SciTech Now Episode 36

In this episode of SciTech Now, we take a look at one school in Washington state pioneering the “flip classroom,” where lecturing is done at home, and problem solving is done in the classroom; we learn about a tenacious vine called the “air potato” posing difficult challenges to wildlife managers who are using small critters to fight back; Hari Sreenivasan sits down with the CEO of Spire, Peter Platzer, who is trying to revolutionize weather forecasting one satellite at a time; we meet the “visionaries” behind the startup One Drop who have developed an innovative new way to help people cope with diabetes and we sit down with Mark Siddall of the American Museum of Natural History who gives us an up-close look at some of the world’s most venomous creatures.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP... A FLIPPED CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE...

WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, THESE KIDS ARE DIGITAL NATIVES.

ANYBODY BORN AFTER 1984, THEY'RE A DIGITAL NATIVE.

I MEAN, FOR PEOPLE MY AGE, WE'RE DIGITAL IMMIGRANTS.

...THE NATURAL-WORLD WEEDWACKER...

THEY'LL CHEW A LOT OF HOLES IN IT.

IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY KILL THE LEAVES, THOUGH, BUT BY DOING THAT ALL OVER THE VINE, IT DISRUPTS THE PHOTOSYNTHESIS.

...A REVOLUTION IN WEATHER FORECASTING...

OUR SATELLITES, BECAUSE THEY ARE SMALL AND LIGHT, THEY BURN UP VERY CLEANLY IN JUST A FEW YEARS IN THE ATMOSPHERE, AND WE REPLACE THEM WITH BETTER TECHNOLOGY SO THAT WE ALWAYS HAVE THE BEST INFORMATION.

...AND THE POWER OF VENOM.

ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT BEING A POISONOUS ANIMAL IS THAT EVERYBODY SEES YOU AND THEY KNOW NOT TO TAKE A BITE.

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.

ACCORDING TO THE LATEST RESULTS FROM THE PROGRAM FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ASSESSMENT, AMERICAN STUDENTS RANKED AVERAGE IN SCIENCE AND READING AMONG THE WORLD'S MOST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES AND BELOW AVERAGE IN MATHEMATICS.

IN ORDER TO IMPROVE THESE METRICS, TEACHERS HAVE DEVELOPED AN INNOVATIVE METHOD OF TEACHING THAT ALLOWS THEM TO IMPROVE THE CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE WHILE ALSO ENHANCING LEARNING RETENTION.

TAKE A LOOK.

I'M IN GEOMETRY THIS YEAR, AND IT'S SORT OF HARD SINCE I'M DOING A COUPLE GRADES AHEAD.

ALMOST EVERY NIGHT, EIGHTH-GRADER LUCY CAVENER DOES HER HOMEWORK WITH THE HELP OF A DIGITAL TUTOR.

SHE USES A FREE ONLINE TUTORIAL SERIES CALLED KHAN ACADEMY.

I REALLY LIKE THAT YOU CAN HEAR THE VOICE NARRATING WHAT EXACTLY IS GOING ON IN THE VIDEO, BUT THEN YOU CAN ALSO SPECIFICALLY SEE ALL THE STUFF THAT HE DOES TO FIGURE OUT THE PROBLEM.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT LUCY HAS SOMETIMES HAD DIFFICULTY WITH IS THAT SHE NEEDS TO GO A LITTLE BIT MORE SLOWLY, NOT BECAUSE SHE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT, BUT SHE'S NOT JUST NOT A 'SNAP, SNAP, SNAP, QUICK, QUICK, QUICK.'

SO KHAN ACADEMY WAS REALLY, HONESTLY, A LIFESAVER.

THE EDUCATION VIDEOS ON KHAN ACADEMY ARE NOT JUST BEING USED FOR HOMEWORK.

THEY'RE ALSO BEING USED AS PART OF THE FLIPPED-CLASSROOM TREND.

IN TRADITIONAL CLASSROOMS, TEACHERS LECTURE AT SCHOOL AND PROBLEM-SOLVING WORK IS DONE AT HOME.

IN A FLIPPED CLASSROOM, STUDENTS WATCH THE LECTURES AT HOME ON VIDEO AND DO THE PROBLEM-SOLVING WORK IN THE CLASSROOM.

OKAY, SO, NOW YOU GUYS ALSO ARE GONNA UN-GROUP FIRST.

[ CHILDREN SPEAK INDISTINCTLY ]

RANDY BROWN IS AN AWARD-WINNING THIRD-GRADE TEACHER AT FRYELANDS IN MONROE.

