SciTech Now Episode 31

Episode thirty-one of SciTech Now brings you the latest breakthroughs in science, technology and innovation. Experts at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City discuss the importance of a collection of fossils donated by two professors at Ohio University; we get a sneak peak of “Brilliant Darkness: Hotaru in the Night” which is presented by the Zoological Lighting Institute, and more.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP, TECHNOLOGY TAKES ON THE PRODUCE AISLE.

IF YOU VIEW THE FOOD SCRAPS AS A WASTE, YOU'VE MISSED THE POINT.

FOOD SCRAPS ARE A RESOURCE.

THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT AND THE SCIENCE OF FIREFLIES.

SO LITTLE IS KNOWN ABOUT THE BIOLOGY OF FIREFLIES.

THEY SEEM SO SIMPLE, BUT THEY'RE SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND.

MANNED FLIGHT TO MARS.

A HUMANS-TO-MARS PROGRAM WOULD BE A TREMENDOUS POSITIVE CHALLENGE FOR OUR SOCIETY, PARTICULARLY FOR OUR YOUTH.

IT WOULD CHALLENGE EVERY YOUNG PERSON.

'LEARN YOUR SCIENCE, AND YOU COULD BE AN EXPLORER OF NEW WORLDS.'

AND THE POWER OF FOSSILS.

GRADUATE STUDENTS IN THE FUTURE, CURATORS IN THE FUTURE ARE GOING TO BE ABLE TO MINE THIS COLLECTION FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY...

HELLO.

I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

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

LET'S GET STARTED.

THE USDA ESTIMATES THAT SUPERMARKETS LOSE $15 BILLION EACH YEAR IN UNSOLD FRUITS AND VEGETABLES ALONE.

THAT'S FOOD THAT WILTS OR ROTS BEFORE IT CAN BE SOLD.

OFTEN IT JUST GOES IN THE LANDFILL.

BUT A COMPANY IN WASHINGTON STATE HAS DEVELOPED NEW TECHNOLOGY TO CHANGE THAT.

WALK INTO JUST ABOUT ANY SUPERMARKET, AND YOU'LL SEE A BEAUTIFUL BOUNTY OF FRESH FOOD.

BUT BEHIND THE EYE-CATCHING DISPLAYS IS A FAR LESS APPETIZING TRUTH.

ACCORDING TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, EVERY YEAR, MORE THAN 21 MILLION TONS OF FOOD SOLD IN RETAIL STORES NEVER MAKES IT TO CONSUMERS.

ONE IN SEVEN TRUCKLOADS OF PERISHABLES DELIVERED TO GROCERY STORES WILL BE THROWN OUT.

MOST OF THE LOSSES HAPPEN IN THE PRODUCE AISLE.

WE HAVE OVER 350 FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.

THERE'S A LOT OF FOOD THAT WILL GO PAST SELL DATE OR BE UNSELLABLE FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER.

TO MEET CONSUMER DEMANDS, GROCERS TEND TO STOCK ONLY THE MOST ATTRACTIVE PRODUCE.

ANYTHING LESS THAN PERFECT GETS PITCHED.

MOST GROCERY STORES HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO PUT THEIR FOOD SCRAPS IN WITH THE TRASH.

BUT AT PCC NATURAL MARKET IN ISSAQUAH, WASHINGTON, FOOD SCRAPS DON'T GO IN THE TRASH, AND THEY DON'T GET COMPOSTED EITHER.

THEY'RE PUT IN A MACHINE CALLED A HARVESTER.

OUR FOOD SCRAPS GO IMMEDIATELY INTO THE HARVESTER, WHERE THEY'RE PROCESSED.

THERE IS NO ODOR.

AND THAT'S IT.

INSIDE, EVERYTHING IS BLENDED INTO A LIQUID AND STORED IN A SEALED TANK.

THE HARVESTER IS THE BRAINCHILD OF A TEAM OF FORMER MICROSOFT EXECUTIVES.

THEY WONDERED IF THEY COULD USE DATA TO ATTACK THE PROBLEM OF COMMERCIAL FOOD WASTE.

LARRY LeSUEUR IS THE CEO.

