SciTech Now Episode 33

Episode thirty-three of SciTech Now brings you the latest breakthroughs in science, technology and innovation. Heather Savage discusses fracking and its relation to earthquakes in the United States; researchers are exploring ways to use drones in emergency response situations, and more.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP -- THE SCIENCE BEHIND URBAN FARMING...

WE'RE MAKING A GREAT SOIL, WE'RE GROWING GREAT PRODUCE, WE'RE INCORPORATING THINGS LIKE TILAPIA FISH THAT YOU CAN'T NECESSARILY GET ANYWHERE IN THE CLEVELAND AREA.

...DRONES TO THE RESCUE...

THE KEY THINGS ABOUT UNMANNED AIRCRAFT IS THAT THEY ALLOW YOU TO FLY IN CONDITIONS THAT WOULD BE UNSAFE FOR A MANNED AIRCRAFT.

...A POTENTIAL ENERGY SOURCE FROM OUTER SPACE...

HAWKING ALSO SHOWED THAT IF YOU GET CLOSE TO THE POINT OF NO RETURN, THAT, IN FACT, THERE'S A LOT OF ENERGY THERE, WHICH YOU CAN JUST SCOOP UP WITH YOUR BUCKET, DRAG IT OUT, AND, IN THAT WAY, ROB THE BLACK HOLE OF ITS RADIATION.

...AND DINOSAURS TAKE FLIGHT.

AND IF WE GO BACK ABOUT 150 MILLION YEARS, WE SEE A GROUP OF ANIMALS THAT WE REFER TO AS 'PROTOBIRDS' THAT REALLY SPREAD THAT GAP BETWEEN WHAT WE WOULD CONSIDER A DINOSAUR AND WHAT WE WOULD CONSIDER A BIRD.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.

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.

URBAN FARMING IS ONE WAY THAT SOME COMMUNITIES ARE CREATING AN ABUNDANCE OF FOOD FOR PEOPLE IN NEED -- BY SUPPORTING AND ENCOURAGING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF GARDENS ON UNUSED LAND AND SPACE.

NEXT, WE VISIT AN URBAN FARM IN CLEVELAND, OHIO, AND LEARN HOW IT'S TRANSFORMING THE COMMUNITY.

ON THE EAST SIDE OF CLEVELAND, ON A SITE THAT WAS ONCE AN ILLEGAL DUMP, LONGTIME FRIENDS DAMIEN FORSCHE, RANDALL McSHEPARD, AND KEYMAH DURDEN -- THE CO-FOUNDERS OF RID-ALL GREEN PARTNERSHIP -- ARE GROWING TILAPIA, A POPULAR MILD WHITEFISH.

DAMIEN FORSCHE AND KEYMAH DURDEN AND I GO WAY BACK.

WE ALL GREW UP TOGETHER.

THIS FARM PROJECT KIND OF BROUGHT US ALL BACK TOGETHER, BECAUSE WE ALL SAW WE COULD ADD VALUE AND GIVE SOMETHING BACK.

THE BEAUTY OF THE RID-ALL URBAN FARM IS THAT IT MAKES GOOD BUSINESS SENSE AND IT MAKES GOOD COMMUNITY SENSE.

FARMING WAS NOT SOMETHING THEY IMAGINED DOING UNTIL, ONE DAY, OPPORTUNITY CAME KNOCKING WHEN WILL ALLEN, A PIONEER IN SOMETHING CALLED AQUAPONICS, CAME TO TOWN AND THEY WERE HOOKED.

AQUAPONICS IS AN ECOSYSTEM THAT WORKS HAND-IN-HAND.

THE FISH WORKS WITH THE PLANTS, AND THE PLANTS WORK WITH THE FISH.

WE HAVE PUMPS THAT PUMP WATER UP TO AN UPPER LEVEL IN THE FISH TANK, WHERE THERE'S FRESH PLANTS ACTUALLY GROWING, AND THEN WE HAVE WATER PUMPING DOWN FROM THOSE PLANTS.

SO IT BECOMES THIS INTERDEPENDENT CYCLE THAT ALLOWS FOR THE FISH WASTE TO BE PUMPED UP AND IT FERTILIZES THE PLANTS UP TOP.

AND THEN THE PLANTS THEMSELVES PROVIDE NUTRIENTS THAT GO BACK INTO THE WATER TO FORTIFY OR PROVIDE NUTRIENTS FOR THE FISH.

GROWING FISH VEGETABLES IS A WAY FOR RID-ALL TO DIVERSIFY THE BUSINESS.