HE'S CREATED A FLIPPED CLASSROOM FOR HIS ELEMENTARY STUDENTS WITH SOME AGE-APPROPRIATE TWEAKS.

THERE'S NO WAY THAT THIS IS A NORMAL FLIPPED CLASSROOM WHERE KIDS WATCH THE VIDEOS AT HOME.

THEY'RE ONLY EIGHT -- EIGHT AND NINE.

AND SO I DIDN'T EVEN WANT TO GO THERE AND RISK THEM GETTING ON THE INTERNET.

SO WHAT I'VE DONE, BECAUSE I HAVE THEM ALL DAY LONG, IS I'VE DECIDED THAT I'M GONNA HAVE ONE GROUP OF KIDS -- HALF MY CLASS -- WATCH AN INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO, AND THEN THAT FREES ME UP TO WORK WITH THE OTHER HALF.

ALTHOUGH WASHINGTON VOTERS RECENTLY PASSED INITIATIVE 1351, WHICH CALLS FOR REDUCED CLASS SIZES, THE BIG QUESTION NOW IS, HOW IS THE STATE GOING TO PAY FOR IT?

RANDY BROWN'S INNOVATIVE TEACHING APPROACH JUST MIGHT BE PART OF THE SOLUTION.

SO I'VE LITERALLY REDUCED THE TEACHER-STUDENT RATIO 50%. THAT'S NICE PRINTING.

I DON'T EVEN PRINT THAT NICE.

GIVE ME FIVE. NICE JOB.

LAST YEAR, I HAD A BOY WHO LITERALLY WOULD COME TO MY DESK 30 TIMES A DAY BECAUSE HE NEEDED HELP ON EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM ON EVERY SINGLE PAGE, AND I LOVED IT.

I WAS SO GLAD I COULD HELP HIM.

THAT PROBABLY IS THE SINGLE MOST POWERFUL BENEFIT TO WHAT I'M DOING IS THAT THE KIDS WHO NEED THE HELP THE MOST ACTUALLY GET THE MOST HELP.

AND BROWN IS HELPING THOSE KIDS BY CONNECTING WITH THEM ON THEIR LEVEL.

RIGHT THERE. AH, PERFECT.

OKAY, THANK YOU.

WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, THESE KIDS ARE DIGITAL NATIVES.

ANYBODY BORN AFTER 1984, THEY'RE A DIGITAL NATIVE.

I MEAN, FOR PEOPLE MY AGE, WE'RE DIGITAL IMMIGRANTS.

AND SO IT'S VERY NATURAL FOR THEM TO WATCH AN INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO ANYWAY.

IT'S NOT FOREIGN.

IT'S NOT WEIRD.

GOOD MORNING, BOYS AND GIRLS.

ALL RIGHT, TODAY WE'RE GONNA BE WORKING WITH AREA.

BROWN STARTED PRODUCING VIDEO LECTURES TWO YEARS AGO AFTER WATCHING A KHAN ACADEMY VIDEO ONLINE.

WE'RE GONNA HAVE FIVE TIMES THREE.

AFTER 30 YEARS OF TEACHING, BROWN SAID HE REALIZED THIS COULD FREE UP MORE TIME IN HIS CLASS FOR MORE PERSONALIZED TEACHING.

PART OF THE VIDEOS ABOUT I LIKE IS THAT WE LEARN A LOT OF STUFF ON MULTIPLICATION, SUBTRACTION, ADDITION.

IT'S HELPFUL BECAUSE, AT THE SAME TIME, HE CAN HELP KIDS.

HELPING KIDS IS BROWN'S PASSION, AND IT SHOWS IN HIS FLIPPED CLASSROOM.

NICE.

HE SPENT HIS OWN MONEY ON A PEN TABLET.

HE TAUGHT HIMSELF VIDEO PRODUCTION BY WATCHING YouTube VIDEOS.

AND SOME 12-YEAR-OLD KID ON YouTube LITERALLY SHOWED ME HOW TO USE GREEN-SCREEN TECHNOLOGY, AND I'VE BEEN HOOKED EVER SINCE.

ALL RIGHT, BOYS AND GIRLS.

HELLO.

OKAY, WE'RE GONNA DO A LITTLE REVIEW TODAY ON...

HE WORKED WEEKENDS AND CAME IN THREE HOURS BEFORE THE START OF EVERY SCHOOL DAY TO PRODUCE OVER 500 ONLINE VIDEOS.

