SciTech Now Episode 205

In this episode of SciTech Now, we take you into the lab to see how robots are changing the surgical landscape; the science educator, the CEO of the Planetary Society, the “Science Guy” himself, Bill Nye, joins us to talk about his new book and about his Kickstarter project to create a breadbox sized spacecraft powered by the light of the sun; Science Friday shows us how a badminton birdie’s unique aerodynamic shape makes badminton the fastest sport around; and Abalone are sea snails that graze on algae and seaweed, but overfishing and poaching have left them on the edge of extinction.

TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

COMING UP... CAN ROBOTS REPLACE HUMANS IN THE OPERATING ROOM?

TO PUT IN THESE SCREWS, YOU GOT TO DO THIS VERY CAREFULLY BECAUSE, IF YOU MISS, YOU CAN ACTUALLY TOUCH THE SPINAL CORD, WHICH IS DEVASTATING.

THE ROBOT AND THE SOFTWARE ALLOWS US TO BE ABLE TO PUT IN THESE SCREWS SAFELY.

...THE UNDENIABLE BILL NYE...

THE IDEA IS EXTRAORDINARY, AND WHEN I WAS IN CARL SAGAN'S CLASS, [Hoarsely] BACK IN THE DISCO ERA, [Normal voice] HE TALKED ABOUT A SOLAR SAIL.

...THE SCIENCE BEHIND BADMINTON...

THIS IS A KIND OF A UNIQUE SHAPE FOR PROJECTILE, COMPARING TO OTHER SPORTS.

...AND ABALONE ON THE EDGE.

IT'S A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF RESOURCES, BUT THE PROBLEM IS SEVERE ENOUGH THAT ABALONE IN THIS AREA AREN'T GOING TO RECOVER WITHOUT SOME SORT OF HUMAN INTERVENTION.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING, LEWIS B. AND LOUISE HIRSCHFELD CULLMAN, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PARTICIPATING STATIONS.

HELLO.

I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

WELCOME TO OUR WEEKLY PROGRAM, BRINGING YOU THE LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION.

LET'S GET STARTED.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE THEME-PARK CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, BUT IS ALSO HOME TO THE U.S. HEADQUARTERS OF MAZOR ROBOTICS, WHICH HAS DEVELOPED A CUTTING-EDGE SURGICAL ROBOT SYSTEM.

WE TAKE YOU INTO THE LAB TO SEE HOW ROBOTS ARE CHANGING THE SURGICAL LANDSCAPE.

[ BALL BOUNCING, CHILDREN SPEAKING INDISTINCTLY ]

SAMANTHA DENSLAW ENJOYS THE THINGS MOST ACTIVE 12-YEAR-OLDS DO.

ROLLER SKATING, RIDING MY BIKE, PLAYING FOOTBALL.

BUT UNTIL NOW, HERE PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES WERE SEVERELY LIMITED.

SHE WAS BORN WITH A DEBILITATING SPINE CONDITION.

EARLY ON, SAMANTHA'S PARENTS WERE TOLD HER SYMPTOMS WERE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT, BUT THEY KNEW DIFFERENT.

A LOT OF HER PICTURES, HER HEAD WAS TILTED TO THE SIDE.

WE GOT MIXED REACTIONS FROM HER DOCTORS AT THE TIME, SAYING IT WASN'T HER BACK.

AT A CERTAIN POINT, WE FINALLY WENT TO THE SPECIALISTS AND SAID, 'YOU KNOW, WE FEEL THAT THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG,' AND THEY DID X-RAYS AND REALIZED THAT SHE HAS DOUBLE S-CURVE SCOLIOSIS.

♪♪

SO, THAT LOOKS LIKE IT'S GONNA GO RIGHT THROUGH...

THEY TOOK SAMANTHA TO ORLANDO ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON DR. RAYMUND WOO.

SO, WHEN SHE CAME TO ME, SHE HAD A PROGRESSING SCOLIOSIS THAT WAS GETTING WORSE AS SHE GOT OLDER.

AND THROUGH A SERIES OF OPERATIONS, WE WERE ABLE TO GET HER BACK STRAIGHTER, BUT NOT PERFECT.

AND THE GOAL WAS TO BE ABLE TO DO ONE LAST SURGERY ON HER THAT WOULD MAKE HER STRAIGHT THE REST OF HER LIFE, BUT BECAUSE OF ALL HER MULTIPLE SURGERIES, THAT LAST SURGERY WAS GONNA BE EXCEEDINGLY DIFFICULT IF WE DID THIS THROUGH THE CONVENTIONAL WAYS THAT WE DO IT, WHICH IS BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS.

