SciTech Now Episode 35

In this episode of SciTech Now, we visit one community in Central Florida that is working to better cohabitate with the area’s black bear population; Hari Sreenivasan sits down with climate scientist Richard Somerville to discuss the Doomsday Clock; we do “Show and Tell” with two tortoises, Hermes and Mud; Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Dr. Michael Lipton about the risks associated with head injuries and we take a closer look at the Theremin, a unique instrument that uses bioelectric magnetic fields to create sound.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP... SHARING SPACE WITH THE BLACK BEAR.

WE'RE TAKING OVER A LOT OF THE UPLAND OAK WOODLANDS THAT USED TO BE A STEADY RESOURCE FOR THEM.

THAT'S WHY WE NEED TO BE MORE EDUCATED AND MORE AWARE.

THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK TICKS CLOSER TO PLANETARY CATASTROPHE.

WE KNOW THAT ICE IS DECREASING WORLDWIDE, GLACIERS ARE MELTING.

WE KNOW THAT ARCTIC SEA ICE IS DRASTICALLY DECREASING.

WE'RE CONFIDENT THAT THERE ARE OTHER TIPPING POINTS WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT.

USING TECHNOLOGY TO UNDERSTAND CONCUSSIONS.

THIS IS BASED ON AN IMAGING TECHNIQUE THAT USES M.R.I.

IT GENERATES IMAGES OR PICTURES WHICH ARE BASED ON A TECHNIQUE CALLED DIFFUSION TENSOR IMAGING.

AND AN UNUSUAL INSTRUMENT.

'C,' 'D,' 'E,' 'F,' 'G,' AND I GO CLOSER AND CLOSER UNTIL I GET TO THE TOP OF 'C' AGAIN.

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.

AS THE HUMAN POPULATION GROWS AROUND THE WORLD, COMMUNITIES OFTEN BEGIN TO ENCROACH UPON LAND THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY INHABITED BY LOCAL ANIMALS.

WE TAKE A LOOK AT ONE COMMUNITY'S EFFORTS TO COHABITATE WITH THEIR LOCAL BLACK BEAR POPULATION.

HERE'S A LOOK.

BLACK BEARS ARE AN AMERICAN ICON, FROM POPULAR CARTOONS TO FIRE-PREVENTION CAMPAIGNS TO MANY NATIONAL PARKS.

THIS SHY BUT AMIABLE CREATURE IS UBIQUITOUS IN OUR NATIONAL CULTURE.

WITH A RANGE THAT INCLUDES ALL BUT FIVE OR SIX STATES, THE BLACK BEAR POPULATION IS LARGE AND THRIVING.

THAT'S GOOD NEWS, BUT IT ALSO MEANS THERE'S THE POTENTIAL FOR INCREASING NUMBERS OF HUMAN/BEAR ENCOUNTERS AS WE CONTINUE TO ENCROACH ON BEARS' HABITAT.

SO IT'S VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT WE UNDERSTAND HOW, WHERE, AND WHY BEARS MOVE, ESPECIALLY IN BOUNDARY AREAS BETWEEN HUMAN SPACE AND BEAR HABITAT.

A GROUP OF CENTRAL FLORIDA RESEARCHERS IS IN THE MIDST OF A STUDY THAT DOES JUST THAT.

THE MAIN THING THAT WE WANTED TO EXPLORE WITH THE PROJECT IS THE DYNAMICS OF BEARS LIVING IN AN URBAN SETTING.

SO, WE WANTED TO SEE HOW THAT INFLUENCES THEIR MOVEMENTS, WHERE THEY GO, HOW FREQUENT THEY GO INTO NEIGHBORHOODS OR ARE IN THE PARK.

MAIN THING IS, WHAT ARE THE DRIVERS FOR THESE MOVEMENTS?

[ CUB SQUEALS ] FOR THE CUBS, BASICALLY LOOKING AT THE HEALTH OF THE CUBS, SO YOU'RE TAKING MEASUREMENTS, THEIR WEIGHT AND LENGTH TO COMPARE IT WITH HISTORICAL DATA ON WHAT SIZE THE CUBS SHOULD BE AT THAT AGE.

IMPETUS FOR THE STUDY CAME FROM DON BROUILLARD, AN AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER AND PRESIDENT OF FRIENDS OF THE WEKIVA RIVER.

THE IDEA FOR THE STUDY CAME FROM WORKING AND DOING A LOT OF WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY IN SEMINOLE STATE FOREST.

IN THE FIRST COUPLE YEARS I WAS OUT THERE, I WAS SEEING A LOT OF BEARS, AND IT WAS PRETTY EVEN DENSITIES THROUGH A LOT OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF HABITATS.