AND I DON'T RECOMMEND EVERYBODY MAKE THE VIDEOS.

THE OTHER THREE THIRD-GRADE TEACHERS IN THIS BUILDING, THEY USE MY VIDEOS.

THEY DON'T MAKE THEIR OWN MATH VIDEOS.

SO READ THIS TO ME -- 'THINK OF A PLACE...'

BROWN'S STUDENTS AREN'T THE ONLY FANS OF HIS INNOVATIVE TEACHING APPROACH.

YOU CAN LOG IN TO MR. BROWN'S SITE AND PRINT OUT THE HOMEWORK, SO THAT WAY, YEAH, IF YOU WERE OUT SICK, YOU COULD BRING IT ON IN AND STILL BE UP-TO-DATE AND KNOW WHAT'S GOING IN THE CLASS, VERSUS, 'OH, I HAD THE FLU FOR THREE DAYS, AND NOW I'M OUT.'

AND I BELIEVE THAT EACH ONE OF THE CHILDREN IN THAT CLASSROOM GOT INDIVIDUAL TIME WITH MR. BROWN MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, AND I FIND THAT AMAZING.

DO ALL OF THE THINGS THAT YOU NORMALLY DO IN CLASS AND PROBABLY DO THEM MUCH MORE DEEPLY AND RICHLY THAN YOU HAVE TIME FOR IN A...

THE FLIPPED-CLASSROOM APPROACH ISN'T NEW.

IT'S BEEN USED AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL FOR YEARS.

HERE'S THE VIDEO I JUST MADE.

NOTICE HOW IT'S GRAYED OUT.

SO THAT MEANS IT'S THERE, BUT IT'S BEING PROCESSED.

TYLER FOX IS AN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGIST AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON.

SO IT BOUNCES OVER FOR THEM AUTOMATICALLY TO THE SCREEN, AND THEN IT WILL COME BACK.

FOX SAYS THAT TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP STUDENTS MEET THEIR LEARNING OBJECTIVES AS LONG AS THOSE OBJECTIVES REMAIN THE PRIORITY FOR TEACHERS.

WHAT YOU WANT STUDENTS TO LEARN, WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO, AND THEN WE CAN TALK ABOUT HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN ENHANCE THAT OR NOT.

YOU KNOW, NOT EVERY CLASS NEEDS TO BE USING TECHNOLOGY ALL OF THE TIME.

A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED DISCUSSION IS REALLY USEFUL.

TECHNOLOGY COMBINED WITH CONVERSATION SOUNDS GOOD TO LUCY CAVENER.

THE HAMILTON INTERNATIONAL MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT SAYS THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM COULD WORK IN A LOT OF HER CLASSES.

IF MY CLASSES WERE LIKE THIS, I FEEL LIKE IT WOULD BE A LOT MORE INTERESTING, AND HOMEWORK WOULDN'T BE AS STRESSFUL FOR PEOPLE, AND IT WOULD ALSO JUST BE A WHOLE BUNCH MORE FUN.

[ CHUCKLES ]

HOW DO YOU GET RID OF WEEDS?

YOU PUT A TINY CREATURE THAT IS PART OF THE BEETLE FAMILY TO WORK.

IN THIS NEXT SEGMENT, WE GO INSIDE THE GROUND WAR ON THE AIR POTATO.

MODERN LIFE PROVIDES MANY COMFORTS.

WE ENJOY READILY AVAILABLE PRODUCTS FROM FAR-FLUNG PLACES, AND MODERN HIGHWAYS MAKE TRANSPORTATION FAST AND CONVENIENT.

BUT A BYPRODUCT OF THOSE CONVENIENCES IS THE EASE WITH WHICH NONNATIVE SPECIES CAN BE INTRODUCED INTO A HABITAT.

IN CENTRAL FLORIDA, ONE PARTICULARLY VEXING SPECIES BEARS A NAME THAT MAY HARMLESS, BUT THE PLANT CERTAINLY ISN'T.

AIR POTATO WAS INTRODUCED AS A HORTICULTURAL, OR ORNAMENTAL, VINE.

IT'S FROM ASIA AND NORTH AFRICA.

IT'S ESCAPED IN SOUTH FLORIDA, BUT MADE IT'S WAY TO CENTRAL FLORIDA, WHERE WE JUST HAVE THE RIGHT CLIMATE AND CONDITIONS FOR IT TO SPREAD THE WAY IT DOES.

THE AIR POTATO IS LISTED AS A NOXIOUS WEED.