INSTEAD, DR. WOO UTILIZED A NEW TECHNOLOGY THAT COMBINES 3-D PLANNING SOFTWARE AND MECHANICAL GUIDANCE HARDWARE -- ESSENTIALLY, A SPINE-SURGERY ROBOT.

THE RENAISSANCE GUIDANCE SYSTEM IS A SURGICAL TECHNOLOGY THAT HELPS GUIDE THE SURGEON'S HAND.

IT TAKES THE FREEHAND ELEMENT OUT OF THE OPERATION AND ADDING A PREOPERATIVE ELEMENT, AS WELL.

IN ORDER TO SEND TO MY RIGHT L3 PEDICLE SCREW THAT I PLANNED 48 HOURS AGO, THE SOFTWARE SAYS THAT I NEED TO PLACE THE DEVICE ON STATION SEVEN.

SO THE GUIDANCE UNIT THEN ATTACHES TO STATION SEVEN ON THE PLATFORM AND LOCKS INTO PLACE.

[ DEVICE BEEPING ] SO, THE GUIDANCE UNIT'S MOVING INTO POSITION NOW.

SEE, IT'S GONNA TELL US THE ARM, AND IT'S GONNA TELL US THE TOOLS TO USE, AS WELL.

THE SYSTEMS ARMS AND TOOLS IMPLANT SCREWS, WHICH GUIDE THE RODS THAT CORRECT SPINE CONDITIONS.

THESE RODS ARE WHAT'S USED FOR SCOLIOSIS SURGERY.

THESE ARE PUT INTO THE BACK OF THE SPINE.

AND THE WAY THEY'RE HELD IN ARE WITH THESE SCREWS, AND THESE SCREWS ARE PLACED INTO THE THICKEST PART OF THE BONE TO HOLD THE RODS STILL, AND IT'S THE STRENGTH OF THE RODS AND THE SECURE FIXATION YOU GET FROM THESE SCREWS WHICH GIVES YOU THE ABILITY TO MAKE THE SPINE STRAIGHT.

NOW, THE PROBLEM IS, IS THAT TO PUT IN THESE SCREWS, YOU GOT TO DO THIS VERY CAREFULLY BECAUSE, IF YOU MISS, YOU CAN ACTUALLY TOUCH THE SPINAL CORD, WHICH IS THIS BLACK THING HERE, AND YOU CAN HAVE PROBLEMS WITH WEAKNESS, NUMBNESS, PARALYSIS, WHICH ARE DEVASTATING.

SO WHAT THE ROBOT AND THE SOFTWARE DOES ALLOWS US TO BE ABLE TO ACTUALLY PUT IN THESE SCREWS SAFELY.

GO ON. YOU'RE DOING GOOD.

SAMANTHA'S SKIN IS VERY PRONE TO BLISTERING AND TEARING, WHICH MAKES THE SURGERY EVEN MORE DELICATE.

THE OPERATION IS FURTHER COMPLICATED BY SAMANTHA'S PAST PROCEDURES.

IF YOU LOOK AT THIS IMAGE HERE, YOU CAN -- AND I'M GONNA REMOVE THE RODS.

♪♪ YOU CAN JUST BARELY SEE THAT THERE ARE ACTUALLY SHADOWS OF RODS UNDERNEATH THE SPINE, UNDERNEATH THE SKIN, AND THESE RODS ARE WHAT'S IN HER ALREADY.

OUR JOB WAS TO REMOVE THESE RODS AND TO BE ABLE TO PLACE NEW SCREWS INTO THE BONE AROUND THESE RODS FIRST.

PERFECT.

THE RISKS OF USING NEW ROBOTIC TECHNOLOGY DIDN'T SCARE SAMANTHA'S PARENTS.

EVERYTHING WAS ABOUT HER AND TO MAKE HER HAVE THE BEST QUALITY OF LIFE AS POSSIBLE, WHICH WAS OUR END GOAL.

♪♪ 'CAUSE NOT DOING ANYTHING WASN'T A REAL OPTION, SO WHEN IT CAME DOWN TO HIM TELLING US THAT HE WAS GONNA BE USING AN ASSISTANT ROBOTICS HARDWARE, I WAS ALL FOR IT.

[ MONITOR BEEPING ]

AFTER ONLY 4h HOURS OF SURGERY AND 3 DAYS IN THE HOSPITAL, SAMANTHA CAN NOW JUST BE A NORMAL KID.