AS WE LOOKED AT THIS FOOD-WASTE ISSUE AND WE STARTED ASKING THE QUESTIONS OF WHY IT WAS OCCURRING, NO ONE HAD THE ANSWERS.

THERE WAS NO DATA.

THERE WAS NO METRICS ON IT.

SO, WE LOOKED AT THIS AND SAID, IF WE COULD CAPTURE THE METRICS, IF WE COULD UNDERSTAND THE DATA BEHIND IT, WE COULD ALTER BEHAVIOR.

EVERY PILE OF FOOD THAT GOES INTO A HARVESTER IS WEIGHED AND CODED BY WHAT DEPARTMENT IT CAME FROM.

THAT REAL-TIME DATA IS SENT TO GROCERS SO THAT THEY CAN SEE EXACTLY WHERE THEY'RE LOSING FOOD.

BUT HOW DO THEY GET RID OF THAT SILO OF BLENDED FOOD SCRAPS?

WE PUT ALL THIS ENERGY AND EFFORT INTO GROWING THIS FOOD SOURCE, AND THEN WE'RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT, HOW DO WE MAKE IT ALL GO AWAY CONVENIENTLY?

WE'RE NOT BENEFITING FROM ALL THIS HARD EFFORT THAT WE GOT FROM OUR SOCIETY IN GROWING THE FOOD IN THE FIRST PLACE.

IF YOU VIEW THE FOOD SCRAPS AS A WASTE, YOU'VE MISSED THE POINT.

FOOD SCRAPS ARE A RESOURCE.

VICTOR TYRON IS WISErg's CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER.

HE WONDERED IF THAT SLURRY OF FOOD WASTE COULD BE TURNED INTO AN ORGANIC FERTILIZER.

THE POTENTIAL IS MASSIVE.

YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE NEED FOR MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF ORGANIC FERTILIZER.

WE MIGHT EXPECT A HARVESTER TO PRODUCE MAYBE 10,000 GALLONS OF FERTILIZER OVER A PERIOD OF TIME, BUT THE NEED IS FOR MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF FERTILIZER.

THEY STARTED ANALYZING THE LIQUID IN THE LAB AND FIGURED OUT THAT THEY COULD INDEED TURN WHAT WAS ONCE MEANT TO BE FOOD FOR PEOPLE INTO FOOD FOR PLANTS.

BUT WOULD THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER BE EFFECTIVE IN LARGE-SCALE CROP PRODUCTION?

TED ANDREWS IS ONE OF THE OWNERS OF HerbCo.

IT'S AN ORGANIC CULINARY HERB FARM THAT STARTED IN DUVALL, WASHINGTON, AND NOW HAS FARMS IN EIGHT STATES.

WE PUT FRESH HERBS IN LITTLE PACKAGES AND SELL THEM TO GROCERY STORES.

ORGANIC FARMING CAN BE MORE CHALLENGING, BUT ANDREWS SAYS IT'S WORTH IT.

AS A STEWARD OF THE LAND, I PREFER TO HAVE ORGANIC INPUTS RATHER THAN CONVENTIONAL INPUTS THAT COULD RUN OFF INTO THE SNOQUALMIE RIVER, WHICH IS RIGHT OVER THERE.

WHEN A WISErg REPRESENTATIVE TOLD ANDREWS ABOUT A FERTILIZER MADE FROM FOOD SCRAPS, IT SOUNDED TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

I HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE TRYING TO SELL ME PRODUCTS OF ALL KINDS AND ALWAYS HAVE A HEALTHY SKEPTICISM, BUT I DARED HIM TO PROVE IT TO ME.

THEY SET ASIDE A FIELD OF BASIL AS A TEST PLOT AND STARTED USING WISErg FERTILIZER IN THEIR DRIP IRRIGATION SYSTEM.

A FEW MONTHS LATER, THE DIFFERENCE WAS MEASURABLE.

THE WISErg BASIL HAD 30% MORE BIOMASS.

THE LEAVES WERE BIGGER AND THE COLOR WAS DEEPER THAN BASIL IN OTHER FIELDS.

IT TURNS OUT IT ACTUALLY IS QUITE A BIT MORE EFFECTIVE THAN WHAT WE'RE USED TO.

