SciTech Now Episode 40

In this episode of SciTech Now, we learn about a disease called white-nose syndrome has been killing bats all over the United States; we hear from author Ainissa Ramirez about her book Newton’s Football and how she is making science “cool” again; Hari Sreenivasan sits down with tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler to discuss the concept of the “Uber of Everything,” and we visit an exhibition in Utah called ARTsySTEM that aims to combine art with science education.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP... THE BATTLE TO SAVE THE BATS.

PRETTY MUCH SINCE ABOUT 2008, WE'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THE PRESENCE OF THE DISEASE.

WE DID NOT FIND ANY EVIDENCE UNTIL 2014.

A NEW SPIN ON SCIENCE EDUCATION.

GET RID OF TESTING.

BECAUSE THAT'S ACTUALLY GIVING US A SET OF SKILLS OR GIVING STUDENTS A SET OF SKILLS THAT'S NOT GONNA BE USEFUL IN THE 21st CENTURY.

WHAT WE DO IS WE ACTUALLY USE FAILURE MORE AS TO BE INFORMED ABOUT WHAT WE SHOULD DO NEXT.

THE UBER OF EVERYTHING.

I'VE HAD ON-DEMAND ALCOHOL DELIVERY, PIZZA, MEALS, MASSAGE, EVEN A DOCTOR THAT CAME TO MY HOUSE ON DEMAND WITH JUST A PUSH OF A BUTTON.

AND A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ART AND SCIENCE.

BY PUTTING THIS EXHIBITION TOGETHER, IN SOME WAYS, WE'RE HIGHLIGHTING WAYS IN WHICH THE ARTS ARE REALLY RELATED TO SCIENTIFIC PRACTICES.

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.

BATS -- THE VERY NAME FILLS THE IMAGINATION WITH FEAR AND DREAD, BUT THESE PEACEFUL CREATURES PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN OUR ENVIRONMENT AND OUR ECONOMY BY PREYING ON INSECTS THAT DESTROY CASH CROPS, BY KEEPING MOSQUITO POPULATIONS IN CHECK, AND BY HELPING TO POLLINATE TREES.

NOW BATS ARE THREATENED BY A MYSTERIOUS DISEASE THAT'S MARCHING ACROSS THE UNITED STATES.

AS BAT POPULATIONS RAPIDLY DECREASE, A COORDINATED NATIONAL RESPONSE HAS RISEN TO FIGHT THE DISEASE, AND THE FRONT LINE OF THE BATTLE IS IN THE STATE OF MICHIGAN.

IN A LABORATORY AT WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY, DR. MAARTEN VONHOF IS WORKING TO STOP THE SPREAD OF A PLAGUE.

DR. VONHOF ISN'T A PHYSICIAN.

HE'S AN EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST, AND HIS PATIENTS ARE A LITTLE UNUSUAL.

WE HAVE BATS THAT WE ARE ARTIFICIALLY HIBERNATING IN OUR LAB.

THESE BATS HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO THE FUNGUS THAT CAUSES WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME.

WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME IS A DISEASE CAUSED BY A FUNGUS, A FUNGUS THAT THRIVES IN COOL, HUMID ENVIRONMENTS LIKE IN THE VERY PLACES SOME SPECIES OF BATS LOVE TO HIBERNATE.

WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME WAS FIRST DISCOVERED IN 2006 NEAR ALBANY, NEW YORK, AND SINCE ITS DISCOVERY, IT'S SPREAD TO 25 STATES AND 5 CANADIAN PROVINCES.

IT'S OF GREAT CONCERN.

MILLIONS OF BATS HAVE DIED.

THE LAST ESTIMATE WAS OVER 6 MILLION BATS HAVE DIED HERE IN NORTH AMERICA, AND THIS HAS VERY IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES FOR THE LONG-TERM HEALTH OF BAT POPULATIONS, AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, THEN, BECAUSE BATS INTERACT WITH OTHER ORGANISMS, YOU KNOW, LONG-TERM IMPACTS FOR THE HEALTH OF OUR ENVIRONMENT.

GROUND ZERO FOR BATTLING THE DISEASE IS NOW MICHIGAN AS THE THREAT RAPIDLY SPREADS WESTWARD.

DR. ALLEN KURTA AND HIS TEAM FROM EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY ARE LEADING A COALITION OF BIOLOGISTS, RESEARCHERS, AND EXPERTS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY.

THEY'RE GUIDING FELLOW BAT SPECIALISTS TO THE REMOTE REGIONS OF MICHIGAN IN A FRANTIC SEARCH FOR A METHOD TO SLOW DOWN IF NOT ERADICATE THE FUNGUS.

PRETTY MUCH SINCE ABOUT 2008, WE'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THE PRESENCE OF THE DISEASE.