BE ABLE TO DO A LOT MORE STUFF, AND, LIKE -- AND GO ON ROLLER COASTERS NOW!

IT'S EXCITING.

I'M GLAD IT'S OVER.

LIKE, IF I HAD TO, I WOULD GO THROUGH IT AGAIN.

IT'S WONDERFUL KNOWING THAT SAMANTHA DOESN'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT HER SPINE GETTING ALL OUT OF WHACK ANYMORE, KNOWING THAT SHE CAN START DOING, YOU KNOW, MORE ACTIVITIES THAT SHE WAS RESTRICTED FROM BEFORE.

KICK IT!

THE EXCELLENT RESULTS THAT SAMANTHA ENJOYS CAN NOW BE REPLICATED CONSISTENTLY FOR COUNTLESS OTHER PATIENTS, THANKS TO ROBOTIC TECHNOLOGY LIKE THE RENAISSANCE SYSTEM.

THE ACCURACY OF THE MACHINE IS OVER 99% IN OUR HANDS, AND WE'RE ABLE TO DO THE SAME GOOD JOB DAY AFTER DAY, CASE AFTER CASE.

THERE'S NO MORE A CONCERN ABOUT HAVING YOUR CASE THE LAST CASE ON A FRIDAY OR FIRST CASE ON A MONDAY.

YOU ACTUALLY CAN PLAN, ANTICIPATE, AND PREDICT THAT THIS IS WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN.

AND WE CAN DO THIS EVERY SINGLE DAY WITH THIS ROBOT.

♪♪

THE SCIENCE EDUCATOR, THE C.E.O. OF THE PLANETARY SOCIETY, 'THE SCIENCE GUY' HIMSELF -- BILL NYE JOINS US TO TALK ABOUT HIS NEW BOOK, 'UNDENIABLE: EVOLUTION AND THE SCIENCE OF CREATION,' AND ABOUT HIS KICKSTARTER PROJECT, THE LightSail, A BREAD-BOX-SIZE SPACECRAFT POWERED BY THE LIGHT OF THE SUN.

ALL RIGHT, THAT IS OBVIOUSLY NOT THE ENTIRE SPACECRAFT.

WE'LL TALK ABOUT THAT IN A MINUTE, BUT FIRST LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START WRITING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

WELL, I WAS CONTRACTED TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE, AND I WAS, EH, CLICKING AWAY ON THAT, AND THEN I DID THIS DEBATE IN KENTUCKY WITH A GUY WHO SEEMS TO BELIEVE THAT THE EARTH IS 6,000 YEARS OLD.

AND HE HAS A BUNCH OF FOLLOWERS THAT HE INDOCTRINATES WITH THIS POINT OF VIEW.

AND SO THE PUBLISHER, ST. MARTIN'S PRESS, SAID, 'YOU GOT TO CHANGE.

YOU GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT EVOLUTION.'

NOW, AS A MECHANICAL ENGINEER, [CLEARS THROAT] YOU KNOW, OF COURSE I'M AN EXPERT ON EVOLUTION.

[ LAUGHS ]

NO, I SPENT A LOT OF TIME WITH IT, LEARNING ABOUT IT, AND I'M REALLY PROUD OF IT.

I FEEL IT'S A PRIMER ON EVOLUTION.

WHY DO PEOPLE WANT TO BELIEVE A CREATIONISM MYTH OR A STORY?

I MEAN, IT SEEMS LIKE THAT TRANSCENDS CULTURES AROUND THE WORLD.

IT'S NOT JUST A MATTER OF RELIGION.

IS THERE SOME COMFORT THAT WE GET IN BELIEVING --

I GUESS SO.

YEAH, I THINK THERE'S TWO QUESTIONS THAT TROUBLE ALL OF US, AND I SAY TROUBLE -- THAT WE'VE ALL ASKED ABOUT.

THE FIRST ONE IS, ARE WE ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE?

THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION.

IF YOU HAVE THIS DEITY THAT'S PLANNING EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE -- YOU JUST GOT TO FOLLOW HIS OR HER PLAN -- I GUESS THAT'S COMFORTING.

BUT THE OTHER THING IS, WHERE DID WE COME FROM?

WHERE DID WE ALL COME FROM?

AND EVERYBODY FEELS THAT.

'HOW DID I GET HERE?

WHAT AM I DOING HERE?'