WE KNEW THAT WE HAD TO COME UP WITH MANY DIFFERENT VEHICLES TO GENERATE INCOME.

WE COULDN'T JUST RELY ON GROWING PRODUCE AND THINK THAT THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH TO CREATE JOBS, MAINTAIN JOBS.

WE HAD TO COME UP WITH OTHER WAYS OF TAKING FRESH FOOD TO MARKET.

WE'RE MAKING A GREAT SOIL, WE'RE GROWING GREAT PRODUCE, WE'RE INCORPORATING THINGS LIKE TILAPIA FISH THAT YOU CAN'T NECESSARILY GET ANYWHERE IN THE CLEVELAND AREA.

RID-ALL RAISES FISH FROM FINGERLINGS.

AS THEY GROW BIGGER, THEY'RE MOVED FROM TANK TO TANK SO THEY WON'T EAT THE SMALLER ONES.

GENERALLY, BY 8 TO 10 MONTHS, MOST OF THEM HAVE REACHED FULL ADULTHOOD.

SO THAT'S BEEN QUITE EXCITING TO SEE.

SINCE INCEPTION, WE'VE PROBABLY GROWN ABOUT 8,000 TILAPIA FISH.

I THINK, RIGHT NOW, WE HAVE ABOUT 5,000 IN SUPPLY.

WE FEED THEM A NATURAL FOOD PELLET THAT'S LIKE FISHMEAL AND THINGS LIKE THAT, BUT, MOST IMPORTANT, I PUT OMEGA-3 IN THEIR SYSTEM.

I'M FEEDING THEM DUCKWEED, WHICH IS A PLANT FOOD THAT WE GROW HERE.

THEY EAT LETTUCE, THEY EAT, LIKE, ARUGULA, DIFFERENT GREEN FOODS.

SO WE FEED THEM LEAFY FOODS AND WE FEED THEM A NATURAL FOOD PELLET THAT THEY'RE EATING, WHICH IS FISHMEAL AND OTHER GROUND-UP FISH-PRODUCT FOODS.

PLANS ARE ON THE TABLE TO EXPAND RID-ALL, CREATING MORE JOBS, MORE HEALTHY FOOD OPTIONS, AND GROWING THEIR OUTREACH PROGRAM.

OUR BIG DREAM HAS BEEN TO BUILD A NEW, WHAT WE CALL A 21st-CENTURY GREENHOUSE DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM OUR FARM.

WE HAVE NOW GATHERED THE LAND, ASSEMBLED THE LAND IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE CITY AND THE BURTEN, BELL, CARR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION.

WE'D LIKE TO BUILD A 6,000- TO 8,000-SQUARE-FOOT, 21st-CENTURY GREENHOUSE, WE LIKE TO CALL IT, WHICH IS A GREENHOUSE THAT WILL BE COMPRISED OF CLASSROOM SPACE TO ALLOW US TO DO A LOT MORE OF THE EDUCATION PROGRAMS AND TRAINING PROGRAMS.

WE WOULD HAVE A FARMERS-MARKET SPACE WHERE PEOPLE CAN ACTUALLY COME AND BUY PRODUCE AND FISH AND NOT HAVE TO CHASE PEOPLE AROUND THE FARM TO FIND SOMEONE TO MAKE THE TRANSACTION.

WE THINK THAT THERE IS A NUMBER OF WAYS TO ELONGATE OR SUSTAIN AN URBAN FARM, IF YOU LOOK AT ALL THE PIVOTAL POINTS THAT COME WITH THE FARMING BUSINESS.

SO NOT ONLY HOW DO YOU GROW IT AND SELL IT, BUT MIGHT THERE BE WAYS TO PACKAGE IT, MIGHT THERE BE WAYS TO FREEZE IT FOR LATER SALE OR LATER USE, MIGHT THERE BE WAYS TO PARTNER WITH FOOD DISTRIBUTORS AND PEOPLE THAT PREPARE FOOD FOR INSTITUTIONS TO SORT OF HAVE AN ONGOING WORKING MODEL WHERE FOOD IS ALWAYS BEING GROWN AND ALWAYS BEING PROCESSED AND ALWAYS BEING SPUN BACK OUT TO COMMUNITIES AND TO INSTITUTIONS, AND WHERE YOU REALLY CREATE THE SUSTAINABILITY AND CREATE THE LASTING JOBS.