WE DID NOT FIND ANY EVIDENCE UNTIL 2014.

JUST THIS SPRING, KURTA AND HIS COLLEAGUES FOUND SIGNS OF THE FUNGUS HERE AT TIPPY DAM IN NORTHWEST MICHIGAN, MAKING IT A NEWLY INFECTED SITE.

THE FUNGUS THAT CAUSES WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME IS INSIDIOUS.

IT CANNOT INFECT HUMANS, HOUSE PETS, OR LIVESTOCK, BUT IT KILLS NEARLY EVERY BAT IT INFECTS.

THE FUNGUS ATTACKS THE EXPOSED SKIN ON THEIR NOSES, EARS, AND WINGS.

IRRITATED BY THE FUNGUS GROWING INTO THEIR SKIN, THE BATS AROUSE FROM HIBERNATION, AND THEN THEIR PROBLEMS REALLY BEGIN.

NO HIBERNATING ANIMAL HIBERNATES THE ENTIRE WINTER THROUGH.

THEY AROUSE PERIODICALLY.

DOING THAT COSTS A LARGE AMOUNT OF ENERGY, AND THE ONLY ENERGY THEY HAVE IS WHAT FAT THEY STORED DURING THE AUTUMN.

INFECTED BATS ARE USING UP THEIR FAT MUCH MORE FREQUENTLY, AND IN INFECTED AREAS, THE BATS ARE RUNNING OUT COME FEBRUARY, COME MARCH, AND THERE'S STILL A LOT OF SNOW ON THE GROUND, THERE ARE NO FLYING INSECTS, SO THERE IS NO FOOD.

THE BATS ARE DYING OF STARVATION AND OTHER COMPLICATIONS.

JOSEPH HOYT, A GRADUATE STUDENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ, IS BRAVING A GREAT LAKES WINTER AS PART OF THE MICHIGAN LED COALITION.

IN THE ABANDONED COPPER AND IRON MINES OF MICHIGAN'S REMOTE UPPER PENINSULA, HOYT IS SPEARHEADING A NOVEL STUDY TO DETERMINE HOW DIFFERENT SPECIES OF BATS MIGHT SPREAD WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME BETWEEN EACH OTHER.

WE'RE STUDYING THE CONTACT PATTERNS OF BATS, AND THE WAY THAT WE DO THIS IS BY USING A FLUORESCENT TRACEABLE DUST.

THE DUST IS APPLIED TO THE BATS AT THE BEGINNING OF HIBERNATION.

WE THEN RETURN AT THE END OF HIBERNATION, AND WE CAN TRACE THAT DUST THROUGH THE COLONIES OF BATS.

AS WE KIND OF MOVE INTO THE WESTERN U.S., I THINK AS MUCH INFORMATION ON WHICH SPECIES ARE KIND OF IMPORTANT -- PLAYING IMPORTANT ROLES IN TRANSMITTING WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME WILL BE HELPFUL IN DETERMINING KIND OF WHERE FUTURE MANAGEMENT WILL HAPPEN AND DEFINITELY DEPLOYING FUTURE CONTROL AGENTS.

AND THAT BRINGS US BACK TO DR. VONHOF.

CAN WE CONTROL WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME?

I THINK, YOU KNOW, THAT, FOR US, IS THE HOLY GRAIL FOR ANYBODY INTERESTED IN THE CONSERVATION OF BATS.

WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME WAS FIRST DISCOVERED NINE YEARS AGO, BUT NO PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE IN SLOWING DOWN THE DISEASE OR LIMITING ITS EFFECT.

SO VONHOF HAS TURNED TO AN UNLIKELY AND NATURAL SOURCE OF INSPIRATION.

CHITOSAN OCCURS NATURALLY IN THE HARD BODIES, THE EXOSKELETONS OF ARTHROPODS, AND THAT INCLUDES INSECTS, AND IT INCLUDES CRUSTACEANS, SUCH AS SHRIMP AND CRABS AND LOBSTER.

[ BAT CHITTERING ] IT'S COMPLETELY BIODEGRADABLE, BIOCOMPATIBLE.

IT ALSO HAS A VERY IMPORTANT FUNCTION IN WOUND HEALING.

WE KNOW FROM OUR OWN LAB TESTS THAT IF WE GROW THE FUNGUS THAT CAUSES WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME IN A PLATE THAT CONTAINS CHITOSAN, WE ALMOST COMPLETELY INHIBIT ITS GERMINATION, AND IF IT HAS ALREADY GERMINATED, WE INHIBIT ITS GROWTH BY APPROXIMATELY 84%.

ALTHOUGH CHITOSAN HAS BEEN SHOWN TO BE EFFECTIVE IN THE LAB, TRYING IT ON BATS IN THE FIELD IS STILL SOME TIME OFF.