AND SO I THINK CULTURES UNIVERSALLY -- OR, LET'S SEE -- WORLDWIDE HAVE A CREATION MYTH OR STORY ASSOCIATED WITH CREATION.

AND I GUESS MY UNDERSTANDING IS PEOPLE GET A LOT OF COMFORT FROM THAT.

SO, YOU TOUCHED ON THIS A BIT, BUT WHAT IS THE DANGER IN THIS IDEA SPREADING UNCHALLENGED BY YOURSELF IN A DEBATE OR IN BOOKS?

WHAT ARE THE POLICY IMPLICATIONS WHEN A GROUP OF PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT THE EARTH IS ONLY 6,000 YEARS OLD?

WELL, FOR EXAMPLE, WE'RE ON TELEVISION, AND WE WOULDN'T -- YOU HAVE A LAPTOP COMPUTER.

WE WOULDN'T HAVE ANY OF THAT WITHOUT SCIENCE, WITHOUT THE PROCESS OF SCIENCE THAT HAS ENABLED US TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD AROUND US AND MAKE PREDICTIONS AND THEN CREATE THESE WONDERFUL THINGS.

AND SO IF YOU TRY TO TEACH PEOPLE -- I'M TALKING ABOUT STUDENTS -- THAT THE EARTH IS 6,000 YEARS OLD, THAT'S COMPLETELY INCONSISTENT WITH ASTRONOMY AND GEOLOGY AND CHEMISTRY AND LIFE SCIENCE -- BIOLOGY, EVOLUTION.

IT DOESN'T FIT IN.

IT'S WRONG, OBVIOUSLY WRONG.

AND SO THE CONCERN IS THAT STUDENTS WILL GROW UP QUESTIONING SCIENCE JUST 'CAUSE THEY HAVE TO, AND SO WE NEED -- MY ARGUMENT IS WE NEED YOUNG PEOPLE NOW MORE THAN EVER TO BE INVENTORS AND ENGINEERS AND SCIENTISTS BECAUSE WE GOT CLIMATE CHANGE COMING.

WE GOT 7.2 BILLION PEOPLE THAT ARE GONNA BE 9 BILLION PEOPLE IN THE NEXT 50 YEARS -- LESS THAN THAT MAYBE.

AND SO WE GOT TO GET TO WORK ON DOING MORE WITH LESS.

AND THAT IS GONNA BE THROUGH OUR UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE.

THAT'S WHY I'M CONCERNED.

SO, YOU MENTION THERE'S TWO QUESTIONS THAT MOST HUMANS STRUGGLE WITH.

I SAY HUMAN.

HUMAN STRUGGLES WITH OR THINKS ABOUT IS, 'WHERE DID WE COME FROM?' AND 'ARE WE ALONE?'

SO, THIS PROJECT THAT IS -- THIS ISN'T A FANCY REFLECTOR JUST TO GIVE YOU MORE LIGHT IN THE STUDIO.

THAT'S RIGHT.

YEAH, IT WORKS FOR YOU.

SO, WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT HERE?

SO, THIS IS A MODEL, A REPLICA, OF THE LightSail SPACECRAFT.

THIS IS ONE TENTH SCALE SO THIS --

THE REAL ONE'S 10 TIMES AS BIG.

WHAT'S THIS LITTLE PART IN THE MIDDLE?

SO, THAT'S CALLED A CubeSat, CUBICAL SATELLITE.

AND IT'S ABOUT HOW BIG IN REAL LIFE, ABOUT THE SIZE OF THIS TABLE?

IT'S 10 CENTIMETERS BY 10 CENTIMETERS BY 30 CENTIMETERS.

THAT'S IT.

IT FITS IN A SHOE BOX -- SMALLER THAN MOST LOAVES OF BREAD.

OKAY.

THE IDEA IS EXTRAORDINARY, AND WHEN I WAS IN CARL SAGAN'S CLASS [Hoarsely] BACK IN THE DISCO ERA, [Normal voice] HE TALKED ABOUT A SOLAR SAIL.

AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T SEEM REAL AT FIRST, BUT LIGHT HAS MOMENTUM.

EVEN THOUGH IT'S PURE ENERGY AND HAS NO MASS, IT STILL GIVES THINGS A PUSH.

AND WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THE SOLAR WIND.

THOSE ARE PARTICLES STREAMING OFF OF STARS, OFF THE SUN.

THEY HAVE ABOUT A HUNDREDTH AND THEN SOMETIMES, DEPENDING ON THE WEATHER OR ON THE SUN, A FIVE HUNDREDTH OF THE MOMENTUM OF THE LIGHT.