ANDREWS SAYS HE HOPES TO USE THE WISErg FERTILIZER ON MORE OF HIS FIELDS NEXT YEAR.

THEN HE'LL HAVE EVEN MORE HERBS TO PACKAGE UP AND SEND TO SUPERMARKETS.

AND FARMERS AREN'T THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN BUY THIS FOOD-WASTE FERTILIZER.

IT'S ALSO BEING SOLD ON SUPERMARKET SHELVES, INCLUDING THE PCC WHERE THE FOOD SCRAPS CAME FROM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

NOT ONLY ARE WE MAKING A DIFFERENCE WITH THE FOOD WASTE, IN PREVENTING IT FROM HAPPENING.

WE'RE DOING IT IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY, AND WE'RE DOING IT IN AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY WAY THAT MAKES ECONOMIC SENSE FOR THE BUSINESS.

FOR THE WISErg TEAM, THIS IDEA OF CLOSING THE FOOD-WASTE CIRCLE COULD BE A MODEL FOR SUPERMARKETS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

IN THE U.S. AND JAPAN, SCIENTISTS ARE WORKING TO PRESERVE FIREFLY HABITATS IN URBAN SETTINGS BY EXPLORING THE EFFECT OF ARTIFICIAL NIGHT-LIGHTS ON FIREFLY POPULATIONS.

THESE CONSERVATION EFFORTS ARE CHRONICLED IN THE FILM 'BRILLIANT DARKNESS: HOTARU IN THE NIGHT.'

WE'LL TALK TO THE SCIENCE FILMMAKER ABOUT THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NIGHT ON ANIMAL BIOLOGY AND LIFE CYCLES, BUT FIRST HERE'S AN EXCERPT FROM 'BRILLIANT DARKNESS.'

LOTS OF PEOPLE ASK ME IF FIREFLY POPULATIONS HAVE BEEN GOING DOWN.

IT SURE SEEMS LIKE THERE ARE FEWER FIREFLIES.

SO LITTLE IS KNOWN ABOUT THE BIOLOGY OF FIREFLIES.

THEY SEEM SO SIMPLE, BUT THEY'RE SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND.

ONE OF MY PhD STUDENTS, ANCHANA THANCHAROEN, HAD THE IDEA THAT PORCH LIGHTS COULD AFFECT FIREFLY POPULATIONS IN PEOPLE'S YARD.

WE HAD DECIDED TO DO A PROJECT WHERE WE COULD MEASURE WHAT WAS HAPPENING AT VARIOUS DISTANCES FROM THIS LIGHT WITH SOME LIGHT SENSORS.

AND YOU COULDN'T REALLY BUY SOMETHING LIKE THIS ON THE COMMERCIAL MARKET.

IT JUST DIDN'T EXIST.

WE ACTUALLY MADE OUR OWN LIGHT DETECTORS FROM SCRATCH.

I WANTED TO BE ABLE TO MEASURE AMBIENT LIGHT THAT WOULD BE STRIKING IN A FIREFLY HABITAT.

SO I PUT ONE OF THESE SOLID-STATE ELEMENTS HERE TO PICK UP THE LIGHT.

I CUT A HOLE IN A PING-PONG BALL AND GLUED IT OVER.

WE THEN READ WITH A VOLTMETER AND COULD MEASURE HOW MUCH LIGHT WAS PRESENT.

WHAT WE FOUND, INTERESTINGLY, WAS THAT FIREFLIES HAVE TO HAVE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF DARKNESS JUST TO KNOW WHEN TO START FLASHING.

FIREFLIES PARTITION UP THE EVENING INTO BLOCKS OF TIME, LIKE ACTS OF A PLAY.

YOU'LL HAVE ONE SPECIES COME OUT, AND THEY'LL START FLASHING DOWN BY THE GRASS WHERE IT'S A LITTLE BIT DARKER.

AFTER A WHILE, THEY WILL DROP OFF THEIR ACTIVITY, AND YOU WON'T SEE THEM ANYMORE AS A SECOND SPECIES COMES OUT.

THEY DON'T HAVE A WATCH, SO ALL OF THIS IS TRULY GAUGED ON HOW DARK IT IS.