REGARDLESS OF WHEN FIELD TRIALS BEGIN, THE FIGHT AGAINST WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME ISN'T JUST PROFESSIONAL FOR THESE RESEARCHERS, IT'S PERSONAL.

WITHIN THE NEXT 3 TO 5 YEARS, WE'RE GOING TO EXPECT 90% OF OUR HIBERNATING BATS TO BE DEAD, 250,000 TO 300,000 BATS.

THAT'S GOING TO BE VERY DIFFICULT.

I'VE SPENT 35 YEARS WITH THESE ANIMALS, AND... IT WILL BE HARD NOT TO HAVE THEM AROUND.

I GUESS WE'VE ALL HAD TO HARDEN OUR HEARTS A LITTLE BIT.

AS SOMEBODY WHO LOVES BATS, WHO STUDIES BATS FOR HIS ENTIRE CAREER, YOU KNOW, IT'S DEVASTATING, ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LATEST RESEARCH IN THE FIGHT AGAINST WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME, VISIT THE LINK ON OUR WEBSITE.

AINISSA RAMIREZ IS A SELF-PROCLAIMED SCIENCE EVANGELIST.

SHE'S CALLING FOR BIG CHANGES IN SCIENCE EDUCATION AND JOINS ME NOW TO DISCUSS WHAT SHE HAS IN MIND AND HER LATEST BOOK, 'NEWTON'S FOOTBALL.'

FIRST OF ALL -- WE'LL GET INTO THE BOOK IN A LITTLE BIT, BUT WHAT DOES A SCIENCE EVANGELIST DO?

WELL, A SCIENCE EVANGELIST -- YOU KNOW, IT'S A PROVOCATIVE TERM, BUT IT'S SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO INSPIRE PEOPLE TO HELP THEM REMEMBER THAT THEY USED TO BE A SCIENTIST.

YOU KNOW, EVERYONE GOES INTO SCHOOL, INTO KINDERGARTEN, AND THEY SAY, 'WHY?'

AND SOMEHOW WHEN THEY LEAVE SCHOOL, THEY STOP SAYING 'WHY?'

WELL, SCIENTISTS, WE ASK WHY FOR A LIVING, SO WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO IS GET THEM BACK IN TOUCH WITH THEIR INNER SCIENTIST AND SHOW THEM THAT SCIENCE IS SOMETHING THAT THEY USED TO DO ALL THE TIME.

OKAY, AND HOW DOES FOOTBALL FACTOR INTO THIS?

WELL, ALL RIGHT, SO I WASN'T A FOOTBALL FAN 5 YEARS AGO, BUT WHEN I FOUND OUT THAT MORE PEOPLE WATCH THE SUPER BOWL THAN VOTE, I SAID, 'WOW.

THIS IS AN EXCELLENT WAY TO TEACH SCIENCE.

WHY DON'T WE JUST APPLY A SCIENCE LENS TO FOOTBALL SO THAT PEOPLE CAN SEE THAT THEY ALREADY ARE SCIENTISTS?'

SO I WAS TEAMED UP WITH ALLEN ST. JOHN, WHO IS A SPORTS WRITER, AND WE WROTE 'NEWTON'S FOOTBALL.'

OKAY.

AND AS SCIENTISTS DO, WE CAME UP WITH CRAZY QUESTIONS.

FIRST, WHY DON'T WOODPECKERS GET CONCUSSIONS?

RIGHT. [ LAUGHS ]

AND IF THAT'S MEANINGFUL, MAYBE THAT'S SOMETHING WE CAN -- EXACTLY.

CAN WE APPLY THIS TO THE HELMETS THAT WE HAVE TODAY?

WELL, WE FOUND OUT A COUPLE OF THINGS.

WOODPECKERS DON'T GET CONCUSSIONS 'CAUSE THEY HAVE VERY SMALL BRAINS, AND IT ENDS UP THAT SMALL THINGS CAN HANDLE LARGER FORCES.

SO THAT'S NOT REALLY MEANINGFUL IN TERMS OF WHAT WE CAN DO FOR FOOTBALL, BUT JUST ASKING THAT QUESTION GIVES US AN OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS WHAT CONCUSSIONS ARE TO A GENERAL AUDIENCE.

SURE.

AND GIVE ME ANOTHER EXAMPLE.

I'M FASCINATED NOW.

WELL, WE FOUND SOME COUNTERINTUITIVE THINGS.

IT ENDS UP THAT THE FACE MASK ACTUALLY MADE THE GAME MORE DANGEROUS.

SO A SAFETY FEATURE MADE THE GAME DANGEROUS.

YOU SEE, ABOUT 100 YEARS AGO WHEN TEDDY ROOSEVELT WAS PRESIDENT, YOUNG MEN DIED FROM PLAYING FOOTBALL, AND THE REASON WHY THEY DIED WAS SKULL FRACTURES.