THE LIGHT IS WHAT GIVES IT A PUSH.

SO IF YOU HAVE A LOW-ENOUGH-MASS SPACECRAFT AND A BIG ENOUGH SAIL, IT GETS A PUSH.

AND FURTHERMORE -- AN EXTRAORDINARY THING -- IF IT'S SHINY, IT GETS PLUS VELOCITY GOING THIS WAY MINUS MINUS VELOCITY GOING THAT WAY, SO IT GETS TWO TIMES THE PUSH WHEN IT'S SHINY, YEAH.

AND SO WE FLEW LightSail 'A', AS WE CALL IT -- OUR TEST-FLIGHT A FEW WEEKS AGO.

UNDERSTAND THAT CARL SAGAN TALKED ABOUT THIS [Hoarsely] IN 1976.

[ Normal voice ] HE FOUNDED THE PLANETARY SOCIETY.

I'M NOW THE C.E.O. OF THE PLANETARY SOCIETY.

SO 39 YEARS LATER, WE FLEW OUR FIRST TEST-FLIGHT, AND NEXT YEAR, SEPTEMBER OF 2016, ON THE BELOVED SPACEX FALCON HEAVY ROCKET, WE'RE GONNA LAUNCH THE REAL ONE, THE PRIMARY MISSION, AND WE'RE GONNA GET A REAL PUSH AND INCREASED ORBITAL ENERGY, AND WE'RE ALL VERY EXCITED ABOUT THAT.

SO, WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH, JUST TO SHOW THAT --

TO CHANGE THE WORLD!

OF COURSE.

SO -- [ LAUGHS ]

ONE PLANET AT A TIME.

WELL, SO, THIS ENABLES MISSIONS TO DISTANT DESTINATIONS IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM AT VERY LOW COST.

THERE'S NO FUEL -- ONCE YOU'RE ON ORBIT, YOU KNOW?

IT GOES UP ON A CONVENTIONAL CHEMICAL ROCKET.

[ IMITATES ROCKET BLAST OFF ] THE SAIL DEPLOYS, WHICH IS TRICKY, THEN IT GETS A PUSH FROM THE SUN, AND THE DEAL IS THERE ARE GYROSCOPES, OR A MOMENTUM WHEEL, INSIDE, AND YOU CAN TWIST IN INERTIAL SPACE.

AND THE ENERGY FOR THAT COMES FROM ELECTRICITY CONVERTED FROM SUNLIGHT.

ALL RIGHT, SO, YOU'RE THE SUN.

HERE'S THE EARTH.

OH, LET'S DO THIS.

[ CHUCKLES ]

HERE'S THE EARTH.

THE SAIL WILL GO LIKE THIS, AND THEN WE'LL TWIST IT AND COME AT YOU LIKE THAT AND TWIST AGAIN.

AND IT'S TACKING JUST LIKE A SAILBOAT -- I MEAN, PERFECTLY ANALOGOUS TO A SAILBOAT.

AND THEN YOU BUILD ORBITAL ENERGY, AND YOU CAN GO TO THE MOON, YOU CAN GO TO MARS, AND THE THING IS THERE'S NO FUEL -- YOU NEVER RUN OUT.

THERE'S COMPANIES THAT MAKE PARTS.

LIKE, YOU CAN GO ONLINE AND BUY CubeSat SOLAR PANELS, CubeSat BATTERIES.

HOW THICK ARE THESE SAILS?

OH, SO, THIS ONE IS 4h MICRONS -- A 20th OF MY HAIR.

AND YOU GOT THIS CROWD-FUNDED?

YES, EXACTLY.

WE HAD A KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN, AND WE SET A COUPLE RECORDS.

I'M VERY PROUD.

THANK YOU OUT THERE, MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS.

WE DOUBLED FASTER THAN ANYBODY ELSE, AND THEN WE DOUBLED THE DOUBLING FASTER THAN ANYBODY ELSE.

WE WANTED $200,000.

WE WOULD REALLY LIKE TO GET TO $1 MILLION.

YOU KNOW, THAT'S A NUMBER, BUT IT'S A COOL ONE.

YOU GET A FREE MUG IF YOU -- NO?

EXACTLY.

NO, YOU GET A T-SHIRT AND A MISSION PATCH.

YEAH, YEAH, IT'S STYLING.

OH, YEAH, YEAH.