IF IT NEVER REACHES THE AMOUNT OF DARKNESS THAT IS PROGRAMMED INTO THESE SPECIES, THEY DON'T EVER START FLASHING.

ALSO, THEY HAVE TO HAVE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF DARKNESS TO ACTUALLY FIND THEIR MATES.

JOINING ME NOW IS SCIENCE FILMMAKER EMILY DRISCOLL.

SO, WHY FIREFLIES?

WELL, FIREFLIES ARE ONE OF THE FEW SPECIES THAT INSPIRE ART, POETRY, AN APPRECIATION OF NATURE AT NIGHT, ACROSS CULTURES.

AND FIREFLIES ARE DISAPPEARING.

THERE'S NOT A LOT OF CONCRETE DATA ON THEIR POPULATIONS FROM THE PAST, BUT THE GENERAL CONSENSUS IS THAT THEIR POPULATIONS ARE DECLINING.

AND A LOT OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH ARTIFICIAL LIGHT.

LIGHT INTERFERES WITH A FIREFLY'S COMMUNICATION IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE OF LIGHT.

WHAT IS THAT LANGUAGE OF LIGHT?

HOW DO THEY TALK TO EACH OTHER WITH THE FLASHES THAT WE'RE SO USED TO SEEING?

THEY'RE ACTUALLY 2,000 SPECIES OF FIREFLIES, AND THEY ALL HAVE THEIR OWN UNIQUE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT, SO SOME HAVE DIFFERENT FLASH PATTERNS, TIMES, SHAPES, AND EVEN COLORS.

SOME FLASHES ARE ORANGE, SOME MORE GREEN OR YELLOW.

AND SOME DON'T FLASH AT ALL.

SOME COMMUNICATE WITH PHEROMONES, SO THEY'LL HAVE LARGER ANTENNAE.

SO, IN THE BACKGROUND, WHEN THEY'RE TRYING TO READ A FLASH, IF THERE'S, SAY, A CAR HEADLIGHT OR A STREETLAMP OR SOMETHING ELSE THAT WE TURN ON FOR NIGHT, THAT MESSES WITH THEIR ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE?

YES, THEY'VE EVOLVED, OVER MILLENNIA, THESE VERY SPECIFIC COMMUNICATION PATTERNS, AND SOME OF THE STUDIES THAT HAVE BEEN DONE ARE TO SEE HOW THE LIGHT INTERFERES WITH THEIR LANGUAGES OF LIGHT.

SOMEBODY'S GONNA ASK, 'WHAT'S SO BAD IF WE LOSE A FEW FIREFLIES?'

HOW IMPORTANT ARE THEY?

FIREFLIES ARE PREDATORS, AND SOME OF THEM EAT SNAILS IN THE ENVIRONMENT.

AND, YEAH, YOU CAN SAY, 'WHAT HAPPENS IF WE LOSE A FIREFLY?'

BUT IF YOU KEEP TAKING THESE BLOCKS AWAY, THEN EVENTUALLY EVERYTHING IS GOING TO CRUMBLE, AND EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT, AND IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW BIG OR SMALL OR FLASHY OR NOT FLASHY THE ANIMAL IS.

WHY DID YOU SHOOT THIS SPECIFICALLY IN JAPAN?

WE SHOT 'BRILLIANT DARKNESS' BOTH IN JAPAN AND THE U.S.

BECAUSE FIREFLIES ARE VERY IMPORTANT IN JAPANESE CULTURE, AND THERE WAS ALSO A LOT OF SCIENCE GOING ON THERE.

AND THE FIREFLIES -- SPECIFICALLY THE GENJI FIREFLIES THAT WE SHOT IN JAPAN ARE REALLY DRAMATIC, AND THEY FLY REALLY HIGH ABOVE THE RIVER, AND YOU CAN SEE THE REFLECTION IN THE WATER, AND IT'S JUST A VERY MAGICAL EXPERIENCE TO SEE AND TO CAPTURE ON FILM.

AND HOW DO YOU CAPTURE IT ON FILM?

THIS IS INHERENTLY SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS IN THE DARK, SO IT'S ACTUALLY MUCH HARDER TO SHOOT IF YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT THE SORT OF CAMERA FUNDAMENTALS OF, 'WELL, IS THERE ENOUGH LIGHT IN THE IRIS FOR ME TO CAPTURE THE PICTURE?'