SO AS SOON AS HELMETS WERE PUT INTO PLACE, THE HELMETS DIDN'T HAVE ANY FACE MASK, AND AT THAT TIME, MEN WOULD PLAY, BUT THEY WOULD TACKLE WITH THEIR SHOULDERS.

NOW, IN THE 1950s, THERE WAS A GENTLEMAN OTTO GRAHAM -- HE WAS A QUARTERBACK, AND HE HAD A HUGE GASH ON HIS FACE, AND HIS COACH SAID, 'LOOK, I'M GONNA LOSE THIS GUY UNLESS I PROTECT HIM.'

SO HE PUT TOGETHER A PLASTIC FACE MASK, AND SOON THIS BECAME A STANDARD ISSUE.

NOW, WHAT THAT SAFETY FEATURE DID IS IT ACTUALLY MADE THE GAME DANGEROUS BECAUSE WE CHANGED TACKLING FROM USING OUR SHOULDERS TO OUR HEADS, AND THE FACE MASK WEAPONIZED THE HELMET, AND SO THAT'S WHY WE HAVE CONCUSSION EPIDEMIC TODAY BECAUSE WE TACKLE THE WRONG WAY.

WE TACKLE WITH OUR HEADS.

WOW. ALL RIGHT.

SO YOU ARE TRYING TO MAKE SCIENCE EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, MATH -- STEM EDUCATION -- FUN, ACCESSIBLE TO KIDS WHO ARE AT THAT AGE WHERE, YOU KNOW, THEIR INNER CURIOSITY MIGHT BE OVERRUN BY ALL THE KIND OF SOCIALIZATION THAT HAPPENS.

HOW DO YOU KEEP KIDS JAZZED UP ABOUT SCIENCE EDUCATION?

WELL, FIRST WE HAVE TO SHOW THEM THAT THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME.

YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'RE MAKING SOMETHING TO EAT, WHEN YOU'RE COOKING -- ALL THAT IS SCIENCE.

SO WE'RE JUST TRYING TO SHOW THAT SCIENCE IS HAPPENING ALL THE TIME.

ALSO, WE NEED TO REAPPROPRIATE WHAT NERD IS.

NERD HAS GOT A BAD STIGMA.

I MEAN, I LOVE 'BIG BANG THEORY,' BUT THAT'S NOT REALLY SERVING US IN TERMS OF GETTING PEOPLE EXCITED ABOUT WHAT A NERD IS.

SO IF PEOPLE SEE THEIR REFLECTION IN SOMEONE WHO'S DOING SCIENCE, WELL, THEN MAYBE THEY'LL THINK THAT SCIENCE IS FOR THEM.

SO THAT'S WHY I PUT MYSELF OUT THERE AS A SCIENCE EVANGELIST SO THAT WE CAN SEE ANOTHER OPTION.

SO, WHAT KIND OF REFORMS ARE NECESSARY OVERALL KIND OF RETHINKING AN APPROACH TO SCIENCE EDUCATION?

IF YOU COULD WAVE A MAGIC WAND AND SAY TO SCIENCE TEACHERS AROUND THE COUNTRY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

I WOULD WAVE THAT WAND AND SAY, 'GET RID OF TESTING.'

BECAUSE THAT'S ACTUALLY GIVING US A SET OF SKILLS OR GIVING STUDENTS A SET OF SKILLS THAT'S NOT GONNA BE USEFUL IN THE 21st CENTURY.

STRIVING FOR ONE ANSWER AND LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT ANSWER ISN'T HOW WE DO SCIENCE.

WHAT WE DO IS WE ACTUALLY USE FAILURE MORE AS TO BE INFORMED ABOUT WHAT WE SHOULD DO NEXT, AND IF YOU HAVE STUDENTS WHO ARE ADVERSE TO FAILURE, WELL, THEY'RE NOT GONNA DO VERY WELL IN THE 21st CENTURY BECAUSE THE ANSWERS ARE NOT IN THE BACK OF THE BOOK.

SO IF I HAD THIS MAGIC WAND, WHICH I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO, THEN I WOULD JUST WAVE AND GET RID OF ALL THE HIGH-STAKE TESTING, BECAUSE IT'S ACTUALLY POINTING US IN THE WRONG DIRECTION AND MAKING OUR STUDENTS ADVERSE TO THE SKILLS THAT THEY'RE REALLY GOING TO NEED.

SO WHAT DO YOU REPLACE THAT WITH?

WHAT WOULD BE IN THE INVERSE OUTCOME?

IF YOU TOOK THE TESTING AWAY, NOW YOU HAVE A BLANK SLATE, HOW DO YOU GET KIDS JAZZED UP?