IN THE FOUR YEARS SINCE DAMIEN, RANDY, AND KEYMAH CLEARED THE LAND AND PLANTED THE SEEDS FOR THEIR FIRST AQUAPONIC FISH FARM IN CLEVELAND, THEY'RE PROUD TO SEE THEIR DREAM BLOSSOM INTO REALITY.

MOST SATISFYING OF ALL IS THE OPPORTUNITY THESE THREE FRIENDS HAVE TO SPEND TIME TOGETHER AGAIN.

IT'S BEEN REALLY WONDERFUL, WHEN YOU WORK WITH PEOPLE THAT YOU GREW UP WITH AND KNOW FROM THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD, BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, THERE'S NO ISSUE OF TRUST, THERE'S NO LACK OF CONFIDENCE.

I KNOW IF THEY SAY THEY'RE GONNA DO SOMETHING, IT'S GONNA HAPPEN.

I DON'T HAVE TO SECOND-GUESS OR QUESTION, AND MANY OF US HAVE BEEN IN ENVIRONMENTS WHERE WE WISH WE COULD SAY THAT, RIGHT?

SO, THAT REALLY HAS BEEN THE BEAUTY, AND WE ALL SHARE A REAL PASSION FOR SEEING CLEVELAND DO BETTER AND GIVING BACK AND MAKING OUR NEIGHBORHOODS BETTER AND GIVING PEOPLE SECOND CHANCES AND ALL THOSE KINDS OF THINGS, WHICH WE KNOW THE FARM WILL HELP US TO DO.

AND THIS IS THE GREATEST THING ON EARTH FOR ME, REALLY, TO BE BACK WITH THEM TWO -- THE PEOPLE THAT I LEARNED FROM AND GREW UP WITH FROM KIDS.

IT'S LIKE... IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.

THE JOURNEY AND WHERE WE'RE AT RIGHT NOW -- IT WAS ALL WORTH IT, 'CAUSE I GET TO BE WITH THEM AND BUG THEM EVERY DAY.

[ RUMBLING ]

ANY FAULT IN THE EARTH, AT DEPTH, IS UNDER STRESS.

IT'S UNDER STRESS FROM THE WEIGHT OF THE ROCKS ABOVE IT, AND IT'S ALSO UNDER STRESS FROM TECTONIC STRESSES IN THE CRUST.

WHEN WE'RE FRACKING, WE'RE INJECTING PRESSURIZED FLUID UNDERGROUND.

WE'RE DOING THIS IN ORDER TO ACTUALLY CRACKS IN THE ROCK OF INTEREST IN ORDER TO GET THE GAS OUT.

HOWEVER, DURING YOUR FRACKING OPERATION, IF YOU INTERSECT A PRE-EXISTING FAULT, THAT PRESSURIZED FLUID CAN FIND THAT FAULT AND UNPIN IT JUST A LITTLE BIT AND ALLOW AN EARTHQUAKE TO OCCUR.

ONCE WE'VE RECOLLECTED ALL THE FRACKING FLUID AT THE SURFACE, IT NEEDS TO BE DISPOSED IN A MORE PERMANENT WAY.

WE INJECT FLUIDS UNDERGROUND, AND IF IT INTERSECTS A FAULT, IT COULD CAUSE AN EARTHQUAKE AT THAT POINT.

THERE WAS A RECENT STUDY THAT JUST CAME OUT IN OHIO THAT SHOWED A FAULT THAT WAS INTERSECTED NEAR A FRACKING WELL THAT EARTHQUAKES ALONG IT ONLY BEGAN WHEN THE FRACKING OPERATION STARTED INTERSECTING THE FAULT.

SO THEY HAD REGULAR FRACKING OPERATIONS GOING ON AND NO EARTHQUAKES.

AS THEY MOVED CLOSER TO THE FAULT, IN SPACE, WHICH THEY DIDN'T KNOW EXISTED, THE EARTHQUAKES TURNED ON.

IN THE MIDWEST AND THE EASTERN UNITED STATES, A LOT OF THE FAULTS ARE VERY ANCIENT, AND WE DON'T KNOW WHERE ALL OF THEM ARE, AND THERE ISN'T A LOT OF SURFACE EXPRESSION.

SO WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL IN LOOKING FOR FAULTS BEFORE FRACKING OPERATIONS BEGIN, AND THAT WOULD BE A GOOD WAY TO REDUCE OUR RISK OF CAUSING AN EARTHQUAKE.

AROUND THE WORLD, DRONES HAVE BEEN USED IN WARFARE FOR DELIVERY SERVICE AND EVEN FOR FARMING.