IT'S ON THE STATE NOXIOUS WEED LIST.

SO THAT'S BASICALLY PREVENTING ANY TRADE OR MOVEMENT OF THE PLANT THROUGHOUT THE STATE AND BETWEEN STATES.

AIR POTATO HARMS NATIVE FLORA BY DEPRIVING THEM OF VITAL SUNLIGHT.

SO IT CLIMBS TO TRY TO GET THE MOST OPTIMAL AREA, WHICH ACTUALLY DISRUPTS THE HABITAT.

WELL, WHEN IT SHADES OUT THOSE HABITATS AND KILLS OFF ALL THE PLANTS UNDERNEATH IT, THEN THAT HABITAT IS NO LONGER VIABLE FOR THE ANIMALS OR PLANTS.

IT REALLY DECREASES THE DIVERSITY OF AN AREA.

BUT BIOLOGISTS HAVE FOUND A WAY TO HARVEST NATURE TO COMBAT AIR POTATO.

ITS SCIENTIFIC NAME IS BUT IT'S COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE AIR-POTATO BEETLE.

IT HAPPENED TO BE THAT THE AIR-POTATO BEETLE WAS KIND OF A JOINT PROJECT BETWEEN THE STATE AND THE FEDS.

THEY WENT AHEAD, AND THEY DO A LOT OF TESTING, AND IT TAKES ANYWHERE FROM 5 TO 10 YEARS FOR THEM TO BE TESTING THAT PARTICULAR SPECIES OF BEETLE -- ONLY ACTUALLY EATS WHICH IS OUR AIR POTATO.

ONE BEETLE -- SO IT'S LARVAE STAGE AND THE ADULT STAGE -- CAN EAT ABOUT 30 SQUARE FEET OF LEAF TISSUE IN ITS LIFETIME.

PERHAPS JUST AS IMPORTANT, THE BEETLE REPRODUCES VERY QUICKLY.

ONE FEMALE CAN LAY ABOUT 2,000 TO 4,000 EGGS.

THEIR CYCLE IS ABOUT FIVE TO SIX WEEKS LONG.

SO YOU CAN SEE HOW, ABOUT EVERY MONTH OR SO, THEIR POPULATION JUST INCREASES EXPONENTIALLY 'CAUSE THEY'RE LAYING THOUSANDS OF EGGS.

SO YOU RELEASE A FEW HUNDRED, THEN YOU HAVE THOUSANDS IN A MONTH AND TENS OF THOUSANDS A MONTH LATER FROM THAT.

SO THEIR POPULATIONS GET REALLY, REALLY BIG.

THEN IN THE FALL, AS THE VINES SENESCE, THEY DO FEED SOME ON THE POTATOES THAT ARE GROWING, BUT IT'S NOT ENOUGH TO KILL THE POTATOES.

THAT'S MORE TO GET SOME CARBOHYDRATES FOR ENERGY TO DEVELOP FAT BODIES TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE WINTER.

THE BEETLES DO MOST OF THEIR HARM TO AIR POTATO BY FEEDING ON THE VINES' LEAVES.

THIS IS PRETTY TYPICAL RIGHT HERE.

THEY'LL CHEW A LOT OF HOLES IN IT.

IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY KILL THE LEAVES, THOUGH, BUT BY DOING THAT ALL OVER THE VINE, IT DISRUPTS THE PHOTOSYNTHESIS SO THAT THE TUBER THAT'S UNDERGROUND CAN'T GET AS MUCH ENERGY AS IT NORMALLY WOULD GET, AND SO THAT TUBER THEN WILL SHRINK EACH YEAR.

SO INSTEAD OF HAVING BULBILS IN THE GROUND LOOKING LIKE THIS IN THE FALL, THE BULBILS ARE HARD TO FIND, AND THEY'RE ALL VERY SMALL, WHICH IS GREAT.

THAT MEANS WE'RE SLOWING THE SPREAD OF IT, AS WELL.

SO FAR, THE RELEASE PROGRAM IS SHOWING GREAT PROMISE.

IN THREE YEARS, WE'VE RELEASED 300,000 BEETLES AT CLOSE TO A THOUSAND SITES IN ALMOST 50 COUNTIES IN FLORIDA.

SO WE PUT OUT A GREAT DEAL OF BEETLES.

WHAT WE WANTED TO DO WAS, IN THOSE AREAS THAT ARE PROTECTED, BUILD UP LARGE POPULATIONS OF THE BEETLE AND LET THEM DISPERSE ON THEIR OWN.