SO, LET'S SAY YOU'LL HAVE A MILLION BUCKS, YOU'LL PUT THIS UP NEXT YEAR, AND IT IS GOING TO SHOW OUR PLANET --

THAT YOU CAN BUILD A THREE-UNIT CubeSat FOR -- ESTIMATES VARY -- A THIRD OF WHAT NASA COULD BUILD IT FOR -- HALF ANYWAY -- AND SEND IT TO WHEREVER YOU WANT IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM IF YOU HAVE TIME.

ALL RIGHT, BILL NYE, THE C.E.O. OF THE PLANETARY SOCIETY AND AUTHOR OF THE BOOK 'UNDENIABLE.'

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

LET'S CHANGE THE WORLD!

[ KEYBOARD CLACKING ] ♪♪

HEY, I'M BRIAN LANGEL.

I'M THE CO-FOUNDER AND C.T.O. OF DASH.

AND I'M JAMYN.

I'M THE CO-FOUNDER AND C.E.O. OF DASH.

DASH IS A CONNECTED-CAR PLATFORM.

WE TAKE A SMALL, GENERIC, VERY CHEAP DEVICE.

YOU PLUG IT INTO YOUR CAR, IT PAIRS WITH YOUR PHONE, AND WE DEVELOPED THIS SOFTWARE TO TAKE DATA FROM YOUR CAR, ANALYZE IT, AND MAKE YOU A SMARTER, SAFER, AND MORE SOCIAL DRIVER.

WE SCORE YOUR DRIVING.

IT'S OUT OF 100.

IT LOOKS AT THINGS LIKE FUEL EFFICIENCY, ARE YOU SPEEDING, ARE YOU HARD BRAKING, ARE YOU BEING A GOOD DRIVER.

AND SO THERE IS A CERTAIN SORT OF REINFORCING ELEMENT THAT COMES OUT OF THAT SCORING AND THE LEADERBOARD.

WE'RE TAKING DATA ACTUALLY FROM THE CAR, AND WE'RE PULLING THIS IN AND REALLY GIVING YOU A QUANTIFIED, OBJECTIVE SCORE IN TERMS OF YOUR DRIVING.

WE'VE BOTH BEEN IN CRASHES BEFORE.

A LOT OF PEOPLE GET HURT ON THE ROAD.

ON AVERAGE, IN THE U.S., THERE ARE ABOUT 4 MILLION CRASHES EVERY YEAR.

WE'VE SAID, 'LET'S SEE IF WE CAN BRING SOME OF THAT DIGITAL PRODUCTS AND CONSUMER INNOVATION TO THE VEHICLE,' AND THAT'S WHAT WE DECIDED TO BUILD WITH DASH.

♪♪

WITH ROOTS IN ANCIENT GREECE, CHINA, AND ENGLAND, BADMINTON HAS BEEN A BACKYARD FAVORITE FOR AMERICANS SINCE THE 19th CENTURY.

WHILE THE GAME HAS CHANGED OVER TIME, ITS SIGNATURE BIRDIE HAS REMAINED THE SAME.

IN THIS NEXT SEGMENT, 'SCIENCE FRIDAY' SHOWS US HOW A BIRDIE'S UNIQUE AERODYNAMIC SHAPE MAKES BADMINTON THE FASTEST SPORT AROUND.

[ RACKET STRIKES BIRDIE, SHOES SQUEAKING ] ♪♪

WHICH OF THESE WOULD YOU GUESS IS THE FASTEST SPORT?

IF YOU SAID BASEBALL, SOCCER, OR EVEN TENNIS, YOU'LL HAVE TO CAST A WIDER NET.

CONSIDERING THE SPEED OF THE SHUTTLECOCK AT THE RELEASE AFTER BEING HIT, IT CAN REACH UP TO OVER 200 MILES PER HOUR.

YES, BADMINTON, THE SPORT MANY AMERICANS PLAY WITH A BEER IN ONE HAND NEXT TO THE BACKYARD GRILL, IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S FASTEST SPORTS.

[ SHOUTS ]

TO UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES THE BIRDIE, OR SHUTTLECOCK, FLY SO FAST STARTS WITH PUTTING DOWN THE BEER AND GOING INDOORS.

♪♪

THE WEATHER AND THE TEMPERATURE COULD ACTUALLY CAUSE THE SHUTTLECOCK TO FLY IN DIFFERENT WAY THAN EXPECTED.

ONCE INDOORS, PLAYERS SMASH, CLEAR, DROP, AND DRIVE THE SHUTTLECOCK TOWARDS THEIR OPPONENTS.