NOW, AT THE NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, THERE'S A PROJECT UNDER WAY TO EXPLORE THE USE OF THESE UNMANNED AIRCRAFT TO HELP GATHER INFORMATION FOR FIRST RESPONDERS DURING CATASTROPHIC EVENTS.

REPORTER LAUREN WANKO HAS THE STORY.

AT THE U.S. COAST GUARD TRAINING STATION IN CAPE MAY, A DRONE TAKES OFF.

THIS IS GOING TO SORT OF JUMP-START A DIFFERENT TYPE OF THINKING IN TERMS OF THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE.

THIS DRONE, OR UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM, IS PART OF A N.J.I.T. RESEARCH PROJECT TO ENHANCE THE STATE AND COUNTRY'S HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY-MANAGEMENT CAPABILITIES.

WHAT WE'RE LEARNING HERE IS, 'HOW CAN WE DEPLOY VIDEO USING THE DRONE AS A SENSOR JUST LIKE YOU WOULD HAVE FIRST RESPONDERS AS THE SENSORS, GETTING INFORMATION FROM THE GROUND INTO AN EMERGENCY-OPERATIONS CENTER SO THAT THOSE INDIVIDUALS CAN BE SUPPORTED.

THE KEY THINGS ABOUT UNMANNED AIRCRAFT IS THAT THEY ALLOW YOU TO FLY IN CONDITIONS THAT WOULD BE UNSAFE FOR A MANNED AIRCRAFT.

THIS DRONE HAS A CAMERA ON ITS TAIL.

THE VIDEO WAS SENT BACK IN REAL TIME TO THE MOBILE OPERATIONS CENTER.

IN THE BELLY OF THE AIRCRAFT IS A CARGO COMPARTMENT THAT CAN HOLD UP TO THREE SENSORS.

RIGHT NOW, THERE'S A MAPPING SYSTEM INSIDE.

BUT, BASICALLY, IT'S A CAMERA SYSTEM, AND WHAT WE'RE DOING IS ACQUIRING THE IMAGES WITH THIS CAMERA ON THE AIRCRAFT.

WE'RE TRANSMITTING THOSE IMAGES TO THE MOBILE OPERATIONS CENTER WHERE WE'RE PRODUCING MAPS, WHERE WE'RE PUTTING THOSE IMAGES ON A MAP AND THEN DISTRIBUTING THEM OVER THE WEB TO FIRST RESPONDERS.

REAL-TIME MAPPING, BECAUSE DURING THE RESPONSE OF A CATASTROPHIC EVENT, YOU WANT TO SEE HOW THE GROUND IS CHANGING VERY, VERY QUICKLY.

THROUGHOUT THE STUDY, DRONES WILL ALSO BE EQUIPPED WITH WEATHER SENSORS TO ACCELERATE FORECASTS AND A COMMUNICATIONS RELAY.

IT'S BASICALLY A RADIO THAT ALLOWS A RADIO FROM A FIRST RESPONDER ON THE SHORE TO CONNECT THROUGH THE AIRCRAFT TO RADIOS INLAND.

THE N.J.I.T. RESEARCH PROJECT LEASES THE DRONES FROM AMERICAN AEROSPACE.

N.J.I.T. SECURED PERMISSION FROM THE F.A.A. TO CONDUCT FLIGHTS OVER THE ATLANTIC OCEAN UP TO 14 MILES OFFSHORE.

THE DRONE CAN REMAIN IN THE AIR FOR 12 TO 16 HOURS ON 1 1/2 GALLONS OF GAS.

THE AIRCRAFT HAS A PRE-PROGRAMMED FLIGHT PLAN, BUT THE PILOT CAN MANUALLY ADJUST THAT FLIGHT PLAN AT ANY TIME HERE IN THE MOBILE OPERATIONS CENTER.

AND THIS IS THE FIRST IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY THAT IS TEST-FLIGHTING DRONES WITHIN THE NATIONAL AIRSPACE.

WITH MOVIES LIKE 'INTERSTELLAR', BLACK HOLES HAVE ENTERED THE POP-CULTURE LEXICON AGAIN, BUT FOR SCIENTISTS, BLACK HOLES ARE AN ENDLESS SOURCE OF EXPLORATION.

AND SOME BELIEVE THAT ONE DAY, BLACK HOLES MAY BE AN ENERGY SOURCE FOR OUR PLANET.