THERE ARE DIFFERENT TIMES OF NIGHT THAT CERTAIN FIREFLIES FLASH, AND WE WERE LOOKING INTO SOME OTHER SPECIES.

WE WANTED TO FILM THE SYNCHRONIZED FIREFLIES IN TENNESSEE, BUT THEY COME OUT REALLY LATE AT NIGHT -- 12:00, 1:00 A.M., EVEN.

AND SO THAT WAS GONNA BE REALLY CHALLENGING, BUT WE WANTED TO DO IT ANYWAY.

ONE OF THE SCIENTISTS ADVISED US NOT TO.

BUT THE FIREFLIES IN JAPAN, THEY COME OUT ABOUT HALF AN HOUR AFTER SUNSET, SO THERE'S STILL ENOUGH LIGHT IN THE ATMOSPHERE THAT IT GAVE US LIKE A 20-MINUTE WINDOW WHERE WE COULD SHOOT THE FIREFLIES.

SO, WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH ALL THE RESEARCH ON FIREFLIES, HOPEFULLY, WITH THE AWARENESS THAT YOUR FILM RAISES?

WHAT'S THE FUTURE FOR FIREFLIES LOOK LIKE?

THE SCIENTIST THAT WE INTERVIEWED IN JAPAN, HE'S DEVELOPING A LIGHT THAT'S WILDLIFE-SENSITIVE LIGHTING.

AND SO HE'S BEEN DOING THIS STUDY FOR ABOUT 10 YEARS WITH A MAJOR LIGHTING MANUFACTURER, AND HE'S TRYING TO SEE HOW WE CAN LIVE AMONG WILDLIFE IN URBAN SETTINGS BECAUSE WE ARE PART OF NATURE, WE ARE PART OF WILDLIFE, AND WE DEPEND ON WILDLIFE, SO WE CAN'T KEEP PUTTING WILDLIFE ON PRESERVES.

WE HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW WE CAN LIVE WITH THEM.

SO, WHAT HE'S DOING, HE'S DESIGNED A LIGHT THAT JUST PUTS LIGHT ON THE PATH.

IT DOESN'T WASTE ANY LIGHT BEHIND THE LIGHT ITSELF, WHERE THE FIREFLY HABITAT MIGHT BE, OR IT DOESN'T RELEASE EXCESS LIGHT INTO THE SKY.

AND PEOPLE IN JAPAN ARE ACTUALLY TAKING IT TO ANOTHER LEVEL, AND THEY'RE COVERING LIGHTS DURING FIREFLY SEASON.

WOW. ALL RIGHT.

THANKS SO MUCH, EMILY.

AND TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EMILY DRISCOLL'S SCIENCE FILMS, CHECK OUT THE LINK ON OUR WEBSITE.

THANK YOU.

THE EXPLORATION OF MARS HAS BEEN TAKING PLACE FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS, BEGINNING WITH THE INVENTION OF THE TELESCOPE IN THE 1600s.

NOW WE'RE COMING CLOSER TO UNDERSTANDING THE RED PLANET THROUGH HUMAN EXPLORATION.

JOINING ME NOW IS DR. ROBERT ZUBRIN, PRESIDENT OF THE MARS SOCIETY AND AUTHOR OF 'THE CASE FOR MARS,' WHO ARGUES THAT THE MANNED EXPLORATION OF MARS IS CRITICAL TO THE FUTURE OF SPACE TRAVEL, STEM EDUCATION, AND OUR LIFE HERE ON EARTH.

SO, HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

WHY IS IT SO NECESSARY, IN YOUR OPINION, FOR US, PHYSICALLY, TO BE ON MARS?

WELL, THERE'S THREE REASONS TO GO TO MARS.

THERE'S FOR THE SCIENCE, THERE'S FOR THE CHALLENGE, AND THERE'S FOR THE FUTURE.

OKAY, MARS IS THE ROSETTA STONE THAT'S GONNA LET US KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT THE PREVALENCE AND DIVERSITY OF LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE.

DID LIFE EVOLVE EVERYWHERE WHERE YOU HAD REASONABLE PHYSICAL CONDITIONS?