AND THEN THE DROUGHT HIT IN 2010, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, I WASN'T SEEING A LOT OF BEARS, BUT I JOINED FRIENDS OF WEKIVA RIVER AT THAT TIME AND STARTED TO GET EXPOSED TO A LOT OF PEOPLE ALONG THE URBAN EDGE, AND THEY WERE HAVING LOTS OF STORIES ABOUT BEARS.

SO, I WAS WONDERING WHAT THE DICHOTOMY WAS, WHY WE WERE HAVING THIS DIFFERENCE IN BEARS.

IN 2014, DISNEY NATURE AWARDED THE GROUP $25,000, ALLOWING THEM TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THE STUDY.

AFTER WE WERE AWARDED THAT GRANT, WE CONTINUED TO OBTAIN ADDITIONAL FUNDING, AND NOW WE HAVE GROWN THE STUDY TO OVER AN $80,000 BEAR STUDY IN THE WEKIVA BASIN, AND IT'S A STUDY THAT HAS NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE IN OUR AREA.

THE RESEARCHERS ARE PLACING GPS COLLARS ON THE BEARS TO COLLECT DATA ON THEIR MOVEMENTS.

THEY ALSO RELY ON VOLUNTEERS TO SUPPLEMENT THAT DATA.

THE VOLUNTEERS' ROLE IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE WE'LL NEED THEM TO GO OUT AND OBSERVE AND RECORD WHAT THEY SEE AT THE LOCATIONS THAT THE BEARS ARE SPENDING CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF TIME SO WE CAN UNDERSTAND THE BEARS' CHOICES OF WHERE THEY'RE GOING AND WHAT HABITATS THEY'RE USING.

BIOLOGISTS KNOW THAT BEAR BEHAVIOR IS DRIVEN MOSTLY BY THEIR NEED TO FIND MATES, FOOD, AND SHELTER, SO THEY WANT TO DETERMINE THE MAIN INFLUENCES ON THESE DECISIONS AND HOW HUMANS PLAY A ROLE.

WE'VE ACTUALLY MOVED INTO THEIR AREAS, NOT THE REVERSE.

SO, WE'RE TAKING OVER A LOT OF THE UPLAND OAK WOODLANDS THAT USED TO BE A STEADY RESOURCE FOR THEM.

THAT'S WHY WE NEED TO BE MORE EDUCATED AND MORE AWARE OF OUR OWN ACTIVITIES AND BEHAVIOR, AND IF WE DO THAT, WE CAN ENJOY THE RESOURCE OF SEEING THE BEARS AND BE SAFE AT THE SAME TIME.

PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANT, BY BETTER UNDERSTANDING BEARS, WE CAN BETTER PROTECT BOTH PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

IF WE CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BEARS AND WHY THEY'RE GOING WHERE THEY ARE AND HOW FREQUENTLY THEY DO THAT, THEN WE CAN INFORM THE PUBLIC ON WHY THEY'RE DOING IT, WHAT BEHAVIOR WE NEED TO CHANGE TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF CONFLICTS THAT ARE GOING ON, AND TO INCREASE SAFETY FOR THOSE THAT CHOOSE TO LIVE NEAR THE PARK.

WHEN WE PROTECT THE BEARS AND THE BEAR HABITAT, WE'RE MORE LIKELY TO PROTECT THE THREATENED AND ENDANGERED AND ALL THE OTHER SPECIES THAT SHARE THEIR SAME HABITAT.

SO, THEY ARE A VERY IMPORTANT SPECIES TO THE OVERALL ECOSYSTEM.

IN JANUARY 2015, THE ICONIC DOOMSDAY CLOCK MOVED TWO MINUTES CLOSER TO MIDNIGHT.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

ACCORDING TO THE ESTEEMED BULLETIN OF ATOMIC SCIENTISTS, THE WORLD IS MUCH CLOSER TO CATASTROPHE.

SHOULD WE BE WORRIED?

TO EXPLAIN IS THE MAN WHO VIRTUALLY MOVED THE HAND HIMSELF, CLIMATE SCIENTIST RICHARD SOMERVILLE.

SO, WHAT MINUTE IS IT AT NOW FIRST OF ALL?

I HAVEN'T BEEN KEEPING TRACK OF THE ATOMIC CLOCK OR THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK, AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

WELL, IT'S NOW AT THREE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT.

WE ADVANCED IT TWO MINUTES EARLIER THIS YEAR.

SO, THAT'S A BIG LEAP.

IT'S A BIG LEAP.