ADAM BROWN, A THEORETICAL PHYSICIST AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY, JOINS US TO TALK ABOUT THE POTENTIAL FOR HARVESTING ENERGY FROM OUTER SPACE.

SO, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I PICKED UP FROM 'INTERSTELLAR' THAT WAS QUASI-SCIENTIFIC WAS THAT A BLACK HOLE CRUSHES EVERYTHING, AND IT JUST SORT OF IS ALMOST LIKE A VACUUM, AND IT SUCKS EVERYTHING UP.

YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT ENERGY COMING A BLACK HOLE AND US FIGURING OUT SOME WAY, THEORETICALLY, TO GRAB THAT.

HOW DOES THAT WORK?

THAT'S RIGHT.

SO, FOR MANY YEARS, WE THOUGHT EXACTLY LIKE YOU JUST SAID, THAT BLACK HOLES ARE JUST LIKE HOOVERS.

THEY HAVE AN INFINITE GRAVITATIONAL POTENTIAL.

NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU FIRE YOUR ROCKET, YOU'RE STILL JUST GONNA GET SUCKED IN, AND YOU'RE GONNA HIT THE SINGULARITY, AND YOU'RE GOING TO DIE.

AND UNFORTUNATELY, THAT'S STILL TRUE.

YOU'RE STILL GONNA GET SUCKED IN, BUT HAWKING DISCOVERED SOMETHING IN THE 1970s THAT SHOCKED EVERYONE.

SO BLACK HOLES WERE INVENTED WAY BACK BY ALBERT EINSTEIN IN 1915, A CENTURY AGO, BUT IN THE 1970s, STEPHEN HAWKING DISCOVERED THAT, IN FACT, ENERGY ESCAPE FROM BLACK HOLES.

SURE, YOU'RE GONNA GET SUCKED IN AND YOU'RE GONNA GET CRUSHED TO DEATH, BUT EVENTUALLY, YOUR ENERGY WILL LEAK OUT, AND THAT'S DUE TO QUANTUM MECHANICS.

THE SORT OF SHADOWY, LITTLE QUANTUM FLUCTUATIONS OF THE SMALLEST SCALES ALLOW ENERGY TO LEAK OUT OF BLACK HOLES IN WHAT'S CALLED HAWKING RADIATION.

HAWKING RADIATION.

SO, HOW COULD WE, THEORETICALLY, TAP INTO HAWKING RADIATION?

IF WE WERE CONTENT TO WAIT A REALLY LONG TIME, YOU COULD JUST HANG AROUND, AND EVENTUALLY THE BLACK HOLE WOULD DISINTEGRATE ALL ON ITS OWN, INTO HAWKING RADIATION.

IT WOULD JUST SLOWLY DISGORGE ITSELF BACK INTO THE UNIVERSE.

THE CATCH IS THAT THAT TAKES A REALLY LONG TIME.

SO, IF YOU TAKE A BLACK HOLE THAT WEIGHS, SAY, THE MASS OF THE SUN, THE SAME WEIGHT AS THE SUN, IT'LL TAKE A TREMENDOUSLY LONG TIME -- 10 TO THE 57 TIMES THE CURRENT AGE OF THE UNIVERSE -- BEFORE IT'S GIVEN ALL ITS ENERGY BACK INTO THE -- BACK OUT.

SO, SAY YOU WERE SOME HUNGRY CIVILIZATION LONG IN THE FUTURE.

THAT WOULD BE A VERY, VERY LONG TIME TO WAIT IN ORDER TO GET AT THE ENERGY OUT OF BLACK HOLES.

SCIENTISTS HAVE LOOKED FOR WAYS TO TRY AND GET THE ENERGY OUT FASTER.

SO, HAVEN'T THERE BEEN BLACK HOLES, THOUGH, THAT HAVE BEEN DISINTEGRATING AROUND THE UNIVERSE IN DIFFERENT PLACES THAT ARE PROBABLY NOW EXHIBITING SOME OF THAT HAWKING RADIATION?

EVERY BLACK HOLE -- I MEAN, WE BELIEVE THERE IS A BLACK HOLE AT THE CENTER OF THE GALAXY, FOR EXAMPLE, AND THERE ARE MANY BLACK HOLES THAT RESULT FROM SUPERNOVA EXPLOSIONS.

EVERY ONE OF THEM IS EMITTING HAWKING RADIATION THE WHOLE TIME.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE HAWKING RADIATION IS VERY, VERY COLD.

IT'S ONLY GIVING IT OUT VERY GENTLY, INDEED.