WE NOW KNOW THAT MARS HAD SUCH CONDITIONS FOR A BILLION YEARS.

DID LIFE APPEAR THERE, OR DID IT REMAIN STERILE?

THIS IS WORTH FINDING OUT.

AND HOW DID IT DEVELOP?

AND WE'RE GONNA HAVE TO SEND HUMAN EXPLORERS TO RESOLVE THAT.

SECONDLY, THE CHALLENGE ITSELF IS OF EXTRAORDINARY VALUE.

CIVILIZATIONS ARE LIKE INDIVIDUALS.

WE GROW WHEN WE'RE CHALLENGED.

WE STAGNATE WHEN WE ARE NOT.

AND A HUMANS-TO-MARS PROGRAM WOULD BE A TREMENDOUS POSITIVE CHALLENGE FOR OUR SOCIETY, PARTICULARLY FOR OUR YOUTH.

IT WOULD CHALLENGE EVERY YOUNG PERSON.

'LEARN YOUR SCIENCE, AND YOU COULD BE AN EXPLORER OF NEW WORLDS.'

OUT OF THAT CHALLENGE, WE'D GET MILLIONS OF YOUNG ENGINEERS, SCIENTISTS, INVENTORS, DOCTORS, MEDICAL RESEARCHERS, TECHNOLOGICAL ENTREPRENEURS.

THESE ARE THE KINDS OF PEOPLE THAT DRIVE SOCIETY FORWARD.

WE BENEFITED ENORMOUSLY IN THIS WAY FROM THE APOLLO PROGRAM.

IT WOULD BE EVEN BIGGER IN OUR TIME BECAUSE NOW THE SCIENTIFIC PROFESSIONS ARE OPEN NOT JUST TO BOYS BUT TO GIRLS, WHICH WAS NOT REALLY THE CASE IN THE '60s.

IT WOULD PAY US BACK 100 TIMES OVER.

AND THEN FINALLY THERE IS THE FUTURE.

IS HUMANITY GONNA REMAIN A SINGLE-PLANET SPECIES, OR WILL WE HAVE AN OPEN FUTURE, AN OPEN UNIVERSE?

CAN WE BECOME A MULTIPLANET, SPACEFARING CIVILIZATION.

MARS IS THE CLOSEST PLANET WHERE WE CAN PUT THAT QUESTION TO THE TEST, AND SO WE SHOULD.

IT REQUIRES A BIT OF AN INFRASTRUCTURE, AND IT REQUIRES ALSO A MIND-SET THAT'S A LITTLE DIFFERENT, RIGHT?

I MEAN, RIGHT NOW WE SEEM, RELATIVELY SPEAKING, AS A PEOPLE, COMPLACENT TO JUST HANG OUT ON THIS PLANET.

WELL, I THINK THERE'S STILL PLENTY OF PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET THAT ARE WILLING TO TAKE ON NEW CHALLENGES.

I THINK THERE'S A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN DRIVE TO GO WHERE WE'VE NEVER GONE BEFORE, TO DO WHAT'S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE, TO BUILD WHAT'S NEVER BEEN BUILT BEFORE.

AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT NASA NEEDS.

NASA's ADRIFT NOW BECAUSE IT HAS NO GOAL.

IT NEEDS A GOAL, AND THAT SHOULD BE HUMANS TO MARS.

SOMEONE MIGHT SAY, 'LOOK, WHY NOT SEND MORE ROVERS THERE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE PLANET?

WHY SEND HUMANS ON AN ARDUOUS JOURNEY?'

BUT, THEN, REALLY YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF COLONIZATION, OF LONG-TERM STAY, NOT JUST COMING BACK AND FORTH.

DON'T GET ME WRONG -- I'M ALL FOR ROVER MISSIONS.

I TOTALLY SUPPORT THEM.

I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE MORE OF THEM.

I'D LIKE TO SEE A ROVER MISSION EVERY TWO YEARS.

BUT EVEN SO, THE ROVERS ARE QUITE LIMITED IN THEIR CAPABILITIES.

THE OPPORTUNITY MISSION HAS BEEN A RUNAWAY SUCCESS.

