SciTech Now Episode 214

Invasive species threaten Florida’s ecosystem; professor Madhu Thangavelu discusses the future of collaborative robotics; serial entrepreneur Brian Hecht explains how emerging job search engines are altering the employment marketplace; planetary physicist Phil Metzger looks into the future of Mars exploration; and we go behind the scenes at the AMNH.

TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

COMING UP, PROTECTING OUR ECOSYSTEMS FROM INVASIVE SPECIES.

WE WILL LOSE THIS UNIQUE CORNER OF THE WORLD.

THAT SHOULD MATTER TO US FUNDAMENTALLY.

THE HIRING INDUSTRY TAKES A CUE FROM ONLINE DATING.

SO IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN LOOKING FOR A JOB, YOU CAN JUST GO ON EVERY DAY, OR YOU'LL GET A NOTIFICATION, SWIPE THROUGH A DOZEN DIFFERENT JOBS.

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED, YOU HIT A LITTLE STAR.

AND FINALLY, HOW DID DINOSAURS BECOME FOSSILS?

SO, THIS OVIRAPTORID, WE BELIEVE, WAS KILLED WHEN A SAND DUNE COLLAPSED, TRAPPING IT AS IT WAS TRYING TO STEAL OR PREY UPON THE EGGS IN THIS NEST.

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.

INVASIVE SPECIES COME IN MANY FORMS AND ARE A COMPLEX AND DIFFERENT PROBLEM.

MITIGATING THE DAMAGE THEY CAUSE ISN'T EASY, BUT SCIENTISTS ARE FINDING THAT IT IS ACHIEVABLE AS LONG AS EVERYONE DOES THEIR PART.

HERE'S THE STORY.

INVASIVE SPECIES -- IT MAY SOUND LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF A SCIENCE-FICTION MOVIE, BUT THEY'RE VERY REAL.

THERE'S TWO MAIN TYPES OF INVASIVE SPECIES.

ONE WOULD BE A NATIVE, AND THE OTHER WOULD BE AN EXOTIC.

EXOTIC INVASIVES ARE THE ONES THAT COME FROM SOMEPLACE ELSE, GET INOCULATED INTO AN AREA BECAUSE WE'VE PLANTED THEM OR INTRODUCED THEM SOMEHOW, AND THEN, EVENTUALLY, JUST KEEP GROWING SO MUCH THAT THEY START SHOVING OUT OTHER SPECIES.

WE WANT TO MAINTAIN BIODIVERSITY.

EXOTICS MAKE THINGS LOOK MORE HOMOGENEOUS.

IN SOUTH FLORIDA, GIANT AFRICAN SNAILS HAVE BECOME A MAJOR CONCERN.

THE BIGGEST SNAIL WE FOUND HERE, IT WAS CLOSE TO 7 INCHES.

THE SNAILS THREATEN NATIVE SPECIES BECAUSE OF THEIR VORACIOUS APPETITE -- THEY FEAST ON AT LEAST 500 PLANT SPECIES -- AND THEIR ABILITY TO RAPIDLY REPRODUCE.

IN SEPTEMBER 2014, ONLY IN ONE HOUSE, WE FOUND MORE THAN 4,000 SNAILS.

THEY ALSO POSE A THREAT TO PEOPLE.

THE HUMAN AND ANIMAL HEALTH THREAT HAS BEEN CONFIRMED BY THE CDC -- THE PRESENCE OF ANGIOSTRONGYLUS CANTONENSIS, WHICH CAN LEAD TO A VERY RARE FORM OF MENINGITIS, AND THERE IS NO CURE FOR THAT.

OFTEN, IT'S ANIMALS THAT GET PEOPLE'S ATTENTION.

INVASIVE SPECIES, LIKE NILE MONITOR LIZARDS, BURMESE PYTHONS, AND LIONFISH ARE WELL-KNOWN TO MANY FLORIDIANS.

BUT EVEN BENIGN-LOOKING PLANTS CAN POSE SERIOUS THREATS TO OUR NATIVE ECOSYSTEMS.

THIS PLANT RIGHT HERE IS BRAZILIAN PEPPER.

IT'S IN AMONG SOME OTHER TREES -- OAKS, ET CETERA.

I'M NOT TOUCHING IT ON PURPOSE, BECAUSE I MIGHT REACT VERY MUCH LIKE PEOPLE WOULD REACT WITH POISON IVY.

THIS IS ON THE EDGE OF A WETLAND, AND IT'S A RATHER NICE CYPRESS DOME.

I'M THINKING IT'S A BEAUTIFUL WETLAND.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT BRAZILIAN PEPPER GROWS WELL ON THE EDGE OF THOSE WET SOILS AND EVENTUALLY WILL CROWD OUT A LOT OF THE OTHER PLANTS HERE AND TAKE OVER THIS SPACE.