WE -- WE WANTED TO GET PEOPLE'S ATTENTION.

THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK REALLY MEASURES OUR ESTIMATE OF SEVERAL THREATS THAT ARE EXISTENTIAL THREATS TO HUMANITY.

STARTED OUT WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS, OF COURSE, BUT NOW IT INCLUDES CLIMATE CHANGE AND CYBER THREATS AND OTHER -- OTHER CONSIDERATIONS, AS WELL.

SO, WHAT WERE THE FACTORS THAT LED YOU TO TAKE THAT BIG TWO-MINUTE LEAP?

WELL, I THINK IT'S DIFFERENT FOR DIFFERENT REASONS.

I THINK IN THE CASE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS, THERE WAS A DISTURBING MOVE AMONG MANY NATIONS, YOU MIGHT SAY, TO REARM, TO UPGRADE THE NUCLEAR ARSENALS.

WE ARE STEPPING AWAY FROM THE DISARMAMENT THAT EVERYONE WOULD LOVE TO SEE.

AND IN CLIMATE CHANGE, I THINK IT WAS A COMBINATION OF DEVELOPMENTS IN CLIMATE SCIENCE AND PLUS A LACK OF DEVELOPMENT, YOU MIGHT SAY, ON THE POLITICAL SIDE -- A LACK OF SIGNS THAT THE WORLD'S NATIONS WERE REALLY READY TO ACT SERIOUSLY TO REDUCE THE THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

SO, WAS THERE A TIPPING POINT?

BECAUSE, TECHNICALLY, YOU COULD SAY THAT CASE EVERY YEAR.

THAT'S RIGHT, BUT I THINK THIS YEAR, THERE WERE -- THERE WERE SEVERAL DEVELOPMENTS THAT WE FELT WERE DISQUIETING.

ONE WAS SIMPLY SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENTS.

WE KNOW, FOR EXAMPLE, IN 2014, SCIENTISTS STUDYING ANTARCTICA ANNOUNCED THAT A PORTION OF THE WEST-ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET APPEARS TO HAVE BEGUN A COLLAPSE THAT IS UNSTOPPABLE.

THAT MEANS IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN TOMORROW AFTERNOON, BUT OVER A TIMESCALE OF A CENTURY OR PERHAPS A FEW CENTURIES, WE'RE GOING TO SEE A LARGE CHUNK OF ICE FROM ANTARCTICA DESTABILIZE, FALL INTO THE SEA, YOU MIGHT SAY, AND RAISE SEA LEVELS WORLDWIDE BY AN AVERAGE OF PERHAPS 3 FEET AND ALSO THREATENING TO FURTHER DESTABILIZE THE ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET.

THIS WAS A TIPPING POINT, IF YOU LIKE IT, OR A THRESHOLD THAT HAD BEEN FORESEEN YEARS AGO, BUT NOW IT APPEARS TO HAVE PASSED, AND THAT'S UPSETTING BECAUSE THE WORLD HAS NOT YET WARMED VERY MUCH, YET WE'RE ALREADY SEEING SERIOUS CLIMATE CHANGES.

THE U.S. RELEASED A NONPARTISAN, COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY OF CLIMATE SCIENCE CALLED THE NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT.

IT TOOK -- WAS YEARS IN THE MAKING, HUNDREDS OF SCIENTISTS PARTICIPATED, AND IT MADE IT CLEAR THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU ONLY THINK ABOUT AS A THREAT FOR THE FAR FUTURE.

IT'S MOVED FIRMLY INTO THE PRESENT.

WE'RE SEEING SIGNS OF CLIMATE CHANGE EVERYWHERE WE LOOK.

ALL THE WARMEST YEARS, FOR EXAMPLE, HAVE BEEN IN RECENT YEARS, AND OF THE 10 WARMEST YEARS, NINE OF THEM GLOBALLY HAVE BEEN SINCE THE YEAR 2000.

SO, WHAT ARE SOME OTHER TIPPING POINTS THAT YOU'RE KEEPING AN EYE ON?

WE ARE LOOKING AT SEVERAL POSSIBLE TIPPING POINTS.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE REST OF ANTARCTICA IS ALSO VULNERABLE.

GREENLAND IS VULNERABLE.

THOSE ARE THE TWO BIG ICE SHEETS IN THE WORLD.

WE KNOW THAT ICE IS DECREASING WORLDWIDE, GLACIERS ARE MELTING.

WE KNOW THAT ARCTIC SEA ICE IS DRASTICALLY DECREASING IN EXTENT, AND THERE'S ALSO SIGNS THAT TRAPPED GREENHOUSE GASES, HEAT TRAPPING GASES, THAT ARE PRESENTLY TRAPPED MAY BE VULNERABLE AS THE WORLD WARMS.