WELL, I UNDERSTAND WHY WE HAVE TESTING 'CAUSE WE WANT TO KNOW IF WE'RE DOING THE RIGHT THING, BUT THE CLASSROOM SHOULD LOOK MORE LIKE PROJECT-BASED OR PROBLEM SOLVING, WHERE WE HAVE A PROBLEM AND STUDENTS ARE MOTIVATED BECAUSE THEY WANT TO SOLVE THAT PROBLEM, THAT PROBLEM IS IMPORTANT TO THEM, AND THEN THEY'RE WILLING TO DO EVERYTHING THAT IT TAKES TO SOLVE THAT PROBLEM.

IF YOU JUST TEACH MATH FOR THE SAKE OF MATH, PEOPLE ARE GONNA HAVE THEIR EYES GLAZED OVER.

BUT IF YOU HAVE TO STEALTHILY USE MATH BECAUSE YOU'RE TRYING TO GET THIS ROBOT TO DO SOMETHING, THEY WON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT HOW HARD MATH IS.

SO IT'S SORT OF LIKE CHANGING THE FACE OF SCIENCE AND STEM.

ALL RIGHT.

AINISSA RAMIREZ, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

WITH THE SUCCESS OF THE TRANSPORTATION PROVIDER UBER, ON-DEMAND PERSONAL SERVICE APPS SEEM TO BE POPPING UP EVERYWHERE WITH CONCIERGE SERVICES, INCLUDING ON-DEMAND DOCTORS, FLORISTS, AND EVEN BARTENDERS.

GETTING WHAT YOU NEED DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR DOOR IS EASIER THAN EVER.

JOINING ME NOW IS GEOFFREY FOWLER, A COLUMNIST AT WHO TOOK IT UPON HIMSELF TO TEST OUT SOME OF THESE APPS.

SO HOW MANY APPS DID YOU TEST OUT?

OVER A DOZEN AT THIS POINT.

I MEAN, I'VE HAD -- THIS IS THOROUGH TESTING.

I'VE HAD ON-DEMAND ALCOHOL DELIVERY, PIZZA, MEALS, MASSAGE, EVEN A DOCTOR THAT CAME TO MY HOUSE ON DEMAND WITH JUST A PUSH OF A BUTTON.

FOR THE GOOD OF THE STORY, YOU HAVE TO DO THIS KIND OF WORK.

SO, HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THIS CONCIERGE ECONOMY KIND OF CAME TO BE?

I MEAN, OBVIOUSLY WE THINK ABOUT IT AS THE UBER OF EVERYTHING 'CAUSE IT'S ONE PARTICULAR VERY SUCCESSFUL BRAND IN ONE PARTICULAR SPACE, BUT HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

THEY'RE JUST PUTTING BUYERS AND SELLERS KIND OF TOGETHER.

WELL, EXACTLY.

BUT I THINK WHAT UBER DID IS A COUPLE OF THINGS.

ONE, IT HELPED A WHOLE BUNCH OF INDUSTRIES REALIZE THAT SMARTPHONES CAN DO A REALLY GOOD JOB OF CONNECTING PEOPLE WHO CAN GET JOBS DONE WITH PEOPLE WHO NEED THINGS DONE REALLY QUICKLY, AND WHILE THAT OBVIOUSLY IS WORKING SUPER WELL FOR UBER AND LYFT AND OTHER KIND OF RIDE-SHARING KIND OF COMPANIES, SOME CASES, THAT MODEL ALSO APPLIES TO OTHER INDUSTRIES.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE MASSAGE INDUSTRY -- I MENTIONED THAT.

WELL, IT TURNS OUT THAT THESE FOLKS NORMALLY HAVE TO GO TO A SALON OR MAYBE A SPA TO KIND OF GET CUSTOMERS, BUT WITH AN APP, THEY CAN MUCH MORE EFFICIENTLY GET TO CUSTOMERS THAT NEED A MASSAGE IN THEIR OWN HOME, AND, ACTUALLY, EVERYBODY WINS.

THE MASSAGE COSTS LESS MONEY, AND THE MASSAGE THERAPIST, YOU KNOW, CAN TAKE MORE OF THAT MONEY HOME WITH THEM.

SO THERE ARE EFFICIENCIES THAT COME OUT OF IT IS WHAT WE'VE LEARNED FROM UBER.

THE OTHER THING IS, I THINK UBER AND SORT OF THE SMARTPHONE ECONOMY MORE GENERALLY HAVE REALLY GOTTEN PEOPLE USED TO USING THEIR PHONES FOR THINGS.

IT USED TO SORT OF BE KIND OF A BIG MIND LEAP TO SORT OF THINK LIKE, 'OH, I'M GONNA USE MY PHONE AS A REMOTE CONTROL FOR MY LIFE,' BUT NOW PEOPLE ARE MUCH MORE USED TO IT.