SO, A BLACK HOLE THAT WEIGHS THE MASS OF THE SUN IS GIVING IT OUT AT 60 NANOKELVINS.

AND UNFORTUNATELY, THE UNIVERSE IS MUCH HOTTER THAN 60 NANOKELVINS.

SO EVEN THOUGH IT'S EMITTING A SMALL AMOUNT OF THIS HAWKING RADIATION, MUCH MORE ENERGY IS FALLING INTO THE BLACK HOLE THAN IS BEING EMITTED IN HAWKING RADIATION.

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT GIANT SPACE ELEVATORS THAT CAN BE BUILT ON, SORT OF NANOTUBES, OR, YOU KNOW, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE IDEAS THAT YOU GRAPPLE WITH AND YOU SAY, 'WELL, THAT COULD ACTUALLY WORK.

NO, THAT CAN'T WORK'?

RIGHT, SO, THERE'S THIS OLD IDEA FOR HOW YOU CAN SPEED IT UP, HOW YOU CAN TAKE THIS NORMAL, NATURAL EMISSION OF THE BLACK HOLE AND MAKE IT MUCH, MUCH FASTER IN ORDER TO TRY TO GRAB THE ENERGY MUCH SOONER THAT WAITING AROUND FOR 10 TO THE 57 TIMES THE CURRENT AGE OF THE UNIVERSE.

AND THAT IDEA INVOLVES -- I SAID IT QUITE SIMPLE -- YOU TAKE A BOX, AND YOU LOWER THE BOX TO REALLY CLOSE TO THE BLACK HOLE HORIZON, SO REALLY CLOSE TO THE POINT OF NO RETURN.

YOU OBVIOUSLY DON'T WANT TO LOWER THE BOX THE POINT OF NO RETURN.

OTHERWISE, THE BOX WILL NOT RETURN.

BUT YOU GET IT VERY CLOSE TO THE POINT OF NO RETURN, DANGLE IT ON A ROPE, PULL REALLY HARD, AND THEN DRAG OUT THE BOX DOWN CLOSE TO THE BLACK HOLE AND THEN BACK OUT AGAIN.

SO IT'S A BIT LIKE FISHING?

LIKE A BOX ON A STRING.

AND THE IDEA OF THIS IS THAT HAWKING ALSO SHOWED THAT IF YOU GET CLOSE TO THE POINT OF NO RETURN, THERE'S A HOT GAS THERE THAT -- IN FACT, THERE'S A LOT OF ENERGY THERE, WHICH YOU CAN JUST SCOOP UP WITH YOUR BUCKET, DRAG IT OUT, AND, IN THAT WAY, ROB THE BLACK HOLE OF ITS RADIATION AND GREATLY -- IT'S CLAIMED -- SPEED UP THE PROCESS OF BLACK HOLE DISINTEGRATIONS GREATLY EXPEDITE EXTRACTING ENERGY FROM THE BLACK HOLE.

IF I UNDERSTAND THIS, IT'S ALMOST LIKE THE BLACK HOLE IS A WELL AND YOU'RE JUST SINKING A BUCKET VERY CLOSE TO THE WATER AND YOU'RE PICKING UP SOME OF THIS ENERGY AND YOU'RE BRINGING IT BACK, BUT THERE'S NO ROPE THAT WE COULD POSSIBLY BUILD THAT'S STRONG ENOUGH.

SO, THIS IS AN OLD PROPOSAL THAT YOU CAN DO THIS, BUT ACTUALLY, IT TURNS OUT THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM, AND THE PROBLEM IS THE STRENGTH OF THE ROPE.

SCIENTISTS HAVE A WORD FOR WHAT THIS KIND OF DEVICE IS, AND IT'S CALLED A SPACE ELEVATOR.

A SPACE ELEVATOR IS SOMETHING THAT DANGLES DOWN UNDER TENSION AND IS ABLE TO SUPPORT WEIGHT IN THAT WAY.

USUALLY, PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THEM IN THE CONTEXT OF BUILDING A SPACE ELEVATOR AROUND EARTH.

SO THIS IS AN IDEA THAT GOES BACK TO ARTHUR C. CLARKE, THE SCIENCE-FICTION WRITER, AND BEFORE.

AND HE IMAGINED THAT YOU COULD DANGLE A ROPE FROM WAY OUT INTO YOUR STATIONARY ORBIT, WHERE THAT END WILL BE SUPPORTED BY ITS OWN CENTRIFUGAL FORCE, AND YOU COULD DANGLE IT DOWN TOWARDS THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH.