IT'S LASTED MORE THAN 10 YEARS NOW ON MARS.

THE ROVER HAS TRAVELED ABOUT 20 KILOMETERS.

A HUMAN COULD MARCH THAT IN A DAY.

OKAY, AND NOT ONLY THAT, WHILE TRAVELING, THAT HUMAN WOULD BE TURNING HIS EYES FROM SIDE TO SIDE, TAKING THE EQUIVALENT OF MILLIONS OF HIGH-RESOLUTION PICTURES AND INSTANTANEOUSLY BEING ABLE TO RESPOND TO THAT DATA BY LEANING DOWN AND PICKING UP AN INTERESTING ROCK, LOOKING AT MAYBE BREAKING IT IN HALF.

THIS IS WAY BEYOND THE CAPABILITY OF ROBOTIC ROVERS.

SO, WHAT'S THE ROLE OF PRIVATE COMPANIES IN THIS?

THERE'S TWO LEVELS OF PARTICIPATION OF PRIVATE COMPANIES.

ONE IS AS VENDORS TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, AND THE OTHER IS AS INITIATORS THEMSELVES.

NOW, IT'S ALWAYS BEEN EXPECTED THEY'D BE VENDORS, BUT RECENTLY THERE'S BEEN ENTREPRENEURIAL ACTIVITY, NOTABLY FROM THE SpaceX COMPANY, ELON MUSK, WHO HAS BEEN, WITH A SIGNIFICANT PARTICIPATION OF HIS OWN MONEY, DEVELOPING SPACE-LAUNCH SYSTEMS AND OTHER SPACE SYSTEMS MUCH CHEAPER THAN IS BEING DONE THROUGH THE TRADITIONAL CONTRACTING PROCESS.

AND WITH THE HELP OF THIS KIND OF HARDWARE, IT COULD MAKE HUMANS TO MARS MUCH MORE AFFORDABLE, WHICH ULTIMATELY IS THE KEY QUESTION AS TO WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT WOULD BE INTERESTED IN DOING IT OR NOT.

SO, IF THE FINANCIAL HURDLE IS SOMETHING THAT WE CAN OVERCOME, WHAT ARE THE SOCIAL HURDLES TO COLONIZING A DIFFERENT PLANET?

IT'S A QUESTION OF PERSONAL ETHICS.

IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT IS THE GOOD LIFE?

IS THE GOOD LIFE ONE THAT IS PLEASANT, OR IS THE GOOD LIFE ONE THAT ACCOMPLISHES GREAT DEEDS?

SOME WOULD PREFER ONE, OTHERS WOULD PREFER THE OTHER.

IT'S THE OLD SPLIT BETWEEN EPICUREANS AND STOICS.

BUT THERE'S ENOUGH OF US AROUND THAT WOULD THINK THAT A GOOD LIFE IS ONE THAT DOES GREAT DEEDS THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT WANT TO GO TO MARS AND BE WILLING TO DO IT.

IF WE WERE TO COLONIZE MARS, IT WOULD BE A FUNDAMENTAL TRANSFORMATIVE STEP, AS SIGNIFICANT, IN A WAY, AS WHEN HUMANS FIRST LEFT AFRICA TO TRANSFORM OURSELVES FROM BEING A LOCAL SPECIES IN THE KENYAN RIFT VALLEY, WHICH IS WHERE WE'RE NATIVE, TO A GLOBAL SPECIES LIVING IN ALL KINDS OF PLACES THAT WE'RE NOT NATURALLY EVOLVED FOR.

WE BECAME A GLOBAL SPECIES BY DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGY.

WE CAN BECOME AN INTERPLANETARY SPECIES BY DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGY.

ALL RIGHT.

DR. ROBERT ZUBRIN, PRESIDENT OF THE MARS SOCIETY.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

IN 2013, THE UNIVERSITY OF OHIO DONATED MORE THAN 15,000 TONS OF FOSSILS TO THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY IN NEW YORK CITY.

THIS CONTRIBUTION HAS PROVIDED RICH OPPORTUNITIES FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH INTO THE FUTURE AND THE PAST.

THIS WAS A TREMENDOUS COLLECTION OF AROUND 550,000 SPECIMENS OF MARINE INVERTEBRATES AND VERTEBRATES.

