanna talk about geology stuff.

H: Uh, like literally hard.  Rocks.

K: Yeah.

H: They have

K: Yeah.

H: The rock and/or the hard place.

K: So, like, the thing that really got me interested in geology to begin with were minerals.  I love minerals.  They're, they just come in so many different colors, different shapes, and they naturally grow that way.  They're just, they're the purest form of rocks, they're the purest form of earth besides elements themselves.  Um, so when we started learning about minerals, that was my thing, that was what got me hooked on geology.  So when I think about minerals, the first thing that I think of because I use it every day is mineral makeup.

H: That's a thing that like, if I were, if I used makeup I would know what that was?

K: Yeah, just like, just picture like a little tub that has powder in it, like makeup foundation powder.

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Hank: So, that was our commercial break. This podcast's brought to you by DFTBA, NerdCon Nerdfighteria, two things that didn't pay us, but we...

Caitlin: But we like tham a lot!

Hank: ..have relationships.

Caitlin: Uhm, so, I wanna talk about something that's been on the news lately, and you guys probably already know about it, because we're in Montana, but other places, I think, need to know about it and... Um, Berkeley pit in Butte, Montana is an open pit mine, a formerly open pit mine, it's still an open pit...

Hank: So what hap... what happened in Butte?

Caitlin: Recently..

Hank: No, originally.

Caitlin: Originally, it was the richest hill in the world, because volcanoes made things happen, and there was a ton of copper, and some silver and some gold, but mostly copper. And people started mining for that, in, like, traditional, like, vein mining underground. And then once it was stripped of all, like, the good easily salable copper and other things, then they decided to have an open pit mine in the 50s, um, because then that's easier and less expensive to get the...

Hank: So basically instead of having a mountain with a bunch of holes in it, they just dug the mountain out of the ground.

Caitlin: Yeah, and then they just had um...

Hank: Now it is a.. now it is a negative mountain.

Caitlin: Yes, now it's a ne... It is! Oh man, yeah.

Michael: A valley?

Hank: Nope, no, it's a hole!

Caitlin: If you go to the or something like that. It may be .org, I don't remember.

Michael: If it's .net, it's right out.


Caitlin: But, uhm, there is like a map, a bit like a negative mountain.

Hank: And it also has, like, shafts underneath it, too.

Caitlin: Yeah, yeah... Yes, it's incredible, and it's 700 acres, which sounss huge, but that's like only mile by a mile and a half - how big it is.


Caitlin:, yes!

Hank: Took me forever.

Kate: Is it shown as a lake there?

Hank: It looks like a lake.

 (44:00) to (46:00)

Caitlyn: And so that's the thing that got me all pissed off about it. It's becauce it's been in The New-York Times recently, and all these places that are calling it a lake, and I was like: "It's not a lake! It's a pit!"

Kate: Pit! There's a very big difference!

Hank: It's a pit that is slowly filling with water.

Caitlyn: But I looked up.. I Wikipedia-ed 'lake' to be sure before I got all mouthy about it.

Hank: Yea.

Caitlyn: But.. And apparently it's like an "artificial lake", because now it's filled with water.

Hank: But not on purpose.

Caitlyn: Not on purpose. And then the 50s and into the 80s they had pumps to, like, suck the water out to keep groundwater from leeching in. And then on Earth Day in 1982 they shut off the pumps and then water's been leeching in.


Hank: Just like say 'fuck you' to the Earth, or was that like, was it like pitched as like an environmental measure? Like "oh, we're going to sto..."

Caitlyn: "We'll close the mine", maybe that's why they did it.

Hank: "We're gonna close the mine", yeah, maybe.

Caitlyn: Yeah, they closed the mine.

Hank: And also create the largest toxic waste lake in the Universe!

Caitlyn: Yes. Yeah. And so, so it's just now it's like getting higher and higher and higher. And soon it'll not only be seeping in, but it'll be seeping out, because of the way water tables work.

Michael: Didn't we have someone on SciShow talkshow who was talking about pumping the water back into the pit?

Caitlyn: We did, engineer. Yep, yep. He was an engineer in Butte, or is an engineer in Butte. So, you should go to SciShow and watch the talk show. 

Hank: It was awesome.

Caitlyn: It was awesome. So, and. But what I wanna  talk about with that is, so, yeah, I think that what's in there now. So, yeah, in 
the 80s water started getting more in there, and it's copper, aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, iron, manganese, zinc and sulfate are all in there, and it has a pH level of 2.5.

Hank: That's pretty acidic.

Kate: Eesh.

Caitlyn: Which is like a vinegar. Yeah, and so, um, so in 1995, when I first started having a crush on the Butte pit, because it's fascinating, it ate a bunch of birds.

 (46:00) to (48:00)

Caitlyn: There was a storm in November in 1995 and 300 birds came in, landed.

Kate: It's horrible!

Caitlyn: And then died. All, every single one of them died.

Kate: They was like: "Oh, lake!"

Hank: They never flew out again?

Caitlyn: They never flew out again. Yeah, and it was a storm, in November.

Kate: "Water? I like water! I'm gonna land on this!", and then...

Caitlyn: Yeah!

Hank: "My legs, my legs!"

Caitlyn: I laughed, but it's, like, horrible. The pictures are disgusting. But so then the people, who, like, work at the mine, there're still people there protecting it and keeping it safe. And what they do is they "haze" wildlife, and hazing is just like shooting at it, blasting loud noises. They're looking at- They're wanting to use lazers now to freak the birds out, to keep them from landing.

Hank: But not like... high energy zap-you lazers

Caitlin: Just like, scary, like so they- so it doesn't look like a lake to land in.

Hank: Oh, it's bright!

Caitlin: Because you could just like, a hot lasor, but just a little bit hot so like ow, my butt. That's a lot of feathers to go

Caitlin: But you'd think the only reason this happens is when it's stormy and they have no where else to go. So that was 21 years ago, and it just happened again this November which is why it's been in the news. But this time it was, like, ten thousand birds.

Hank: Oh, my god.

Caitlin: And landed and they were doing all the hazing, trying to get them out of there , and they couldn't get a lot of them out of there. Some of them left, but then they're finding them dead all over.

Katelyn: So it's just a bird death pit.

Caitlin: It's a bird death pit.(?~47:21)

Katelyn: Different kind of pit now.

Hank: Oh, snow geese are so 

Caitlin: They're snow geese and they're so pretty.

Michael: I saw that article come up and it was like, 'A Bunch of Birds Died in the Pit' And I was, like, oh, that sucks. And I clicked on it, and it was like ten thousand! I was just, like, what?

Hank: That's different than a bunch!

Katelyn: That's a lot of birds.

Caitlin: Yeah, and it's like, and I don't think ten thousand.... It wasn't like in 1995 when 360 of them, I think, something like that. 300 of them landed, and they all died. This time there was enough of them that they like got rid of a lot of them. But then they're finding them and taking them to vets and stuff and they're not lasting. And I think last I checked a couple of them, like, went to the vet and got better, or something.

[Hank laughs]

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