AND BECAUSE IT'S BEING HELD UP BY THIS ORBITAL MOTION AT THE TOP, IT WOULD JUST DANGLE THERE AND BE ABLE TO SUPPORT ITSELF.

THE PROBLEM WITH THAT -- AND THEN, THE IDEA IS THAT YOU COULD THEN CLIMB THAT ROPE AND AVOID HAVING TO USE EXPENSIVE AND DANGEROUS AND SMELLY ROCKETS AND JUST BE ABLE TO GET INTO SPACE MUCH MORE EASILY AND EFFECTIVELY.

THIS IS AN IDEA, AND PEOPLE DO TALK ABOUT DOING THIS.

IT'S AN EXTREMELY -- AROUND EARTH, THIS IS, BUILDING A SPACE ELEVATOR AROUND EARTH -- IT'S AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT PROPOSAL, AND ONE OF THE GREAT DIFFICULTIES IS KNOWING WHAT TO BUILD THE ROPE OUT OF.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE ROPE IS TRYING TO TEAR ITSELF APART UNDER GRAVITY.

GRAVITY IS TUGGING ON ONE END OF THE ROPE, SO THE ROPE NEEDS TO BE VERY STRONG TO RESIST THE PULL OF GRAVITY.

ON THE OTHER HAND, IT ALSO NEEDS TO BE VERY LIGHT, IN ORDER THAT THE PULL OF GRAVITY IS SOMEWHAT LESS.

AND SO STEEL JUST WON'T WORK.

STEEL WILL TEAR ITSELF APART IN THE EARTH'S GRAVITATIONAL FIELD, BUT THERE IS A MATERIAL THAT TEAR ITSELF APART IN THE EARTH'S GRAVITATIONAL FIELD, THAT IS STRONG ENOUGH AND LIGHT ENOUGH TO MAKE IT WORK, AND THAT'S CARBON NANOTUBES.

SO THAT'S AN IDEA THAT WORKS ON EARTH.

WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT CARBON NANOTUBES -- THIS FUTURISTIC MATERIAL WE'VE MANAGED TO MAKE IN THE LAB IN SMALL QUANTITIES, BUT MAYBE WE COULD SOMEDAY FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE IT ON INDUSTRIAL QUANTITIES -- WE COULD BUILD A SPACE ELEVATOR AROUND EARTH, A ROPE THAT DANGLED ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH THAT WOULD RESIST BEING PULLED APART BY GRAVITY.

UNFORTUNATELY, IF YOU TRY TO DO THE SAME THING AROUND A BLACK HOLE, IT JUST DOESN'T WORK.

NOT WITH CARBON NANOTUBES, IT DOESN'T WORK.

THE GRAVITATIONAL FIELD OF A BLACK HOLE IS SO MUCH MORE INTENSE THAT IT'LL PULL ITSELF APART.

IT'S NOT JUST THAT CARBON NANOTUBES WON'T WORK -- IT'S THAT WORKS.

THAT, IN FACT, YOU NEED A ROPE THAT IS SO STRONG AND SO LIGHT THAT IT DEFIES THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.

THEORETICALLY, YOU HAVE SEALED OUR FATE.

WE WILL MOST LIKELY RUN OUT OF ENERGY AS A PLANET WHEN THE SUN DIES, AND WE CAN'T MINE BLACK HOLES.

IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE TELLING ME RIGHT NOW?

UNFORTUNATELY, WE CAN'T MINE BLACK HOLES.

ALL RIGHT, SO... I WILL LEAVE YOU TO THAT BLACKBOARD BEHIND YOU, WHICH HAS A LANGUAGE THAT I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.

I THANK YOU VERY MUCH, ADAM BROWN, FROM STANFORD UNIVERSITY, FOR THIS MOMENT OF DEEP THOUGHT.

OKAY. THANK YOU.

I'M SORRY TO BE A BEARER OF BAD NEWS.

[ LAUGHS ] UP NEXT, 'THE DINOSAUR SHOW' CONNECTS THE DOTS BETWEEN A MODERN-DAY CREATURE AND A PREHISTORIC DINOSAUR.

HERE'S THE DINOSAUR WHISPERER ON BIRDS AND DINOS.

ARE BIRDS REALLY DINOSAURS?

♪ 3, 2, 1

YES.

BIRDS ARE REALLY DINOSAURS.

AND I KNOW THAT'S KIND OF A CRAZY THING TO WRAP OUR HEADS AROUND, BUT IF WE LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE, IT STARTS MAKING SENSE.