IN THE AREAS WE'VE RELEASED THE BEETLES, THE VINES ARE ONLY GETTING MAYBE 12 FEET HIGH VERSUS 30 FEET HIGH.

THE BEETLE ISN'T A PANACEA, BUT IT SHOULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE.

NOW, THIS WILL PROBABLY NEVER ERADICATE AIR POTATO.

IT'S MORE OF CONTROL.

THAT'S WHY WE CALL IT BIOLOGICAL CONTROL.

SO IT'LL JUST KEEP THE VINES IN CHECK TO A POINT WHERE IT'S NOT A NUISANCE ANYMORE AND IT'S NOT REALLY CAUSING PROBLEMS.

I THINK WE DID CATCH IT.

WE CAUGHT IT ON THE PERFECT PART OF THE CURVE OF WHERE IT WAS EXPONENTIALLY GROWING OUT OF CONTROL.

WE CAUGHT IT JUST IN TIME TO START MAKING A DENT IN THE POPULATION OF AIR POTATO BEFORE IT BECAME TOO DESTRUCTIVE TO THE PLANT COMMUNITIES OUT THERE.

THE RECOVERY OF THE NATURAL PLANT COMMUNITIES WILL PROBABLY BE 100%.

THE INACCURACY OF WEATHER REPORTS ON RECORD-BREAKING SNOWFALLS AND SCORCHING HEAT HAS MANY QUESTIONING THE RELIABILITY OF DATA FROM OUTDATED WEATHER SATELLITES.

ACROSS THE GLOBE, ONE MAN IS USING A CONSTELLATION OF CUTTING-EDGE SATELLITES TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE WEATHER-TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY.

PETER PLATZER, C.E.O. OF SPIRE, JOINS US NOW.

SO, WHAT IS THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY OR THIS NEW IDEA?

YOU'RE ESSENTIALLY SCRUNCHING A SATELLITE DOWN INTO THE SIZE OF A WINE BOTTLE.

HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

I BASICALLY DO THE SAME THING THAT PEOPLE HAVE DONE OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS WITH COMPUTERS THAT USED TO BE THE SIZE OF A WHOLE FLOOR WHEN I WAS AT CERN AND THEN WORKING THERE AS A PHYSICIST, AND NOW WE CARRY IT IN OUR CELLPHONES IN OUR POCKETS.

AND THIS SAME KIND OF LIKE MOORE'S LAW, AS PEOPLE CALL IT, THAT IS HAPPENING ON EARTH, WE ARE USING IN SPACE.

THE EXISTING WEATHER SATELLITES THAT WE'RE FAMILIAR WITH, THEY'RE THE SIZE OF A SMALL CAR, RIGHT, THAT'S FLOATING IN THE SKY.

YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, AND THEY ARE SO OLD.

THEY ARE LITERALLY BLOWING UP.

WOW.

AND I WOULD IMAGINE THAT, IF THEY'VE BEEN UP THERE FOR A LONG TIME, MY SMARTPHONE OR CERTAINLY THE LAPTOP WE'RE SPEAKING THROUGH MIGHT BE MORE HIGH-TECH THAN WHAT'S IN THERE.

WAY MORE HIGH-TECH.

SO WE CALCULATED IT ONCE THAT THE AVERAGE TECHNOLOGY OF A MODERN-DAY SATELLITE IS EQUIVALENT TO A 486 PC, WHICH YOU AND I MIGHT REMEMBER, BUT HOPEFULLY MOST PEOPLE LISTENING AND WATCHING THIS WILL NOT REMEMBER EVEN ANYMORE.

IF THAT KIND OF MINIATURIZATION CAN HAPPEN, I'M ASSUMING THAT IT IS CHEAPER TO GET ONE OF YOUR NANOSATELLITES UP THAN TO PUSH WHAT WEIGHS A SMALL CAR UP INTO SPACE, RIGHT?

LAUNCH COST IS PRETTY MUCH A DIRECT FUNCTION OF WEIGHT.

SO THE LIGHTER YOU ARE -- AND OUR SATELLITES ARE MAYBE 7 POUNDS OR 10 POUNDS RATHER THAN 10,000 POUNDS, ARE SIGNIFICANTLY CHEAPER TO BRING UP THERE.

IF YOU CAN MAKE THIS SMALLER AND IF IT'S LIGHTER AND IF IT'S PROBABLY CHEAPER TO SEND UP IN SPACE, CAN YOU KEEP REPLACING THE TECHNOLOGY?