AND THAT ALSO MEANS THAT IF THEY'RE USING THEIR PHONE FOR THESE THINGS THAT COMMERCE IS SHIFTING TOWARDS THIS PLATFORM OR THROUGH THIS PLATFORM, AS WELL.

PEOPLE ARE GETTING COMFORTABLE, I GUESS, PUTTING THEIR VISA CARD OR WHATEVER IT IS THROUGH THERE AND HAVING THE PAYMENT GO AUTOMATICALLY.

EXACTLY.

I MEAN, JUST THINK ABOUT IT.

15 YEARS AGO, IT WAS KIND OF A BIG LEAP TO SORT OF THE IDEA TO TRUST PUTTING YOUR CREDIT CARD ON THE INTERNET.

THAT'S WHY THINGS LIKE PayPal CAME ALONG.

NOW WITH SERVICES LIKE Apple Pay, YOU JUST PUT YOUR THUMB OVER IT AND IT'S DONE.

SO IT'S ACTUALLY MUCH EASIER TO PAY FOR THINGS.

NOW, OF COURSE, THAT MEANS WE'RE NOT SAVING AS MUCH MONEY, BUT THE EASIER IT IS TO PART WITH OUR MONEY, THE BETTER IT IS FOR BUSINESS, I SUPPOSE.

SO HOW DO YOU MEASURE WHETHER OR NOT ONE OF THESE CONCIERGE SERVICES IS GOING TO SUCCEED?

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?

I LIVE HERE IN SAN FRANCISCO WHERE ONE OF THESE SERVICES MIGHT MAKE SOME SENSE.

LISTEN, THIS IS TECH LA-LA LAND WHERE PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO TRY ANYTHING AND GIVE IT A GO, BUT I ALSO GREW UP IN SOUTH CAROLINA, AND I THINK ABOUT WHICH OF THESE SERVICES WOULD ACTUALLY MAKE ANY SENSE IN A SOUTH CAROLINA CONTEXT?

TO ME, ULTIMATELY, IT KIND OF COMES DOWN TO HOW MUCH OF A PAIN IN YOUR LIFE CAN THIS SERVICE REPLACE?

AND THAT COMES DOWN TO SORT OF HOW PEOPLE VALUE THEIR TIME.

SO SOMETHING LIKE POSTMATES -- THIS IS A SERVICE THAT WILL, FROM ANY STORE IN THE CITY, BRING YOU WHAT THEY'VE GOT FROM THEIR MENU.

SO IF I WANT SOME PARTICULAR COFFEE FROM A PARTICULAR COFFEE SHOP, I USE POSTMATES, AND FOR QUITE A SERVICE FEE, THEY'LL BRING ME COFFEE.

I DID THAT AS PART OF MY TEST.

NOW, IN MY NORMAL LIFE, I WOULD NEVER DO THAT.

THAT SEEMS LIKE A WASTE OF MONEY.

HOWEVER, IF I WAS, YOU KNOW, THE HARRIED PARENT OF TWINS, AND, YOU KNOW, JUST NEEDED SOMEONE TO BRING ME A GOURMET DINNER EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE 'CAUSE I WAS STUCK AT HOME, THAT COULD BE VERY VALUABLE.

AND I THINK THAT'S PART OF WHAT HAS TO BE NEGOTIATED WITH EACH OF THESE -- HOW MUCH VALUE CAN IT PROVIDE IN PEOPLE'S LIVES 'CAUSE THEY ARE SORT OF DEALING WITH AN INCONVENIENCE THEY HAVE.

SO WHAT ARE THE LABOR-MARKET IMPLICATIONS OF THIS?

BECAUSE SOME OF THESE SERVICES HAVE PEOPLE WHO ESSENTIALLY CLIMB ON WHEN THERE'S A DEMAND, BUT THIS ISN'T REALLY THEIR FULL-TIME JOB OR THIS IS MAYBE SOMETHING THEY'RE DOING ON THE SIDE.

THAT'S RIGHT.

A LOT OF THIS HAS COME ALONG, AS WELL, BECAUSE WE'RE AT A MOMENT IN OUR ECONOMY WHERE THERE ARE WORKERS OUT THERE WHO NOT ONLY NEED THIS KIND OF WORK BUT ARE WILLING TO DO IT.

THINGS LIKE OBAMACARE HAVE ACTUALLY MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE WHEN THEY'RE WORKING AS THESE KIND OF TEMPORARY OR PART-TIME WORKERS, BUT THERE ARE A LOT OF QUESTIONS THAT REALLY STILL HAVE TO BE ANSWERED ABOUT HOW THESE APPS TREAT THESE WORKERS, HOW THEY THINK OF THEM.