SO, IF YOU LOOK AT ANIMALS THAT ARE ALIVE TODAY THAT WE CALL BIRDS, THEY SHARE A CERTAIN SUITE OF CHARACTERISTICS -- THINGS LIKE THREE TOES, WISHBONES, BEAKS, FEATHERS.

FEATHERS PROBABLY FIRST EVOLVED AS DOWNY TUFTS TO PROVIDE INSULATION, THEY MAY HAVE HAD DIFFERENT COLORATIONS TO AID IN MATE SELECTION, AND IF WE GO BACK ABOUT 150 MILLION YEARS, WE SEE A GROUP OF ANIMALS THAT WE REFER TO AS 'PROTOBIRDS' THAT REALLY SPREAD THAT GAP BETWEEN WHAT WE WOULD CONSIDER A DINOSAUR AND WHAT WE WOULD CONSIDER A BIRD.

ANIMALS LIKE SINOSAUROPTERYX, CAUDIPTERYX, DILONG, ANCHIORNIS, SINORNITHOSAURUS, ARCHAEOPTERYX -- ALL WHICH SHARED THAT SUITE OF CHARACTERISTICS -- THAT IF WE SAW THAT ANIMAL FLYING AROUND OR WALKING AROUND OR HOPPING AROUND OR GLIDING AROUND TODAY, WE WOULD ABSOLUTELY SAY, 'THAT THING IS A BIRD.'

SO, WE ALL KNOW AND LOVE VELOCIRAPTOR FROM 'JURASSIC PARK,' AND I HATE TO BREAK IT TO YOU, BUT NOT EVERYTHING WE SEE IN 'JURASSIC PARK' IS 100% SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE, INCLUDING THE DEPICTION OF VELOCIRAPTOR.

BECAUSE IN ACTUALITY, VELOCIRAPTOR WAS A LOT SMALLER AND COVERED IN FEATHERS.

NOW, I KNOW THAT'S A CRAZY THING TO TRY TO WRAP OUR HEADS AROUND, BUT IF WE LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE OF SOME REALLY WELL-PRESERVED VELOCIRAPTOR SPECIMENS, WE SEE EVIDENCE OF QUILL KNOBS.

QUILL KNOBS ARE TINY SITES ALONG A BONE WHERE TENDONS ATTACH TO FEATHERS THAT THEN ATTACH TO THAT BONE.

AND WHEN WE HAVE A REALLY WELL-PRESERVED FOSSIL, SOMETIMES WE ACTUALLY SEE EVIDENCE OF THOSE TINY, LITTLE SPOTS, AND IT'S A GREAT INDICATION THAT AT THOSE SITES, THERE WAS A FEATHER THAT WAS ATTACHED TO A TENDON THAT THEN ATTACHED TO THE BONE.

TOTALLY CHANGING OUR VIEW OF VELOCIRAPTOR, AND, I WOULD ARGUE IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS, MORE AND MORE THEROPODS, THE VERY CLOSELY RELATED, THREE-TOED, PRIMARILY CARNIVOROUS GROUP OF DINOSAURS.

AND SPEAKING OF BIRDS OF A FEATHER, THAT BRINGS US TO... [ Distorted ] THE THING OF THE WEEK.

[ Normal voice ] SO, THIS IS A DINO NUGGET, ALSO REFERRED TO -- AT LEAST BY ME -- AS AN INCEPTION NUGGET, BECAUSE IT IS ONE DINOSAUR INSIDE THE SHAPE OF ANOTHER DINOSAUR.

SO THIS IS MADE OUT OF CHICKEN IN THE SHAPE OF A... I'M GONNA GO WITH STEGOSAURUS, MAYBE?

[ SHUDDERS ] SO, JUST TO RECAP -- IN A SIMILAR FASHION TO THE WAY HUMANS ARE A SPECIALIZED TYPE OF PRIMATE, BIRDS ARE A SPECIALIZED TYPE OF DINOSAUR.

SO WHEN YOU SIT DOWN AND EAT CHICKEN NUGGETS FOR LUNCH -- DINOSAUR.

WHEN YOU EAT THANKSGIVING DINNER WITH YOUR FAMILY -- DINOSAUR.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE AMERICAN SYMBOL OF FREEDOM, THE BALD EAGLE -- DINOSAUR.

AND WHEN YOU LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOW EVERY SINGLE DAY AND SEE A PIGEON OR A ROBIN FLY BY, IS A DINOSAUR.

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.

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