SO THAT, SAY, FOR EXAMPLE, JUST LIKE SMARTPHONES ARE GETTING SMARTER EVERY YEAR AND A HALF TO TWO YEARS, CAN YOU UPDATE THE TECHNOLOGY THAT'S IN A WEATHER SATELLITE BECAUSE OF GREATER PROCESSING POWER, BETTER CAMERAS?

HARI, YOU JUST HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD.

OUR SATELLITES, BECAUSE THEY ARE SMALL AND LIGHT, THEY BURN UP VERY CLEANLY IN JUST A FEW YEARS IN THE ATMOSPHERE, AND WE REPLACE THEM ON JUST THAT TWO-YEAR LIFE CYCLE THAT YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT WITH BETTER TECHNOLOGY SO THAT WE ALWAYS HAVE THE BEST INFORMATION.

WHAT CAN THIS NEW BREED OF SATELLITE DO THAT OUR EXISTING ONES CAN'T DO, AS WELL?

THEY JUST USE THE STRENGTH OF LARGE NUMBERS.

THAT'S THEIR BIGGEST ADVANTAGE.

THERE ARE CERTAIN TYPES OF MEASUREMENTS WHERE IT IS NOT DEPENDENT ON THE SIZE OF THE SATELLITE, BUT SIMPLY THE NUMBER OF THE SATELLITES THAT YOU HAVE THAT DETERMINE HOW MUCH RELEVANT DATA YOU CAN GET.

IN PARTICULAR, IT'S THE TEMPERATURE, THE WIND SPEED, AND THE RAIN CONTENT OF THE ATMOSPHERE.

INSTEAD OF HAVING, LET'S SAY, 100 SATELLITES THAT MIGHT BE FLOATING AROUND THE EARTH LOOKING AT WEATHER, LET'S SAY, WITH YOUR NANOSATELLITE IDEA, YOU COULD SPRINKLE 1,000 OR 10,000 AROUND OUR PLANET.

WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION WOULD WE GET, AND HOW IS THAT BENEFICIAL FOR US?

HOW COULD WE ACT ON THAT?

THE FIRST NOTION THAT I HAVE TO SEPARATE YOU FROM IS THAT THERE ARE 100 SATELLITES THAT DELIVER WEATHER DATA TO US TODAY.

OKAY.

THERE ARE SOMETHING LIKE EIGHT THAT ALL OF THE WORLD COMBINED HAS.

WOW.

SO WE ARE TRYING TO UNDERSTAND SOMETHING THAT IMPACTS A THIRD OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY AND 100% OF THE PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET WITH A HANDFUL OF 486 FLYING IN SPACE.

ONE THING THAT HAS BEEN REALLY AMAZING TO ME IS THE TRANSFORMATION FROM, 'OH, WEATHER FORECASTERS, THEY'RE ALWAYS WRONG,' KIND OF LIKE THE CLICHé THAT EVERYONE HAS, TO A DEEP AND SINCERE APPRECIATION OF HOW AMAZING THOSE PEOPLE ARE IN THEIR ACCURACY, GIVEN THE LIMITED AND RIDICULOUSLY SMALL AMOUNT OF DATA THAT THEY HAVE AVAILABLE.

BEST CASE SCENARIO -- WE LOOK UP IN THE SKY 5, 10 YEARS FROM NOW, YOUR IDEA FOR NANOSATELLITES IS SUCCESSFUL -- WHAT'S THE WORLD OUTSIDE OUR ATMOSPHERE LOOK LIKE?

YOU KNOW, 10 YEARS AGO, WHEN WE NEEDED TO FIND OUR WAY FROM -- I DON'T KNOW -- NEW YORK CITY TO SOME STRANGE PLACE IN NEW JERSEY, THE WAY YOU FOUND DIRECTIONS IS YOU DROVE TO A GAS STATION, YOU GOT A PAPER MAP, YOU PUT IT OUT ON YOUR CHAIR NEXT TO YOUR DRIVER'S SEAT, AND YOU TRY TO FIND A ROUTE, AND MAYBE YOU GOT LOST AND YOU ASKED PEOPLE FOR DIRECTIONS.

AND THAT WAS TOTALLY NORMAL, AND EVERYONE ACCEPTED THAT AS AN ADEQUATE LEVEL OF HAVING DIRECTIONS.

TODAY, ADEQUATE LEVEL OF DIRECTIONS IS TURN-BY-TURN NAVIGATION BY A FRIENDLY VOICE FROM YOUR iPHONE OR YOUR ANDROID PHONE, AND WE GET THERE WITHIN FIVE MINUTES PLUS OR MINUS, KNOWING UP-TO-THE-DATE INFORMATION ABOUT TRAFFIC JAMS.