THEY MAY COME -- COME INTO PLAY, AS WELL.

SO, YOU'RE REALLY FACING A SITUATION WHERE THE TIPPING POINTS THAT WE KNOW ABOUT ARE WORTH -- WORTH MONITORING AND WHERE WE'RE CONFIDENT THAT THERE ARE OTHER TIPPING POINTS WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT.

SO, THE WARMER YOU LET THE WORLD BECOME, THE GREATER THE RISK.

IT'S A BIT LIKE A SPEED LIMIT, YOU KNOW?

IF YOU -- IF YOU HIT THE SPEED LIMIT, OKAY, BUT IF YOU GO A COUPLE MILES OVER, IT'S NOT, YOU KNOW A DISASTER NECESSARILY, BUT IF YOU CONTINUE TO DISREGARD THE SPEED LIMIT AND KEEP GOING FASTER, THEN EVENTUALLY YOU ARE HEADED FOR A VERY BAD OUTCOME.

SO, WHO COMPRISED THE BULLETIN OF ATOMIC SCIENTISTS?

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IN LAY TERMS?

HISTORICALLY, THE BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS STARTED IN THE 1940s AFTER WORLD WAR II WHEN THE SCIENTISTS WHO HAD DEVELOPED NUCLEAR WEAPONS, HAD DEVELOPED THE ATOMIC BOMBS THAT WERE USED IN HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI, WANTED TO WARN THE WORLD OF THIS NEW DANGER, A NEW CLASS OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, AND SO, THEY BEGAN IT, AND SINCE THEN, A VERY DISTINGUISHED SCIENTIFIC CAST HAS PARTICIPATED.

THERE ARE MANY, MANY NOBEL LAUREATES, FOR EXAMPLE, WHO HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THE BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS, AND AS TIME HAS GONE ON -- WE'RE A LONG TIME SINCE THE 1940s NOW -- I THINK THE -- THE POSSIBLE THREATS HAVE BEEN EXPANDED TO INCLUDE THREATS LIKE CLIMATE CHANGE, LIKE CYBER TERRORISM, AND SO IT'S REALLY A MEANS FOR WHICH THE SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS CAN GET A MEGAPHONE, YOU MIGHT SAY, A MOUTHPIECE, TO ALLOW THEM TO RAISE THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE WORLD AND TO WARN THE WORLD ABOUT THESE THREATS.

SO, AS EDUCATED AS ALL OF THE SCIENTISTS ARE IN THE -- IN THE BULLETIN, AS WELL AS OUTSIDE IN CLIMATE SCIENCE, HOW... WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO INFLUENCE POLICY, HOW DO YOU TACKLE THE PUBLIC MISPERCEPTIONS OF WHERE CLIMATE SCIENCE IS, RIGHT?

SO, EVEN AFTER WE HAVE THIS CONVERSATION, THERE'S INEVITABLY GONNA BE A STREAM OF E-MAILS FROM CLIMATE SCIENCE DENIERS WHO ARE ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN THIS CONVERSATION, WHERE IF 90-SOMETHING-% OF CLIMATE SCIENTISTS CAN AGREE, HALF THE U.S. POPULATION CANNOT, RIGHT?

SO, HOW DO YOU AS SCIENTISTS TACKLE THE REALITY THAT EXISTS OUTSIDE?

I THINK THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT SCIENTISTS CAN DO.

WE'RE GENERALLY NOT EXPERT COMMUNICATORS, YOU KNOW?

I'M A PROFESSIONAL SCIENTIST AND AN AMATEUR COMMUNICATOR, AND I THINK SCIENTISTS ARE NOW LEARNING SOMETHING ABOUT THE TASK OF COMMUNICATING CLEARLY IN LAY LANGUAGE THAT CAN BE UNDERSTOOD WITHOUT A LOT OF JARGON AND A LOT OF CAVEATS, TO SIMPLY SPEAK CLEARLY AND DIRECTLY TO THE AMERICAN PUBLIC.

SO, WE CAN DO BETTER AT THAT.

I PERSONALLY THINK THAT PEOPLE NEED TO SEPARATE OUT THE SCIENCE AND THEIR POLITICS AND IDEOLOGICAL CONVICTIONS.

AFTER ALL, IT'S BEEN SAID THAT EVERYBODY'S ENTITLED TO THEIR OWN OPINION BUT NOT TO THEIR OWN FACTS, AND I LIKE TO SAY THAT -- THAT THE SCIENCE ITSELF CAN BE OBJECTIVE AND NONPARTISAN.