THE BIG QUESTION, OF COURSE, IS, ARE THEY CONTRACTORS OR ARE THEY EMPLOYEES?

BECAUSE IF THEY'RE EMPLOYEES, THEN THEY HAVE TO BE GIVEN A LOT MORE EMPLOYEE RIGHTS -- THINGS LIKE, YOU KNOW, OVERTIME WORK AND OTHER BENEFITS.

AND ARE THESE COMPANIES FAIRLY VALUED?

RIGHT NOW WHEN PEOPLE LOOK AT THE SORT OF FINANCIALS OF UBER AND SAY, '$45 BILLION' -- OR WHATEVER IT IS BILLION DOLLARS --

$50 BILLION NOW.

$50 BILLION, RIGHT?

SO, IS THAT WORTH MORE THAN DELTA AIR LINES?

RIGHT.

I MEAN, UBER IS THE UNICORN OF UNICORNS HERE IN SILICON VALLEY, RIGHT?

AND IT'S THE START-UP THAT SO MANY HOPES ARE BEING PINNED ON.

UBER'S GONNA HAVE TO PROVE IT CAN DO OTHER THINGS OTHER THAN BE A TAXI SERVICE.

IT'S GONNA HAVE TO BE A DELIVERY SERVICE, AS WELL, WHICH ACTUALLY ENDS UP PROVIDING THE BACKBONE FOR SOME OF THESE OTHER UBER FULL SERVICES THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE.

THE NEXT RACE AFTER UBER SEEMS TO BE IN A LOT OF THESE FOOD APPS.

WE'RE STARTING TO SEE THOSE VALUES GO HIGHER AND HIGHER.

BUT CERTAINLY A LOT OF TALK HERE IN SILICON VALLEY ABOUT THE FROTH OF ALL OF THIS -- YOU KNOW, HOW MUCH CAN ANY OF THESE SERVICES REALLY BE WORTH?

IS THE WHOLE WORLDWIDE TAXI INDUSTRY EVEN WORTH $50 BILLION...

RIGHT.

...THAT IT'S REPLACING?

SO A LOT OF GOOD QUESTIONS THERE.

ALL RIGHT.

GEOFFREY FOWLER, PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY COLUMNIST AT THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

YOU BET.

AT UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY, THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN ART AND SCIENCE HAS COME ALIVE IN A REVOLUTIONARY EXHIBIT.

UP NEXT, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE INSPIRATION BEHIND ARTsySTEM: THE CHANGING CLIMATES OF THE ARTS AND SCIENCES.

THERE'S LOTS OF SIMILARITIES BETWEEN ART AND SCIENCE, PARTICULARLY AT THE MOMENT OF INSPIRATION, BUT BASICALLY THEY'RE BOTH WAYS FOR US TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD AROUND US AND THE WORLD WITHIN US AND HOW WE TRY TO MAKE SENSE OF ALL OF THAT.

ARTsySTEM: THE CHANGING CLIMATES OF THE ARTS AND SCIENCES IS AN EXHIBITION CURRENTLY ON VIEW HERE IN OUR MUSEUM THAT FEATURES 25 PIECES OF ARTWORK BY ARTISTS WHO ARE EITHER INSPIRED BY SCIENCE OR ARE WORKING IN SOME WAY MORE DIRECTLY WITH THE SCIENCES.

THIS EXHIBITION IS PART OF A LARGER PROGRAM.

THE ARTsySTEM PROGRAM AT UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY CONSISTS OF THE EXHIBITION, AS WELL AS A SERIES OF VISITING ARTISTS AND SCIENCE LECTURES.

MY NAME IS MARK LEE KOVEN.

I AM AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY.

I AM IN THE ART AND DESIGN DEPARTMENT.

THE MAIN FOCUS OF ARTsySTEM [Art Sistum] OR ARTsySTEM [Art Cease Stem] IS REALLY TRYING TO INTEGRATE OR SHOW HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO HAVE THAT CROSS-DISCIPLINARY INTEGRATION BETWEEN DISCIPLINES.

SO TYPICALLY WHEN YOU HAVE A SCIENTIST WORKING, WHAT YOU'LL HAVE IS THEY'LL GO OUT, THEY'LL DO THE RESEARCH, AND THEN THEY'LL LOOK FOR AN ARTIST OR A DESIGNER TO HIRE TO THEN SHOWCASE OR TRY AND CREATE GRAPHS OR A WEBSITE.

I GUESS THE INCEPTION OF THIS WHOLE PROGRAM CAME FROM MY DESIRE TO NOT BE AT THE TAIL END OF THE SCIENTIFIC ENDEAVOR, BUT ACTUALLY AT THE INCEPTION AND ALSO HAVE AN INFLUENTIAL IMPACT ON THE ENTIRE PROCESS.