IN A DECADE FROM NOW, THAT'S HOW ACCURATE I WANT WEATHER FORECASTING TO BE.

I WANT YOU AND I TO HAVE A CONVERSATION IN 10 YEARS, THINKING BACK HOW ANTIQUATED WEATHER FORECASTING WAS 10 YEARS AGO, JUST LIKE NAVIGATION BY PAPER MAP IS COMPARED TO THE TURN-BY-TURN DIRECTION OF A GOOGLE iPHONE.

AND THE ONLY DIFFERENCE -- MORE DATA.

ALL RIGHT.

PETER PLATZER, C.E.O. OF SPIRE.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

MY PLEASURE.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

MY NAME'S JEFF DACHIS, AND THE COMPANY'S NAME IS ONE DROP, AND WE ARE A MOBILE DIABETES-MANAGEMENT PLATFORM.

WE ALLOW PEOPLE TO LOG THEIR FOOD, THEIR INSULIN, THEIR ACTIVITY, AND THEIR GLUCOSE ALL IN ONE SIMPLE, EASY-TO-USE APP, AND THEN TO SHARE ALL OF THAT INFORMATION WITH A COMMUNITY OF OTHER PEOPLE LIKE THEM SO THAT WE CAN ALL LEARN ABOUT HOW TO NAVIGATE OUR DIABETES TOGETHER.

ANYBODY WITH DIABETES CAN HAVE ONE DROP FOR FREE IF YOU HAVE INSURANCE.

I HAVE TYPE 1 DIABETES, AND I SEARCHED AROUND AND LOOKED FOR ALL OF THE APPS AND GEAR AND EVERYTHING THAT WAS OUT THERE, AND THERE REALLY JUST WASN'T ANYTHING.

IT WAS SORT OF DATED FROM THE '80s.

AND SO I USED SOME OF THE EXPERIENCE THAT I'VE HAD TO CREATE WHAT I THINK IS A VERY POWERFUL LOGGING, SHARING, AND LEARNING PLATFORM.

THERE ARE 70 MILLION AMERICANS WITH PRE-DIABETES TODAY, AND THERE ARE 345 MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE WITH DIABETES TODAY.

IT'S THE MOST EXPENSIVE HEALTHCARE PROBLEM WE HAVE TODAY AS A SOCIETY.

DIABETES IS HARD.

IT'S COMPLEX, IT'S DIFFICULT TO MANAGE, AND IT'S EXPENSIVE.

EVERYBODY'S JOURNEY IS DIFFERENT.

AND SO I THOUGHT, IF WE COULD ALL SHARE OUR JOURNEY THROUGH THESE MOMENTS, THESE SIMPLE MOMENTS, THAT WE COULD ANALYZE THE PATTERNS FROM A LARGE COLLECTION OF PEOPLE AND HELP SUPPLY INSIGHTS AND KNOWLEDGE TO PEOPLE TRYING TO NAVIGATE THEIR OWN WAY THROUGH A LIFE WITH DIABETES.

IF WE CAN TAKE ONE LITTLE STEP ONE DROP AT A TIME TO EMPOWER PEOPLE TO LIVE THEIR LIVES BETTER, THEN I THINK WE'VE DONE A GREAT JOB, AND THAT'S ONE DROP TODAY.

MARK SIDDALL, CURATOR AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, TAKES US INSIDE THE MINDS OF VENOMOUS ORGANISMS AS HE EXPLORES THE MANY STRATEGIC WAYS VENOM IS DELIVERED.

JOIN US AS WE SIT DOWN WITH HIM.

[ SOFT MUSIC PLAYS ] [ FLAMENCO GUITAR PLAYS ] [ RATTLE ]

THERE ARE NUMEROUS WAYS IN WHICH TO DELIVER VENOM.

BUT IT'S NOT INFINITE.

IT TENDS TO REALLY BOIL DOWN TO WHAT END OF THE ANIMAL WE'RE TALKING ABOUT.

SO, FOR EXAMPLE, VENOMS CAN BE DELIVERED WITH A BITE, IN WHICH CASE THERE'S USUALLY FANGS.

AND ASSOCIATED WITH THOSE FANGS, THERE ARE USUALLY SOME SORT OF MODIFIED GLANDS, EITHER MODIFIED SALIVARY GLANDS OR SOME OTHER GLAND, THAT PRODUCES THE TOXIN.