THERE AREN'T ANY LIBERAL OR CONSERVATIVE SATELLITES, AND THERE AREN'T ANY DEMOCRATIC OR REPUBLICAN THERMOMETERS.

AND I THINK THAT SOUND SCIENCE CAN INFORM WISE POLICY IF PEOPLE WILL SIT BACK, PUT THEIR POLITICS ON HOLD FOR A LITTLE WHILE, AND LEARN THE FACTS.

WE'RE MEASURING CLIMATE CHANGE.

THIS ISN'T SOMETHING WE'RE CONJECTURING ABOUT.

PEOPLE ASK ME ON AIRPLANES IF I BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING, AND IT'S NOT A MATTER OF BELIEF.

IT'S A MATTER OF FACTS AND EVIDENCE.

WE'RE MEASURING THE WORLD WARMING.

WE'RE MEASURING THE OCEAN'S WARMING.

WE'RE MEASURING ICE AND SNOW MELTING -- MELTING WORLDWIDE.

WE'RE MEASURING SEA LEVEL RISING.

WE'RE MEASURING MORE WATER VAPOR IN THE ATMOSPHERE LEADING TO HEAVIER RAINS, MORE DOWNPOURS, LESS DRIZZLE, YOU MIGHT SAY.

SO THESE ARE CLEAR CONSEQUENCES.

THEY'RE AFFECTING PEOPLE RIGHT NOW.

YOU DON'T GET A LINE ITEM ON YOUR INCOME TAXES THAT SAY, 'PAYING FOR CLIMATE CHANGE,' BUT NONETHELESS, WE'RE SEEING THE WEATHER THAT WE'RE USED TO BEING DISTORTED AND DISTURBED AND CHANGED BY CLIMATE CHANGE.

ALL RIGHT, RICHARD SOMERVILLE, PROFESSOR AT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO, THANKS SO MUCH.

MY PLEASURE.

HERMES AND MUD HAVE BEEN HERE FOR 13 YEARS.

THESE WERE THE TWO LAST ONES OUT OF THEIR LITTER.

ONE HAD AN UNDERSLUNG JAW, AND THE OTHER ONE, HIS BACK HAD BEEN BROKEN, SO HIS SHELL HAS GROWN KIND OF FUNNY.

I DID EXACTLY WHAT I TELL PEOPLE NEVER TO DO, WHICH IS, I FELT SORRY FOR THEM, SO I JUST BOUGHT THEM ON THE SPOT.

THESE ARE AFRICAN SPUR-THIGHED TORTOISE.

THESE GUYS GET TO ABOUT 250 POUNDS.

THEY'RE THE THIRD LARGEST IN THE WORLD AFTER GALAPAGOS AND THE ALDABRA TORTOISES.

THEY GET UP AROUND 400 POUNDS.

MUD IS THE LARGER OF THE TWO.

HE'S NOT PARTICULARLY AGGRESSIVE, BUT HE GETS BULLIED BY -- BY HERMES.

THEY'RE LIKE PUPPIES.

THEY DON'T FIGHT.

IT'S ALL THIS PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE STUFF.

YOU KNOW, LIKE 'OH, AM I IN YOUR NEST?'

THIS ANIMAL ROOM HERE IS A REALLY HIGH-END FACILITY.

THEY HAVE THE RIGHT LIGHTS, THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE GRADIENT, THE RIGHT FOOD.

THEY -- THEY'VE GOT MORE LIVING SPACE THAN MORE NEW YORKERS.

I MEAN THAT'S A 400-SQUARE-FOOT ROOM, AND IT'S ALL THEIRS.

YES, HERMES CAN GO -- WELL, MUD CAN, AS WELL, WHEN HE...

DENNY DIVELEY DOES A LOT OF THE CARE.

SHE MAKES THEIR -- THEIR BEDS AT NIGHT, AND SHE REALLY TAKES CARE OF THEM.

ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS GOT TO SEE YOU TODAY.

THE NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT AND I ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO ORDER HAY FOR DELIVERY TO MANHATTAN.

THEY EAT TWO KINDS OF HAY.

THEY EAT ORCHARD HAY AND TIMOTHY -- NOT TOO MUCH IN THE WAY OF SWEETS.

OCCASIONALLY, THEY'LL GET A PIECE OF APPLE OR WHATEVER.

ACTUALLY, TRIED SWISS CHARD ONCE.

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN HOW KIDS, WHEN THEY DON'T LIKE ANYTHING AND YOU PUT IT IN THEIR MOUTH AND THEY GO?