ROYAL MAPES AND HIS WIFE, GENE MAPES, THEY WERE PROFESSORS AT OHIO UNIVERSITY, AND OVER THE LAST 45 YEARS THEY'VE BEEN COLLECTING FOSSILS.

MOST OF THE FOSSILS THEY COLLECT ARE MARINE FOSSILS IN OKLAHOMA, ARKANSAS, TEXAS.

WE DON'T HAVE A GOOD REPRESENTATION OF THAT IN OUR COLLECTIONS ALREADY.

AMMONOIDS BELONG TO THE GROUP CEPHALOPODS, PART OF THE MOLLUSKS, AND THE CEPHALOPODS ARE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE CLAMS AND THE SNAILS IN THAT CEPHALOPODS LEARNED HOW TO SWIM IN THE WATER.

SO, WHEN YOU THINK OF CEPHALOPODS, THERE'S OCTOPUS, THERE'S SQUIDS, THERE'S THE PEARLY NAUTILUS.

AND THE AMMONOIDS ARE A BIG PART OF IT, BUT THAT GROUP OF CEPHALOPODS IS NOT EXTINCT.

WHAT WE SEE IS THEIR BEAUTIFUL OUTER SHELL, BUT THERE IS A COMPLEX INTERNAL ANATOMY, INCLUDING THE JAWS, AND IN THE MAPES COLLECTION THERE ARE MANY SPECIMENS THAT HAVE PRESERVED THEIR JAWS INSIDE THE SHELL.

SO, IT'S A VERY RARE OCCURRENCE.

IT TAKES VERY UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES.

BUT IT'S JUST PERFECT FOR OUR RESEARCH, AND IT LETS ME UNDERSTAND THE BEHAVIOR AND ANATOMY OF AMMONOIDS A LOT BETTER.

ROYAL AND HIS WIFE HAVE AN INNATE ABILITY TO COLLECT AND FIND FOSSIL SHARKS AND OTHER FOSSIL FISH, IN REMARKABLY GOOD PRESERVATION, IN PLACES WHERE NOBODY ELSE HAS BEEN ABLE TO FIND THEM.

THESE ARE ALMOST THREE-DIMENSIONAL.

THEY'RE NOT FLAT AND CRUSHED AND BROKEN.

THEY'RE BEAUTIFULLY PRESERVED FOSSILS THAT WE CAN THEN SCAN, AND, IN THE COMPUTER, WE CAN EXTRACT THE SKELETAL STRUCTURES IN A GREAT DEAL OF DETAIL.

THIS IS A COMPLETE HEAD OF A LITTLE TINY SHARK.

INSIDE THIS ROCK THERE'S EVERY LITTLE PIECE OF ALL THESE GILL ARCHES AND ALL THE REST OF THE SKELETON -- THE JAWS AND OTHER THINGS.

EVERYTHING'S PRESERVED IN EXQUISITE DETAIL, BUT YOU CAN ONLY SEE IT BY SCANNING IT AND PROCESSING THE SCAN USING COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY, AND THAT'S WHAT WE'VE BEEN DOING.

THIS IS ONE OF THESE FOSSILS FROM ARKANSAS -- WHICH I THINK SHOULD BE RENAMED 'SHARKANSAS' -- THAT IS SO SPECTACULAR.

EVEN THOUGH IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MUCH, IN SCIENTIFIC TERMS IT'S REALLY SIGNIFICANT.

IT'S A MAJOR DISCOVERY.

IT'S NOT JUST GETTING A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW FOSSILS, BUT IT'S WHAT THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY REPRESENT THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO US.

YOU ALWAYS LOOK TO FUTURE GENERATIONS.

I SEE THE VALUE OF THIS COLLECTION, THE TREASURES IN THIS COLLECTION, THAT GRADUATE STUDENTS IN THE FUTURE, CURATORS IN THE FUTURE ARE GOING TO BE ABLE TO MINE THIS COLLECTION FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

FOR MORE FROM THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, CHECK OUT THE LINK ON OUR WEBSITE.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OUR WEBSITE.

YOU CAN ALSO CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS MADE POSSIBLE BY...