ALSO NOTICE, IT'S A FAIRLY EMPTY ZONE RIGHT THERE.

THAT MIGHT VERY WELL BE DUE TO THE CHEMICAL RAIN THAT COMES DOWN FROM THIS PLANT AND INHIBITS OTHER PLANTS.

THE BRAZILIAN PEPPERTREE WAS BROUGHT TO THE U.S. AS A NURSERY PLANT IN THE 19th CENTURY, BUT IT LONG AGO ESCAPED BACKYARDS AND HAS THRIVED IN CENTRAL FLORIDA.

IT'S OVER 700,000 ACRES -- PROBABLY MORE LIKE 750,000 ACRES NOW -- THAT IS OCCUPIED BY BRAZILIAN PEPPER.

AND THAT'S VERY COMPARABLE TO THE COMBINED TWO COUNTIES OF ORANGE AND SEMINOLE COUNTIES.

AS WITH MANY INVASIVES, ERADICATING BRAZILIAN PEPPER IS A DIFFICULT TASK.

TO GET RID OF THIS MEANS YOU HAVE TO COME IN HERE AND CUT THIS, PROBABLY DRAG THOSE BRANCHES OUT OF HERE, VERY CAREFULLY CLOTHED SO YOU'RE NOT BREAKING OUT IN A RASH FROM THIS CHEMICAL.

BUT THEN IT USUALLY REQUIRES SOME FOLLOW-UP, BECAUSE IT CAN RESPROUT.

AND SO ONE OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE WILL DO IS TO TREAT THAT STUMP WITH A CHEMICAL.

THAT REQUIRES SOME TRAINING AND SOME PERMITS, BECAUSE YOU CAN'T NECESSARILY JUST SPRAY THIS STUFF INTO A WETLAND.

PREVENTION IS OFTEN A MUCH CHEAPER ALTERNATIVE, BUT IT REQUIRES THE EFFORT OF MANY INDIVIDUALS.

THE AVERAGE HOMEOWNER CAN JUST THINK ABOUT THE KINDS OF PLANTS THAT THEY MIGHT BE PLANTING IN THEIR YARD -- THE ONES THAT WOULD GROW TOO FAST AND SPREAD TOO FAR.

WE CAN THINK ABOUT IT IN TERMS OF THE ANIMALS THAT WE CHOOSE TO OWN AS PETS.

WE CAN THINK ABOUT WHAT WE DO WITH THOSE ANIMALS WHEN WE'RE TIRED OF FEEDING THESE LARGE THINGS.

INVASIVE SPECIES CAN HAVE A SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC IMPACT, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY THREATEN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS.

BUT THEY THREATEN SOMETHING EVEN MORE PRECIOUS TO MANY FLORIDIANS.

WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT WHAT DO WE WANT OUR WORLD TO LOOK LIKE AND HOW MUCH DO WE HAVE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THAT WORLD.

WE HAVE TO THINK ABOUT HOW MUCH ARE WE WISHING TO RETAIN SOME OF THE THINGS THAT WE FOUND VALUABLE WHEN WE FIRST STARTED THINKING ABOUT MOVING TO FLORIDA OR WHEN WE HAD FAMILIES THAT GREW UP HERE.

THE THINGS THAT MAKE FLORIDA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD WILL BE KIND OF SMUDGED AND ERASED BY INVASIVE SPECIES FROM LOTS OF OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD THAT SHOW UP HERE.

AND SO WE WILL LOSE THIS UNIQUE CORNER OF THE WORLD.

THAT SHOULD MATTER TO US FUNDAMENTALLY.

♪♪

COLLABORATIVE ROBOTICS IS WHEN YOU HAVE A ROBOT AND A HUMAN, OR SEVERAL ROBOTS AND SEVERAL HUMANS, WORKING IN THE SAME SPACE DOMAIN, IN THE SAME AREA.

SO IT BECOMES VERY, VERY CRITICAL THAT THERE IS A CONSTANT DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE ROBOT AND THE HUMAN.

AND THE ROBOT SHOULD RECOGNIZE THAT, 'YES, THERE IS A FRAGILE HUMAN HERE.

I CAN'T SWING MY 10-TON ARM AGAINST HIM OR HER.

AND AT THE SAME TIME, I SHOULD DO HIS OR HER BIDDING WHILE KEEPING THE HUMAN SAFE.'

AND SOMEHOW THE ROBOT HAS A FEEDBACK LOOP WITH THE HUMAN, WHICH CONTINUOUSLY ASKS, 'ARE YOU OKAY?

AM I PLAYING SAFE?