[ APPLAUSE ] IT'S A SPORT WITH ROOTS IN ANCIENT GREECE, CHINA, JAPAN, AND INDIA, BUT ITS CURRENT REGULATIONS WERE DEVELOPED IN ENGLAND AND BROUGHT TO THE UNITED STATES IN THE 19th CENTURY, WHERE THE FIRST BADMINTON CLUB OPENED IN NEW YORK IN 1878.

♪♪ THE RULES HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME, BUT THE ONE CONSTANT WAS THE SHUTTLECOCK.

THIS IS A KIND OF A UNIQUE SHAPE FOR PROJECTILE, COMPARING TO OTHER SPORTS.

THIS IS A CONE SHAPE, AND THERE ARE 16 FEATHERS.

THEY'RE MADE UP OF GOOSE.

GOOSE FEATHERS ARE CHOSEN FOR THEIR DURABILITY, BUT SOMETIMES DUCK IS USED, AS WELL.

[ DUCK AND GOOSE HONKING ] ONLY FOUR FEATHERS PER BIRD MAKE THE CUT FOR THE OPTIMAL AND UNIFORM CURVATURE, SHAPE, AND WEIGHT.

NO MATTER HOW THE SHUTTLECOCK IS HIT, IT WILL FLY NOSE-FIRST.

ALL OTHER BALL SPORTS CREATED THE BALL TO MAKE IT FLY FASTER.

THE SHUTTLECOCK IS MADE ACTUALLY TO SLOW DOWN AFTER BEING HIT.

THE FEATHERS CREATE DRAG, WHICH LEADS TO A MORE PREDICTABLE FLIGHT PATH, GIVING THE PLAYER MORE CONTROL OVER SHOTS.

SURPRISINGLY, 80% OF THE SPEED CAN BE PRESERVED.

AS THE SHUTTLECOCK DESCENDS, THE FLIGHT ANGLE BECOMES MORE STEEP THAN ITS LIFT, A UNIQUE PROPERTY FOR A PROJECTILE IN SPORTS.

THE FEATHERS BREAK EASILY, WHICH CAN MAKE THE SHUTTLECOCK WOBBLE DURING FLIGHT.

OFTEN, SEVERAL ARE USED IN ONE MATCH.

AND PLAYERS CAN EVEN ALTER THE SPEED OF THE SHUTTLE WITH SOME MINOR ADJUSTMENTS TO THE FEATHERS.

IF I WANT TO INCREASE THE SPEED OF THE FLYING, I WILL TIP THE END OF THE FEATHER INSIDE SO LESS AIR RESISTANCE ACTUALLY CAN BE ENCOUNTERED DURING FLIGHT.

JUST DON'T TRY THAT DURING A MATCH.

IT'S CHEATING.

AND DR. QIN 'ARTHUR' ZHU WOULD KNOW.

IN ADDITION TO HIS WORK IN KINESIOLOGY, OR THE STUDY OF HUMAN MOVEMENT, DR. ZHU IS A NATIONAL-LEVEL BADMINTON UMPIRE AND A TOP PLAYER, TRAINED IN CHINA.

♪♪ TO IMPROVE COACHING TECHNIQUES, DR. ZHU AND HIS TEAM WANTED TO UNDERSTAND HOW PLAYERS COULD TRANSFER THE MOST SPEED TO THE SHUTTLECOCK.

THEY LOOKED AT RACKET ANGLE, SWING SPEED, AND STRING TENSION WHEN PLAYERS HIT A SMASH.

WE SUSPENDED THE SHUTTLECOCK FROM THE CEILING, PUT THE REFLECTIVE MARKERS ON THE HEAD OF THE SHUTTLECOCK AND THE RACKET HEAD SO THAT WE CAN KEEP TRACK OF THE SHUTTLECOCK MOVEMENT AFTER IMPACT TO SEE HOW FAST THE SHUTTLECOCK WAS MOVING AND IN WHICH ANGLE IT WAS MOVING SO THAT WE CAN CORRELATE IT TO THEIR SWING PERFORMANCE.

♪♪

DR. ZHU AND HIS TEAM FOUND THAT THE FASTEST SHUTTLECOCK SPEED WAS ACHIEVED BY EXPERT PLAYERS WHEN THE RACKET ANGLE WAS 71.6 DEGREES.

RECREATIONAL PLAYERS COULD SWING THE RACKET JUST AS FAST AS EXPERT PLAYERS, BUT SINCE THEY WEREN'T ABLE TO HIT THE SHUTTLECOCK AT THAT OPTIMAL ANGLE, THEY WEREN'T ABLE TO ACHIEVE THE HIGHEST SPEEDS.