IT WAS THAT SAME REACTION.

HE JUST COULDN'T BELIEVE THAT THIS STUFF WAS IN HIS MOUTH.

BASICALLY, WE TAKE THEM OUTSIDE BECAUSE THEY LIKE IT.

IT MAKES THEM HAPPY, IT'S KIND OF FUN TO TAKE THEM OUT, AND THE PEOPLE ON THE STREET SEEM TO ENJOY IT.

MILD TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES RELATED TO SPORTS LIKE FOOTBALL AND SOCCER IS AN ONGOING TOPIC OF CONVERSATION.

DR. MICHAEL LIPTON JOINS ME TO DISCUSS THE USE OF ADVANCED IMAGING TECHNIQUES IN CONCUSSION RESEARCH.

DR. LIPTON IS THE ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR AT THE GRUSS MAGNETIC RESONANCE RESEARCH CENTER AT ALBERT EINSTEIN COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, AS WELL AS MEDICAL DIRECTOR AT M.R. -- OF M.R.I.

SERVICES AT MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER.

SO, WHAT CAN YOU SEE INSIDE THE BRAIN OF SOMEONE WHO'S HAD A CONCUSSION?

SO, IN LOOKING AT THE BRAIN OF SOME PEOPLE -- AND I NEED TO EMPHASIZE THAT.

NOT NECESSARILY EVERYONE, BUT IN SOME PEOPLE WHO'VE HAD CONCUSSION, WE CAN SEE EVIDENCE OF ABNORMALITIES THAT REPRESENT AN INJURY TO THE MICROSCOPIC STRUCTURE OF THE BRAIN, WHICH REALLY REPRESENTS YOUR BRAIN'S NETWORK WIRING, THE COMMUNICATION FIBERS INSIDE YOUR BRAIN.

IS IT THE SAME IN EVERYONE, THAT YOU CAN SEE, OR IS IT DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE BRAIN, DIFFERENT WAYS THAT THE WIRES ARE FRAYED, SO TO SPEAK?

SO, THE INJURY IS VERY DIVERSE AND HETEROGENEOUS, MEANING ACROSS DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS.

EVERY PERSON, FIRST OF ALL, HAS A DIFFERENT INJURY.

THEIR HEAD IS HIT IN A DIFFERENT WAY, THEY'RE POSITIONED DIFFERENTLY, BUT, ALSO, THEY BRING MANY DIFFERENT THINGS TO THAT INJURY -- WHO THEY ARE, THEIR GENETIC BACKGROUND, THEIR INTELLECTUAL LEVEL, THEIR EDUCATION.

ALL OF THESE THINGS AFFECT HOW THE INJURY WILL INTERACT WITH THEIR BRAIN, AND AS A RESULT, THE AREAS IN THE BRAIN THAT ARE GOING TO BE AFFECTED IN ANY ONE INDIVIDUAL ARE GOING TO BE UNIQUE RELATIVE TO ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL, AND NEW TECHNIQUES ARE NEEDED TO REALLY FOCUS IN ON HOW WE CAN IDENTIFY AND CAPTURE WHAT'S GOING ON IN EACH INDIVIDUAL PERSON.

SO, ONE OF THE NEW TECHNIQUES THAT YOU'VE HELPED DEVELOP IS THIS EZ-MAP.

EXPLAIN WHAT THIS MICROSTRUCTURAL ASSESSMENT PATHOLOGY -- WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

RIGHT, SO, FIRST OF ALL, THIS IS BASED ON AN IMAGING TECHNIQUE THAT USES M.R.I.

IT -- IT USES A STANDARD M.R.I.

SCANNER, AND IT GENERATES IMAGES OR PICTURES WHICH ARE BASED ON A TECHNIQUE CALLED A DIFFUSION TENSOR IMAGING, OR D.T.I., AND ESSENTIALLY, WHAT IT IS DOING IS MEASURING HOW WATER MOLECULES -- LITERALLY, H2O MOLECULES -- ARE MOVING AROUND IN THE BRAIN TISSUE.

AND THERE IS A SIGNATURE IN TERMS OF THAT MOVEMENT THAT IS CHARACTERISTICALLY CONFERRED BY NORMAL BRAIN STRUCTURE, AND WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR, WHICH IS THE SAME AS WHAT EVERYONE IS LOOKING FOR, IS ALTERATIONS IN THAT WATER MOVEMENT.