IS IT ALL RIGHT?'

THE CONTINUOUS FEEDBACK GOES ON.

IF THAT HAPPENS, THEN WE THINK WE CAN INTRODUCE HEAVY EQUIPMENT WITH A ROBOTIC BRAIN NEXT TO HUMANS.

AND THEN THINGS ARE HAPPENING.

YOU KNOW, GOOGLE HAS GOT THEIR -- THEY'RE PROMOTING THEIR ROBOTIC CARS -- YOU KNOW, SELF-DRIVEN CARS.

AND GUESS WHAT?

APPLE HAS JUMPED ON THE TRAIN.

PERHAPS THE APPLE CAR WILL COME OUT EVEN BEFORE THE GOOGLE CAR.

SO THERE IS A LOT OF AUTOMATION ROBOTICS AND HUMANS INTERACTING WITH ROBOTS GOING ON RIGHT NOW.

AND YOU KNOW, IN THE MEDICAL FIELD, WE HAVE ROBOTIC SURGERY.

I MEAN, CAN YOU IMAGINE THIS?

CAN YOU IMAGINE THIS?

YOU HAVE A SURGEON OPERATING ON VERY CRITICAL FUNCTIONS OF A HUMAN BEING ON AN OPERATING TABLE.

THIS IS HAPPENING NOW.

SO WE ARE SLOWLY RELEGATING -- I WOULD NOT CALL IT AUTHORITY.

I WOULD CALL IT, WE ARE RELEGATING, UM, CONFIDENCE.

WE ARE BESTOWING CONFIDENCE ON ROBOTS.

AND IS IT A GOOD THING?

IT IS A NOT A QUESTION OF GOOD OR BAD, IN MY OPINION.

IT'S AN INEVITABLE THING.

AND IF YOU ARE IN THE ROBOTICS WORLD, THEY'LL TELL YOU ABOUT HOW HUMANS ARE CHANGING INTO CYBORGS, AND SO ON AND SO FORTH.

BUT THERE IS ANOTHER GROUP THAT BELIEVES ROBOTS ARE JUST TOOLS, AND THEY'RE GOING TO GET MORE AND MORE REFINED, THEY'RE GOING TO BECOME MORE AND MORE HELPFUL.

AND THAT'S THE SCHOOL I BELONG TO.

CAN A RéSUMé AND INTERVIEW ALONE DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT A POTENTIAL EMPLOYEE WILL BE A GOOD FIT?

A NEW GENERATION OF RECRUITMENT STARTUPS IS BRING TECHNOLOGIES FROM A WIDE VARIETY OF OTHER AREAS -- LIKE DATING, GAMING, AND SOCIAL MEDIA -- TO ACCOUNT FOR WHAT MIGHT BE MISSING ON A PAPER APPLICATION.

HERE WITH ME NOW TO DISCUSS A BURGEONING NEW INDUSTRY IS BRIAN HECHT, A SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR, A VETERAN OF MULTIPLE STARTUPS, AND ADVISER TO MANY DIGITAL COMPANIES, INCLUDING OUR OWN DIGITAL TEAM.

BRIAN HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN THE H.R. SPACE, AS WELL, BUT IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH ANY OF THE COMPANIES WE ARE DISCUSSING TODAY.

SO, I WANT TO START WITH THIS ONE CALLED HackerRank.

I'M SEEING IT DESCRIBED AS THE FIGHT CLUB FOR PROGRAMMERS.

IT'S A LITTLE LIKE FIGHT CLUB.

THAT'S RIGHT.

YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'RE HIRING ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT TYPES OF JOBS TO HIRE, SOFTWARE ENGINEERS, PROGRAMMERS -- BECAUSE IT'S VERY OBSCURE AND, FOR MOST HIRING MANAGERS, THEY MAY NOT KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- WHAT HackerRank DOES IS IT IMPORTS THE MODEL OF GAMING TO LEARNING HOW WELL PEOPLE PROGRAM.

SO, IF YOU'RE A CODER, YOU WILL GO ON TO HackerRank, AND YOU WILL HAVE A PROGRESSIVE SERIES OF CHALLENGES.

AND THEY ASSIGN YOU A HACKER I.Q. THAT CAN GO FROM A LOW NUMBER ALL THE WAY UP TO 80.

YOU CAN CHALLENGE EACH OTHER, YOU CAN DO PREDETERMINED CHALLENGES THAT PEOPLE HAVE.

AND IF YOU'RE A COMPANY LIKE AMAZON, THAT'S ACTUALLY ONE OF THEIR CLIENTS, YOU MIGHT SAY, 'I ONLY WANT TO HIRE PEOPLE WHO HAVE A HACKER I.Q. OF 60 OR ABOVE.'