IT'S REALLY HARD TO HIT THAT ANGLE RIGHT BECAUSE...

IT'S A COMPLICATED PROCESS.

YOU HAVE TO BEND YOUR KNEES TO LOWER DOWN YOUR WEIGHT SO THAT YOU CAN JUMP.

THEN THE ENERGY IS GOING TO BE PASSED FROM THE LOWER BODY TO THE UPPER BODY AND TO THE SHOULDER, TO THE ELBOW, TO THE WRIST, AND EVENTUALLY TO THE FINGER, AND ALL THOSE ENERGY IS GOING TO BE ADDED UP, PASSED THROUGH THE RACKET TO THE SHUTTLECOCK.

TRY DOING THAT WITH A BEER IN ONE HAND.

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT -- BADMINTON, A SMASHING AND SPEEDY SPORT.

[ SHOUTS ]

WHOO!

♪♪ [ KEYBOARD CLACKING ] ♪♪

EVEN THE SMALLEST CREATURES CAN HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON THEIR SURROUNDINGS.

ABALONE ARE SEA SNAILS THAT GRAZE ON ALGAE AND SEAWEED, KEEPING THE ECOSYSTEM IN BALANCE, BUT PRIZED FOR THEIR SHELLS AND AS A SEAFOOD DELICACY, OVERFISHING AND POACHING HAVE LEFT THEM ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION.

THE EarthFix ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS TEAM BRING US THIS REPORT FROM WASHINGTON STATE'S PUGET SOUND.

WE MAY TRY TO SPAWN THEM A LITTLE BIT EARLIER THIS YEAR.

♪♪

THIS IS A FULL-GROWN PINTO ABALONE, AND THIS IS A YOUNGSTER.

♪♪

IT'S A LARGE SNAIL THAT LIVES IN THE OCEAN.

THEY HAVE MOUTH PARTS, THEY HAVE A HEAD, THEY HAVE A BODY, AND THEY'RE VERY ACTIVE.

THEY MOVE AROUND.

PINTO ABALONE ARE ALSO SHY CREATURES.

THEY HIDE BETWEEN ROCKS AND CREVICES AND AREN'T EASY TO FIND, BUT THAT HASN'T KEPT THEM OUT OF TROUBLE.

IT'S A VERY HIGH-VALUE PRODUCT, KIND OF LIKE GEODUCKS OR DUNGENESS CRAB.

IF SOMEONE WENT OUT AND ILLEGALLY HARVESTED ABALONE, THEY COULD EASILY FIND A MARKET.

♪♪

THAT DEMAND LED TO THE OVERHARVEST OF ABALONE IN THE EARLY 1990s.

IN THE LAST TWO DECADES, THE POPULATION HAS DECLINED 90%. JOSH BOWMAN AND HIS TEAM ARE TRYING TO REVERSE THAT TREND BY RAISING ABALONE IN A HATCHERY.

CAN TAKE UP TO 18 MONTHS FOR THE JUVENILE ABALONE TO GET UP TO A SIZE, ROUGHLY THE SIZE OF A QUARTER, THAT THEY'RE READY TO BE INTRODUCED TO THE WILD.

IT'S A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF RESOURCES, BUT THE PROBLEM IS SEVERE ENOUGH THAT ABALONE IN THIS AREA AREN'T GOING TO RECOVER WITHOUT SOME SORT OF HUMAN INTERVENTION.

WHAT WE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND WAS THAT IF YOU TAKE TOO MANY, THE ABUNDANCE COULD FALL BELOW A LEVEL WHERE THEY DON'T REPRODUCE.

OH, I'LL TAKE THOSE TUBES AFTER I SPLASH.

20 YEARS OR MORE WHERE WE HAVEN'T SEEN SUCCESSFUL REPRODUCTION OF ABALONE, AND IT'S BECAUSE THE DENSITIES ARE SO LOW.

♪♪

SO FAR, THE GROUP HAS RELEASED ABOUT 7,000 PINTO ABALONE IN PUGET SOUND, AND IF EARLY RESULTS ARE AN INDICATION, THEY'RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK.

PINTO ABALONE ARE NATURALLY REPRODUCING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO DECADES.

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AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

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UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

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FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING, LEWIS B. AND LOUISE HIRSCHFELD CULLMAN, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PARTICIPATING STATIONS.

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