PART OF WHAT WE HAD DONE IN THIS EXHIBITION IS TRY TO SHOW THROUGH OUR CURATORIAL LENSES THE WAYS THAT THE ARTS AND SCIENCES CAN REALLY BE DEEPLY INTERTWINED, AND, YOU KNOW, 'STEM,' OF COURSE, STANDS FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATH, AND THERE ARE OTHER SORT OF PUSHES TO CHANGE THAT TO 'STEAM' AND TO INCLUDE ART IN PART OF THAT.

SO BY PUTTING THIS EXHIBITION TOGETHER, IN SOME WAYS, WE'RE HIGHLIGHTING WAYS IN WHICH THE ARTS ARE REALLY RELATED TO SCIENTIFIC PRACTICES.

THE EXHIBITION FEATURES WORKS THAT ARE BOTH PERIPHERALLY RELATED TO THE SCIENCES AND WORKS THAT ARE DIRECTLY ENGAGED WITH THE SCIENCES.

ONE OF THE WAYS THAT IT DOES THAT IS THAT WE INCORPORATE WORKS FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE EITHER MAYBE HAVE A SCIENCE BACKGROUND AND THEN WENT ON TO MAKE ART OR PEOPLE LIKE BRANDON BALLENGéE, WHO HAVE VERY DIRECT CONNECTIONS WITH SCIENCE.

ALL OF MY ART IS DERIVED FROM ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH.

AS A SCIENTIST, I STUDY AMPHIBIANS -- SPECIFICALLY AMPHIBIAN DECLINES, LIKE DECLINES IN THEIR POPULATIONS AND DEVELOPMENTAL MALFORMATIONS OR DEFORMITIES, AND I GET VERY INSPIRED AS I'M DOING THE SCIENCE TO CREATE ART, BUT ALL OF MY ART SOMEHOW RELATES TO EITHER AMPHIBIANS LIKE THIS OR OTHER SPECIES MOSTLY RELATING TO LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES.

EXHIBITIONS LIKE THIS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT 'CAUSE IT'S A WAY FOR THE PUBLIC TO COME IN AND SEE LIKE THESE KIND OF POTENTIAL INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN ART AND SCIENCE AND THE KIND OF CROSSOVERS THAT CAN OCCUR, AND, ALSO, I THINK AT THIS MOMENT IN HISTORY, HOPEFULLY WHAT WE'RE SEEING IS LIKE THIS EMERGENCE OF MORE INTEGRATED PROGRAMMING WHERE WE'RE REALIZING THAT PEOPLE LEARN IN DIFFERENT WAYS.

THEY EXPERIENCE IN DIFFERENT WAYS.

SO USING THE LENS OF ART AND SCIENCE AND COMBINING THEM AS MUCH AS WE CAN IS JUST ANOTHER WAY TO GET MORE AND MORE PEOPLE INVOLVED.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE PIECES IS THE DEREK CURRY PIECE, WHICH WE HEAR GOING ON IN THE BACKGROUND RIGHT NOW, AND I APPRECIATE IT FOR A COUPLE OF REASONS -- ONE, BECAUSE IT MAKES THE GALLERY LIVELY.

IT'S BEEN INTERESTING KIND OF TO SEE -- TO HAVE LIVING ORGANISMS IN THE GALLERY, WHICH IS NOT A THING THAT WE NORMALLY DO.

WE'RE NOT A SCIENCE MUSEUM, SO IT'S BEEN INTERESTING.

BUT I ALSO THINK THAT AS THE PIECE HAS BEEN IN THE GALLERY NOW FOR ABOUT 4 WEEKS, THAT THE METAPHOR THAT CURRY IS EMPLOYING TO TALK ABOUT SPEECH AMPLIFICATION AND, YOU KNOW, POLITICAL FUNDING JUST BECOMES RICHER AS TIME GOES ON AND THE CRICKETS CHANGE, THEIR ENVIRONMENT CHANGES.

ONE OF THE NICE THINGS ABOUT THE WAY THIS EXHIBITION CAME TOGETHER IS THAT THE CURATORS LOOKED AT A WIDE RANGE OF WORKS.

THEY LOOKED AT WORKS HISTORICALLY THAT ARE RELEVANT TO THE ARTS AND SCIENCES AND WORKS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TODAY.

THE RESULTING EXHIBITION INCLUDES A REALLY NICE COMBINATION OF LOCAL ARTISTS, REGIONAL ARTISTS, AND NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED ARTISTS, SO IT ACHIEVES A LOT IN TRYING TO TELL A LITTLE BIT OF A STORY ABOUT THE WAY IN WHICH ARTISTS AND SCIENTISTS ARE EITHER INSPIRED OR INFLUENCED BY ONE ANOTHER OR, IN SOME CASES, HOW THEY CAN WORK TOGETHER.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

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UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

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