WHO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SOLVE THESE QUIZZES OR PROBLEMS.

SOLVE THESE QUIZZES.

AND YOU GET TO CHOOSE WHAT YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE IS.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING.

YOU MIGHT SAY, 'I'M AN EXPERT IN MACHINE LEARNING OR IN CYBERSECURITY.'

IT'S A LITTLE BIT LIKE THE S.A.T.s.

IT'S NOT THE ONLY DETERMINANT.

BUT IF YOU'RE A TOP-LEVEL SCHOOL, YOU MIGHT SAY, 'WE DON'T WANT ANYONE WITH AN S.A.T. BELOW A CERTAIN SCORE.'

SO IT QUALIFIES THE PEOPLE, RATHER THAN MAKING THE FINAL DECISION.

I REMEMBER, A LONG TIME AGO, THERE WERE ADS IN THE BOSTON 'T' SYSTEM BY GOOGLE.

THEY WERE JUST VERY ABSTRACT MATH, A BUNCH OF GOBBLEDYGOOK -- RIGHT? -- TO MOST OF US WALKING BY.

BUT IF YOU WERE SMART ENOUGH, AND IF YOU WERE THE CERTAIN KIND OF PERSON, YOU COULD EVEN DECIPHER THE QUESTION AND ACTUALLY ANSWER IT.

WELL, THERE ARE BOOKS ABOUT THAT -- WHAT DOES GOOGLE LOOK FOR, WHAT DOES MICROSOFT LOOK FOR.

AND YOU KNOW, AGAIN, THEY'RE NOT SUBJECTIVE, BUT THEY REQUIRE A CERTAIN TYPE OF CREATIVITY.

THIS IS MUCH MORE OBJECTIVE, WHERE YOU GET A CERTAIN SCORE FOR SOLVING A CERTAIN TYPE OF CHALLENGE.

OKAY, FROM FIGHT CLUB FOR PROGRAMMERS TO SWITCH.

THE DESCRIPTION SOUNDS LIKE TINDER.

IT IS VERY MUCH LIKE TINDER, WHICH VIEWERS MIGHT BE FAMILIAR WITH.

ON TINDER, YOU LOOK FOR PROSPECTIVE MATES.

AND IT'S A MOBILE APP WHERE YOU VERY QUICKLY SWIPE THROUGH PROSPECTIVE PEOPLE, IN DATING CASE, OR JOBS, IN THE CASE OF SWITCH, TO LOOK FOR A MATCH.

AND YOU KNOW, FIRST AND FOREMOST, THIS IS A USER-EXPERIENCE PLAY.

THIS IS A STARK CONTRAST TO LOOKING THROUGH THE OLD JOB BOARDS OR EVEN ON LinkedIn, LOOKING FOR CONNECTIONS, WHICH IS A LOT OF WORK.

THEY CALL THIS A PUSH PLATFORM.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO OUT AND LOOK FOR JOBS.

THEY COME TO YOU.

SO IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN LOOKING FOR A JOB, YOU CAN JUST GO ON EVERY DAY, OR YOU'LL GET A NOTIFICATION.

SWIPE THROUGH A DOZEN DIFFERENT JOBS.

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED, YOU HIT A LITTLE STAR.

IF THE HIRING COMPANY IS ALSO INTERESTED IN YOU, THEY GET TO SEE YOU.

AND THEN IF THEY HIT A STAR, ONLY THEN ARE YOU REVEALED TO EACH OTHER.

[ CHUCKLES ]

SO IT'S A LITTLE BIT LIKE SECRET DATING, YOU KNOW, IN THE DARK OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

RIGHT. AND PLUS, YOUR EMPLOYER DOESN'T NECESSARILY KNOW WHO YOU'RE...

THAT'S RIGHT, THEY BLOCK OUT THE EMPLOYER.

AND ESPECIALLY SINCE THERE'S SOME SENSITIVE INFORMATION ON THERE, YOU MIGHT PUT IN WHAT YOUR TARGET SALARY IS, WHICH IS SOMETHING IF, IN AN IN-PERSON INTERVIEW, YOU MIGHT NOT SHARE ON THE FIRST DATE, SO TO SPEAK.

OKAY.

BUT BECAUSE THERE'S A CERTAIN DEGREE OF ANONYMITY HERE, YOU'RE ALLOWED TO SHOW THAT.

OKAY, ANOTHER VERSION OF THIS, ELEVATED CAREERS.

WHAT DO THEY DO?

YEAH, THAT'S NOT A STARTUP.

IT'S WITHIN A BIGGER COMPANY CALLED eHARMONY, WHICH IS ONE OF THE LEADERS IN DATING.