LET'S TAKE, FOR EXAMPLE, THE PIT VIPERS.

THE PIT VIPERS HAVE HOLLOW TEETH JUST LIKE A HYPODERMIC NEEDLE THAT THEY USE FOR DELIVERING VENOM.

THERE ARE OTHER SNAKES -- FOR EXAMPLE, THE COBRAS -- THEY STILL HAVE FANGS, BUT THE TEETH HAVE DEEP GROOVES IN THEM, AND THOSE GROOVES SERVE TO DELIVER THE VENOM DOWN THEIR LENGTH WITH A BITE.

AND THEN THERE'S SOMETHING LIKE THE GILA MONSTER IN THE DESERT SOUTHWEST OF THE UNITED STATES.

THEY DON'T HAVE FANGS, BUT THEY DO HAVE TEETH, AND THOSE TEETH ARE INCREDIBLY STRONG.

IF A GILA MONSTER BITES, THE FORCE OF THE BITE ITSELF CAUSES TWO GLANDS RIGHT UNDERNEATH THE LIPS -- IF LIZARDS HAVE LIPS -- TO SQUEEZE AND PRESS THE VENOM OUT ALONG THE TEETH AND DELIVERING IT THAT WAY.

[ BEES BUZZING ] ANOTHER WAY THAT ANIMALS DELIVER VENOM -- AND THIS HAPPENS TO BE PARTICULARLY THE CASE AMONGST THE INSECTS AND OTHER ARTHROPODS -- IS THROUGH WHAT WE COULD CALL A STING, WHICH JUST MEANS THAT THE SHARP THING IS AT THE OTHER END.

A WASP... AN ANT... A BEE... A SCORPION... THEY ALL HAVE STINGS.

THAT SHARP THING IS REALLY AN ANATOMICAL FEATURE THAT FIRST EXISTED FOR THE PURPOSES OF DEPOSITING EGGS.

BUT WHAT IF THE THING DELIVERING VENOM IS SOMEWHERE ELSE ON THE BODY?

AND THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN A LOT OF DIFFERENT ORGANISMS.

PEOPLE ARE OFTEN SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT THERE ARE VENOMOUS MAMMALS.

THE DUCK-BILLED PLATYPUS IN AUSTRALIA, FOR EXAMPLE, IS A VENOMOUS MAMMAL.

IT HAS SPURS ON ITS HIND LEGS USED NOT FOR DEFENSE SO MUCH AS COMBAT BETWEEN MALES COMPETING FOR FEMALES.

THEN YOU HAVE SPINES.

IF YOU STEP ON A STONEFISH THAT'S BURIED IN THE SAND, A SPINE -- HOLLOW IN THE MIDDLE -- WILL GO UP INTO THE HEEL OF YOUR FOOT, AND THE PRESSURE OF YOUR FOOT WILL SQUEEZE THE GLAND, FORCING THE VENOM UP, AND EITHER MAKING YOU VERY SICK OR, IN SOME RARE CASES, ACTUALLY KILLING YOU.

THOSE SPINES ARE REALLY JUST MODIFICATIONS OF THE NORMAL DORSAL-FIN SPINES THAT YOU SEE ON OTHER FISH.

SOME OF THE EARLIEST ANIMALS TO EVER EXIST ON THIS PLANET WERE THE CNIDARIANS.

THIS INCLUDES JELLYFISH.

IT INCLUDES SEA ANEMONE.

THEY'RE CALLED CNIDARIA BECAUSE THEY HAVE CNIDOCYSTS.

THESE ARE TINY, TINY, TINY LITTLE STINGING CELLS, SOMETIMES ONLY IN ONE PART OF THE BODY LIKE THE TENTACLES AND SOMETIMES ALL OVER THE BODY.

WHEN BRUSHED OR WHEN COMING IN CONTACT WITH SOMETHING OF THE RIGHT CHEMICAL MAKEUP, THOSE CNIDOCYSTS WILL FORCIBLY EXPLODE, EXTRUDING A LONG SPINE, OFTEN WITH LITTLE BARBS ON IT, AND VERY FREQUENTLY DELIVERING A VENOM.

A LOT OF ANIMALS SPEND A LOT OF ENERGY AND TIME TRYING TO HIDE OR RUN AWAY FROM PREDATORS.

ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT BEING A POISONOUS ANIMAL IS THAT EVERYBODY SEES YOU AND THEY KNOW NOT TO TAKE A BITE.

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.