THE EZ-MAP TECHNIQUE IS AN APPROACH WHICH TAKES IT A STEP FURTHER BY SAYING, RATHER THAN JUST LOOKING AT THIS MEASUREMENT -- AND AS I SAID BEFORE, TRYING TO SAY, IF WE HAVE A GROUP OF PEOPLE WITH A CONCUSSION AND A GROUP OF NORMAL PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER HAD THAT CONCUSSION, HOW DO THEY LOOK DIFFERENTLY?

WE, INSTEAD, ARE USING THIS TECHNIQUE TO TAKE A GROUP OF NORMAL PEOPLE AND DEFINE WHAT THE NORMAL LOOKS LIKE.

WHAT IS THE RANGE OF NORMAL?

AND THEN WHEN WE LOOK AT AN INDIVIDUAL PATIENT, WE CAN DELINEATE WHERE IN THEIR BRAIN THEY HAVE ABNORMALITIES IN THAT ONE PERSON, AND DOING THAT, WE SEE FROM PERSON TO PERSON HOW THERE'S A DIFFERENT PICTURE.

SO, EVENTUALLY, WHEN IT COMES TO, SAY, YOUTH SPORTS OR EVEN PRO SPORTS, WILL THERE BE A SCENARIO THAT YOU CAN IMAGINE WHERE PEOPLE WILL TAKE BASELINE TESTS BEFORE THEY GET INVOLVED IN THE GAME, RIGHT?

TO SAY, 'HERE'S KIND OF MY MENTAL FUNCTIONING.

HERE'S HOW THE WATER IS FLOWING THROUGH MY BRAIN 'NORMALLY,'' AND THEN LATER ON, IF THERE'S AN INJURY, THEY CAN KIND OF COMPARE THAT AND SAY, 'MAYBE THAT WAS A REALLY HARD HIT.

MAYBE I TOOK THAT.'

SO, THAT'S POSSIBLE.

WE ALREADY KNOW THAT THERE IS INCREASINGLY WIDESPREAD USE OF BASELINE TESTS OF MENTAL FUNCTION, OF COGNITIVE FUNCTION, LIKE THE IMPACT TESTING A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE HEARD ABOUT.

EVEN HOW THAT WORKS GIVEN THE AMOUNT OF VARIABILITY IN SOMEONE'S COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING FROM DAY TO DAY, IT'S NOT COMPLETELY CLEAR HOW WE DEFINE A CHANGE OVER TIME.

SO, WHAT THE RESEARCH IS LOOKING AT NOW IS HOW THE IMAGING TEST MIGHT BE ABLE TO TELL US HOW THINGS EVOLVE OVER TIME.

WHAT WE KNOW PRETTY CLEARLY IS THAT AT A POINT IN TIME, WE CAN LOOK AT SOMEONE WITH A CONCUSSION AND IN MANY OF THOSE PEOPLE BUT NOT ALL OF THEM, FIND THESE ABNORMALITIES.

WHAT WE DON'T NECESSARILY KNOW IS HOW THE CHANGE THAT WE SEE IS GOING TO TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN IN THE LONG TERM TO THAT PERSON.

ALL RIGHT, DR. MICHAEL LIPTON, THANKS SO MUCH.

THANKS.

FIRST DISCOVERED IN THE 1920s, THE THEREMIN IS A UNIQUE ELECTRONIC INSTRUMENT THAT HAS BEEN USED TO CREATE DRAMATIC MOVIE SOUND EFFECTS, UNUSUAL ORCHESTRAL MUSIC, AND HAS ALSO BEEN USED TO HELP STUDENTS UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF BIOELECTRIC MAGNETIC FIELDS.

JOIN US AS WE FIND OUT MORE.

[ EERIE MUSIC PLAYING ]

THAT SPOOKY-SOUNDING INSTRUMENT SYNONYMOUS WITH 1950s 'B' MOVIES GOT ITS START IN EARLY 20th-CENTURY CONCERT HALLS.

NEARLY 100 YEARS LATER, THEREMINIST MANO DIVINA -- YES, THAT'S HIS GIVEN NAME -- IS BRINGING THE INSTRUMENT BACK TO ITS ROOTS.

[ THEREMIN MUSIC PLAYING ] IN A TCNJ CONCERT HALL, HE PEPPERS SCIENCE AND HISTORY LESSONS INTO HIS PERFORMANCE.

IT IS JUST ELECTRICITY TRAPPED IN THE AIR.

I HAD PLAYED NINE INSTRUMENTS WHEN I FIRST SAW THE THEREMIN, AND I THOUGHT IT WAS A JOKE.

THE INSTRUMENT WAS INVENTED IN THE 1920s BY RUSSIAN PHYSICIST LEON THEREMIN.

RCA MANUFACTURED ONLY 500 UNITS.