AND ACCORDING TO THEIR STATISTICS, 70% OF AMERICANS ARE UNHAPPY IN THEIR JOBS.

AND WE'VE ALL HEARD THE SAYING THAT PEOPLE -- IT'S NOT SO MUCH THAT THEY DON'T LIKE THEIR JOB, THEY DON'T LIKE THEIR BOSS.

SO THEY REALLY FOCUS ON THE SAME ELEMENTS WITH COMPATIBILITY THAT THEY ADVERTISE -- WE'VE SEEN THOSE ADVERTISEMENTS -- FOR DATING AND FOR MARRIAGE.

SO IT'S A COMBINATION OF YOUR SKILLS, YOUR VALUES, YOUR CULTURE, AND YOUR PERSONALITY.

SO, WHAT'S ALSO INTERESTING ABOUT THIS IS IT'S NOT JUST FOR LOOKING FOR JOBS.

IT'S ALSO TO TEST THE COMPATIBILITY WITH THE COMPANY THAT YOU'RE ACTUALLY WORKING FOR.

SO, IF YOU'RE AN EMPLOYEE, YOU GO AND YOU CREATE A PROFILE ACROSS ALL THESE DIFFERENT ALGORITHMIC VARIABLES.

AND IT TELLS YOU -- IT GIVES YOU A RANK AS TO HOW WELL SUITED YOU ARE FOR THE COMPANY EITHER THAT YOU WORKING FOR OR THAT YOU TO BE WORKING FOR.

YOU KNOW, THIS ALSO MAKES ME SAY, 'OKAY, ON THE FLIP SIDE, I WAS PROBABLY SUPPOSED TO BE A CIRCUS CLOWN -- RIGHT? -- WHEN I TOOK THE SURVEY IN HIGH SCHOOL.'

YOU SAID IT, NOT ME.

RIGHT, SO, WHAT ABOUT THAT KIND OF HUMAN INSTINCT AND IN THAT INTERVIEWING PROCESS?

WHERE DOES THE GUT COME IN AND SAY, 'YOU KNOW, THIS PERSON DOESN'T READ WELL ON PAPER.

I GOT TO GIVE THEM A SHOT, BECAUSE I JUST SEE SOME POTENTIAL'?

WELL, THAT'S BOTH THE OPPORTUNITY AND THE DANGER, RIGHT?

SO, THE OPPORTUNITY IS OBVIOUSLY BOTH QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE.

YOU GET TO SEE MORE CANDIDATES, YOU GET ALL THESE EXTRA ALGORITHMS THAT TELL YOU IF THEY'RE A GOOD FIT.

IN THE END, THE DECISION SORT OF ALWAYS COMES DOWN TO AN INTERVIEW.

YOU KIND OF HAVE TO MEET THESE PEOPLE.

AND THAT'S A GOOD THING, BECAUSE THERE'S TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS FOR THAT, AS WELL.

THERE'S SOME COMPANIES CALLED PICK THE INTERVIEW, AND A FEW OTHERS, WHERE YOU CAN INTERVIEW REMOTELY OR YOU CAN HAVE A WHOLE TEAM COLLABORATE ON AN INTERVIEW.

BUT IT DOES COME DOWN TO AN INTERVIEW.

YOU BRING UP AN INTERESTING RISK, THOUGH, IS THAT WHAT HAPPENS IF THESE SYSTEMS SCREEN OUT SOMEONE WHO YOU MIGHT OTHERWISE LIKE TO HAVE MET.

AND I DON'T THINK THEY'VE FIGURED THAT OUT QUITE YET.

ALL RIGHT, BRIAN HECHT, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

♪♪

UP NEXT, REPORTER ANDREA VASQUEZ HAS AN INTERVIEW VIA GOOGLE HANGOUTS.

MARS IS THE NEXT MAJOR DESTINATION IN SPACE TRAVEL.

AND IT'S GOING TO TAKE A NEW GENERATION OF BUDDING SCIENTISTS TO GET US THERE.

THE MARS GENERATION IS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION FOCUSED ON EDUCATING AND EXCITING KIDS AND ADULTS ABOUT DEEP-SPACE EXPLORATION.

JOINING ME IS DR. PHIL METZGER, A PLANETARY PHYSICIST AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA SPACE INSTITUTE, FORMER NASA SCIENTIST AT THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, AND AN ADVISER FOR THE MARS GENERATION.

WHAT IS THE MARS GENERATION?

THE MARS GENERATION IS A NEW NONPROFIT FOUNDATION WHICH WAS FOUNDED TO EXPAND THE EFFORTS OF ABIGAIL HARRISON.

SHE'S A YOUNG WOMAN WHO'S A FRESHMAN IN COLLEGE NOW AT WELLESLEY COLLEGE.

AND SHE IS KNOWN ON THE INTERNET AS ASTRONAUT ABBY.

SO, ABBY HAS BEEN GOING AROUND FOR MANY YEARS, PASSIONATELY TRYING TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SPACE EXPLORATION, ABOUT HOW IT'S IMPORTANT, AND USING THAT AS LEVERAGE TO GET YOUNG PEOPLE EXCITED ABOUT SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATH -- WHAT WE CALL THE S.T.E.M. FIELDS.

SO, WHAT'S YOUR ROLE IN THE MARS GENERATION?

SO, I'M ON THE ADVISORY PANEL, AND I'M REALLY EXCITED AND VERY HONORED TO BE ON THAT PANEL.

I GOT TO KNOW ABBY THROUGH THE INTERNET.

SHE COMES TO THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER EVERY NOW AND THEN FOR LAUNCHES.

AND I RECENTLY RETIRED FROM NASA.

I RETIRED EARLY.

AND I'M NOW AT THE UNIVERSITY THAT'S NEXT DOOR TO THE SPACE CENTER.

AND SO WHENEVER SHE CAME DOWN, I WOULD CONTACT HER AND SAY, 'I'D LIKE TO MEET UP.'

ONE TIME, I BROUGHT HER OUT TO THE LABORATORY AT THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER THAT I HAD HELPED FOUND.

IT'S CALLED THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER SWAMP WORKS, WHERE WE DEVELOP TECHNOLOGIES FOR LIVING OFF THE LAND ON MARS.

AND I TOLD HER, 'WELL, WHEN YOU GO TO MARS, THESE ARE THE TECHNOLOGIES THAT YOU'RE GOING TO BE USING.'

IS ABBY'S GENERATION REALLY THE MARS GENERATION?

DO YOU THINK SHE'LL GO TO MARS?

OH, YEAH, ABSOLUTELY.

I'M SURE OF IT.

WE ARE REALLY CLOSE TO BEING ABLE TO GO TO MARS NOW.

WE DON'T QUITE HAVE ALL THE TECHNOLOGIES FINISHED, BUT WE KNOW WHAT WE ARE WORKING ON, WHAT WE HAVE TO FINISH IN ORDER TO GET THERE.

WE'RE AIMING RIGHT NOW TO SEND PEOPLE TO MARS IN THE 2030s.

SO, THEREFORE, ALL THE YOUNG PEOPLE LISTENING TO THIS, YOU'RE ALL IN THE RIGHT AGE.

AND THEREFORE, GO STUDY REALLY HARD IN SCHOOL, BECAUSE YOU COULD BE ON THAT MISSION.

OR YOU COULD BUILD THE SPACECRAFT THAT'S GOING TO TAKE SOMEBODY TO MARS.

OR YOU COULD BE THE SCIENTIST THAT STUDIES THE ROCKS THAT ARE BROUGHT BACK.

SO, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

WILL HUMANS EVENTUALLY SETTLE ON MARS?

I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT WE WILL, YEP.

BUT LET ME EXPLAIN WHY I'M SO CONFIDENT.

IF WE WERE JUST GOING TO GO TO MARS AND CARRY EVERYTHING WITH US AND PLOP IT DOWN ON THE SURFACE AND TRY TO SURVIVE, IT WOULD BE REALLY TOUGH, BECAUSE MARS DOESN'T HAVE A BIOSPHERE.

IT'S NOT PRODUCING THINGS THAT WE NEED FOR FOOD.

IT DOESN'T HAVE THE RIGHT ATMOSPHERE.

WE WOULD EVEN HAVE TO MELT WATER AND CLEAN IT UP TO BE ABLE TO DRINK IT.

SO IT WOULD BE REALLY DIFFICULT TO TRY TO LIVE THERE IF WE BROUGHT EVERYTHING FROM THE EARTH.

HOWEVER, RIGHT NOW, HERE ON THE EARTH, WE'RE UNDERGOING A ROBOTICS REVOLUTION, WHERE WE'RE DEVELOPING THINGS THAT CAN WORK AUTONOMOUSLY AND DO WORK FOR US, PRODUCING THINGS FOR US.

SO, AS THIS ROBOTICS REVOLUTION PROGRESSES, WE'RE GOING TO START TO PUT MORE ROBOTS IN SPACE, PROCESSING THE RESOURCES, MINING, MANUFACTURING, AND MAKING THE THINGS THAT WE NEED.