THEY BECAME MORE WIDELY KNOWN FOR CREATING SOUND EFFECTS.

WHEN THE INSTRUMENT FIRST APPEARED, IT WAS TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY.

PEOPLE EXECUTED CLASSICAL MUSIC ON IT.

DECADES LATER, GENERATIONS LATER, NO ONE KNEW HOW TO PLAY IT, NO ONE KNEW HOW TO REPAIR IT, AND WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING WAS, PEOPLE STARTED TO USE IT FOR SOUND EFFECTS.

WHEN A U.F.O. WAS LANDING... [ ELECTRONIC WHIRRING ] ...OR TAKING OFF.

[ WHIRRING INTENSIFIES ] THE GHOST IN THE SCOOBY-DOO CASTLE.

[ EERIE WAILING ] THESE WERE ALL SOUND EFFECTS, AND NOBODY KNEW HOW TO MAKE MUSIC OUT OF IT, BUT THEY KNEW THAT RIGHT AT THAT RIGHT MOMENT, A... [ HIGH-PITCH SCREECHING ] ...WORKED GREAT IN A SCIENCE-FICTION MOVIE.

MANO DIVINA EVENTUALLY DROPPED HIS NINE OTHER INSTRUMENTS AND DEDICATED HIMSELF SOLELY TO THE THEREMIN.

THE THEREMIN IS PLAYED BY MOVING YOUR HANDS AROUND IN TWO ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS, ONE FROM THE PITCH ANTENNA AND ONE FROM THE VOLUME ANTENNA.

[ CHORD PLAYS ] AS MANO DIVINA SAYS, IT'S LITERALLY PULLING MUSIC OUT OF THIN AIR.

TO BREAK THAT DOWN A LITTLE FURTHER...

A CLOSED FIST IS THE BOTTOM OF THE OCTAVE, AND THEN EIGHT NOTES UP IS JUST EIGHT SMALLER MOVEMENTS UNTIL I'M EXTENDED, AND THEN I DROP AND GO A LITTLE CLOSER.

IF YOU LOOK AT IT FROM THE ANTENNA, 'C,' 'D,' 'E,' 'F,' 'G,' AND I GO CLOSER AND CLOSER UNTIL I GET TO THE TOP OF 'C' AGAIN.

WHEN I'M AT THE TOP OF 'C,' I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DROP MY HAND BACK AND BE AT THE BOTTOM OF 'C.'

[ THEREMIN MUSIC PLAYING ]

MANO DIVINA ISN'T NEARLY AS SERIOUS IN PERSON AS HE APPEARS ONSTAGE.

HE SAYS THERE'S A GOOD REASON FOR HIS POKER-FACED PLAYING.

[ THEREMIN MUSIC PLAYING ] HEAR IT GO UP?

I INHALE, IT GOES UP A HALF STEP.

SO EVERY TIME I HIT THAT HIGH 'F' FOR MOZART, I HAVE TO BE IN THE SAME BREATHING PATTERN.

IT'S AN INTERACTIVE, AUDIBLE, AND VISUAL SCIENCE EXPERIMENT.

NOT SURPRISINGLY, SAMUEL MASON OF THE NIKOLA TESLA SCIENCE FOUNDATION IS A FAN.

AS WE'RE MOVING INTO TEACHING ABOUT STEAM, YOU KNOW, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, ARTS, AND MATHEMATICS, THE THEREMIN HELPS STUDENTS OF ALL AGES TO UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF BIOELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS.

MANO DIVINA PERFORMS EVERYTHING FROM CLASSICAL MUSIC TO ROCK WITH HIS DIVINE HANDS ORCHESTRA IN VENUES RANGING FROM NIGHTCLUBS AND CONCERT HALLS TO SCIENCE MUSEUMS AND EVEN A CEMETERY.

WE'RE TRYING TO BRING THE THEREMIN BACK TO THE PUBLIC'S EYE.

THAT'S WHY WE'LL DO MOZART AND DO BLACK SABBATH.

WE'LL DO BEETHOVEN, AND THEN WE'LL DO 'LA VIE EN ROSE.'

[ 'LA VIE EN ROSE' PLAYING ]

HE SAYS REFERENCES TO THE INSTRUMENT IN SHOWS LIKE 'THE SIMPSONS' AND 'THE BIG BANG THEORY' HELP, AND IT MIGHT BE THE THEREMIN'S TIME TO SHINE.

HE SAYS THE PIANO TOOK ABOUT 100 YEARS TO BECOME A POPULAR HOUSEHOLD INSTRUMENT, SO WHY NOT?

[ THEREMIN MUSIC PLAYING ]

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 THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.