ONCE WE'VE ESTABLISHED THAT IN SPACE, THEN THEY CAN BUILD THE SPACECRAFT, THEY CAN FUEL THE SPACECRAFT, AND THEY CAN TAKE US TO AND FROM MARS VERY ECONOMICALLY, AND WE CAN PUT THOSE HARDWARE PIECES DOWN ON THE SURFACE OF MARS, WHERE THEY CAN PRODUCE THE BUILDINGS AND THE ATMOSPHERE AND THE FOOD THAT WE NEED.

AND THAT MEANS WE DON'T HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING OURSELVES, AND IT FREES US UP TO FOCUS ON THE THINGS THAT ARE MORE HUMAN, LIKE DOING SCIENCE OR DOING ART.

AND THAT WILL ALLOW US TO FUNCTION AS HUMANS ON THE SURFACE OF ANOTHER PLANET.

I'M CONVINCED IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN IN THIS CENTURY.

WOW. WELL, IT'S A LOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, DR. METZGER.

IT WAS MY PLEASURE. THANKS.

♪♪

FOSSILS ARE THE PRESERVED REMAINS OF PLANTS, ANIMALS, AND OTHER ORGANISMS FROM THE DISTANT PAST.

WHETHER THEY'RE MICROSCOPIC OR MASSIVE, FOSSILS PROVIDE SNAPSHOTS OF AN ANCIENT WORLD AND HELP SCIENTISTS PIECE TOGETHER CLUES FROM THE PAST.

DINOSAUR WHISPERER DUSTIN GROWICK EXPLAINS HOW FOSSILS ARE MADE, IN OUR CONTINUING FEATURE 'THE DINOSAUR SHOW.'

TAKE A LOOK.

♪♪

OH, IT'S NOT -- IT'S NOT OPEN YET.

IT'S NOT OPEN YET.

♪♪

♪ 3, 2, 1 ♪♪

HOW DOES A DINOSAUR BECOME A FOSSIL?

IN ORDER TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION, I THOUGHT IT BEST THAT WE COME TO ONE OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST REPOSITORIES OF PALEONTOLOGICAL SPECIMENS AND FAVORITE MUSEUM IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, [Echoing] THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY.

♪♪

HEY!

♪♪

SO, BEFORE WE ANSWER TODAY'S QUESTION, IT BEARS MENTIONING THAT TODAY'S EPISODE IS REALLY ALL ABOUT TAPHONOMY.

TAPHONOMISTS STUDY WHAT HAPPENS TO AN ORGANISM'S BODY, FROM THE MOMENT IT DIES, ALL THE WAY UP UNTIL IT IS ULTIMATELY DISCOVERED AS A FOSSIL, WITH FOSSILIZATION BEING ONE PART OF THAT ENTIRE PROCESS.

USUALLY, SHORTLY AFTER DEATH, A DINOSAUR'S BODY MAY BECOME BROKEN-DOWN OR EVEN BECOME DISARTICULATED BY HUNGRY SCAVENGERS, OPPORTUNISTIC INSECTS, BACTERIAL DECAY, OR EVEN FLOWING WATER.

BUT IN VERY RARE AND IDEAL PRESERVATION CIRCUMSTANCES, AN ANIMAL'S BODY MAY BECOME VERY QUICKLY COVERED IN SEDIMENT UPON DEATH, AS EXEMPLIFIED BY THIS INSANELY WELL-PRESERVED OVIRAPTORID FOSSIL.

SO, THIS OVIRAPTORID, WE BELIEVE, WAS KILLED WHEN A SAND DUNE COLLAPSED, TRAPPING IT AS IT WAS TRYING TO STEAL OR PREY UPON THE EGGS IN THIS NEST.

HENCE THE NAME OVIRAPTORID, WHICH LITERALLY MEANS 'EGG THIEF' OR 'EGG STEALER.'

BUT IT WASN'T TILL MANY YEARS LATER THAT WE REALIZED THE EGGS INSIDE THIS NEST WERE ALSO THAT OF AN OVIRAPTORID, FOREVER CHANGING OUR VIEW OF THIS ANIMAL FROM AN EGG THIEF TO A PROTECTIVE MOTHER BROODING OVER HER NEST AT THE TIME OF DEATH.

USUALLY, THE FIRST THING THAT HAPPENS TO AN ORGANISM'S BODY AFTER DEATH IS THAT ALL THE SOFT PARTS START TO ROT AWAY -- THINGS LIKE SKIN AND MUSCLE AND FAT AND ORGANS -- UNTIL ALL YOU'RE LEFT WITH ARE THE HARD PARTS, LIKE BONES AND TEETH AND PLATES AND HORNS.

NEXT, OVER THE COURSE OF MANY YEARS, AN ORGANISM'S BODY MAY BECOME FOSSILIZED IN A NUMBER OF WAYS.

BUT SEEING AS HOW YOUR ATTENTION SPAN IS PROBABLY EVEN SHORTER -- NO, MINE IS EVEN SHORTER THAN YOURS.

BUT SEEING AS HOW MY ATTENTION SPAN IS PROBABLY EVEN SHORTER THAN YOURS, WE'RE ONLY GOING TO TALK ABOUT [Echoing] TWO.

I REALLY MADE AN ECHO IN HERE.

THE FIRST IS PERMINERALIZATION.

AND PERMINERALIZATION IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE MINERALS IN THE EARTH AND THE GROUNDWATER AROUND A SKELETON SEEP INTO THAT BONE AND FILL UP THE TINY -- EVEN AT THE CELLULAR LEVEL, THE TINY AIR- AND FOOD-FILLED SPACES WITHIN THAT BONE, ESSENTIALLY USING THE BONE AS A SCAFFOLDING TO BUILD A FOSSIL.

AND THE SECOND IS REPLACEMENT.

AND REPLACEMENT IS WHEN THOSE SAME MINERALS IN THE EARTH AND THE GROUNDWATER AROUND A SKELETON SEEP INTO THE BONE AND LITERALLY REPLACE THAT ORGANIC MATERIAL, BUILDING A SOLID-ROCK COPY OF THE ORIGINAL SKELETON.

AND BECAUSE THE MINERAL COMPOSITION OF THE EARTH DIFFERS FROM PLACE TO PLACE, WE END UP WITH AN ARRAY OF DIFFERENT-COLORED FOSSILS, FROM ORANGE TO LIGHT TAN, ALL THE WAY UP TO A DARK CHOCOLATY BROWN.

AND HERE'S A PRO TIP FOR THE NEXT TIME YOU COME TO THIS OR, REALLY, ANY NATURAL-HISTORY MUSEUM.

BECAUSE MANY FOSSILS ARE BONES THAT HAVE TURNED TO SOLID ROCK, AND SOLID ROCK WEIGHS A LOT, IF IF IS HANGING FROM THE CEILING, CHANCES ARE IT'S NOT THE REAL THING.

IF IT'S IN A GLASS CASE OR BEHIND SOME SORT OF BARRIER ON THE GROUND, MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BE THE ACTUAL SPECIMEN.

AH, BUT THE PRESERVED REMAINS OF AN ORGANISM'S BODY ARE ONLY ONE TYPE OF FOSSIL.

AND GENERALLY, ME AND MOST PALEONTOLOGISTS LIKE TO BREAK FOSSILS UP INTO TWO GROUPS.

ON THE ONE HAND, YOU HAVE BODY FOSSILS, AND BODY FOSSILS ARE LITERALLY ANY PART OF AN ORGANISM'S BODY -- SO, PLATES, BONES, TEETH, FEATHER, AND SKIN IMPRESSIONS.

AND THE SECOND TYPE OF FOSSIL IS THAT OF A TRACE FOSSIL.

I LIKE TO THINK OF TRACE FOSSILS AS CLUES TO DINOSAUR BEHAVIOR.

SO, GREAT EXAMPLES INCLUDE TRACKWAYS AND FOOTPRINTS, WHICH TELL US A TON ABOUT HOW THEY WERE MOVING -- IF THEY WERE MOVING IN HERDS, HOW FAST THEY WERE MOVING -- AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE, THE COPROLITE.

BUT MORE ON COPROLITES LATER.

AND THAT BRINGS US TO THE 'THING OF THE WEEK,' WHICH IS A CLADOGRAM!

[ Chuckling ] AND I LOVE CLADOGRAMS.

SO, ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT THE FOURTH-FLOOR FOSSIL HALLS HERE AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY IS THAT THEY ARE LAID OUT LIKE A CLADOGRAM -- AGAIN, A TREE THAT DISPLAYS EVOLUTIONARY RELATIONSHIPS.

SO, AS YOU WALK THROUGH THE FOURTH FLOOR, YOU ARE WALKING ALONG THE TRUNK OF THAT TREE.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HALLS, WE SEE PILLARS THAT REPRESENT IMPORTANT ADAPTATIONS WE'VE FOUND IN THE FOSSIL RECORD.

AND BRANCHING OUT TO THE SIDE ARE ALCOVES THAT HOUSE CLOSELY RELATED GROUPS OF ANIMALS.

SO, AS YOU WALK THROUGH THE FOURTH FLOOR, YOU'RE ESSENTIALLY WALKING ALONG THE TRUNK OF A TREE THAT REPRESENTS 350 MILLION YEARS OF VERTEBRATE EVOLUTION.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM, AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

YOU CAN ALSO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YouTube CHANNEL.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

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.

♪♪