SciTech Now Episode 44

In this episode of SciTech Now, the environmental reporting team EarthFix on the plight of the bald eagle; Ofer Leidner on his wellness app, Happify; we meet the team behind Wubees, a game that strengthens the social interaction skills of children with autism; and an international team of researchers uses the web application Morpho Bank to build evolutionary maps for different species.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP, OUR NATIONAL SYMBOL IN PERIL.

AS WITH ANY COMMODITY WHERE THERE IS A LEGAL WAY T COMMERCIALIZE IN IT, THERE'S OFTEN A BLACK MARKET FOR THA COMMODITY.

SEARCHING FOR HAPPINESS O OUR SMARTPHONES.

FOR THE APP, WE BASICALLY LEARN A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE REASON FOR WHICH YOU CAME TO THE APP, THEN OFFER YOU DAIL ACTIVITIES THAT HELP YOU KIND OF DEVELOP THE MIND-SET FOR BETTE LIVING

A TECH TOOL TO HELP CHILDRE WITH AUTISM.

I THINK THAT IT CAN GIVE THEM NECESSARY EMOTIONAL SKILLS T BOND WITH ONE ANOTHER AND FORM RELATIONSHIPS WITH EACH OTHER.

AND DIGITALLY BUILDING TH TREE OF LIFE

WHEN WE PUT ALL OUR OBSERVATIONS TOGETHER, THEY SI IN A THING CALLED A MATRIX, AN THAT MATRIX CAN THEN BE PU THROUGH AN ALGORITHM TO PRODUC A TREE, AND THEN THAT TREE I WHAT TELLS US WHICH SPECIES AR RELATED TO EACH OTHER.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

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

HELLO I'M HARI SREENIVASAN WELCOME TO 'SciTech NOW,' OU WEEKLY PROGRAM BRINGING YOU TH LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION LET'S GET STARTED.

LONG BEFORE IT WAS A NATIONA SYMBOL, THE BALD EAGLE WAS REVERED BY THE FIRST PEOPLES O NORTH AMERICA, BUT EVEN AN ANIMAL THAT HAS EARNED SUC RESPECT AND INSPIRED SUCH PRID ISN'T OFF-LIMITS TO CRIMINALS.

THIS STORY COMES FROM TH ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTING TEAM EarthFix [ BIRDS CHIRPING ]

A LOT OF PEOPLE IN SOUTHEAS IDAHO TALK ABOUT THE SPRING AN THE MUD SEASON AS A TIME THA THEY DON'T WANT TO BE HERE IT'S THE PRIMO TIME OF THE YEA WHEN EVERYTHING'S HAPPENING.

THE EAGLES ARE BACK.

WE GET TO GO SEE OLD FRIENDS SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING AT NEST SITES.

OKAY

MICHAEL WHITFIELD LOOKS FOR HIS OLD FRIENDS IN THE TALLEST TREES.

HE'S THE LEAD BALD EAGLE RESEARCHER IN THE GREATE YELLOWSTONE AREA HIS TEAM CLIMBS TRUNKS, FIND NESTS...

ONE YOUNG

...AND SLOWLY LOWERS EAGLET TO THE GROUND WITH A SIMPL PULLEY SYSTEM.

OKAY, I'M COMING DOWN

WHITFIELD CAREFULLY UNWRAPS THE DELIVERY ON THE FOREST FLOOR.

LOOK AT THAT WHITE TALON.

HE DOCUMENTS THE CONDITION OF THE BABY BIRD AND ADDS LEG BANDS SO HE CAN TRACK THE BIRD'S PROGRESS OVER TIME

THEY'RE JUST A MAJESTIC BIRD.

I'M ENTRANCED.

THE MORE I WATCH THEM, THE MOR MYSTERY THERE IS, AND IT'S STARTING TO FEEL LIKE AFTER 30 YEARS, I'M STARTING TO UNDERSTAND THEM A LITTLE BIT [ BIRDS CHIRPING ]

BALD EAGLES WERE ON THE ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST UNTI AUGUST 2007.

THAT'S A VERY BEAUTIFUL BIRD.

WHITFIELD DOCUMENTED TH EAGLES' REBOUND IN THE ARE SURROUNDING YELLOWSTONE.

THE NUMBER OF NESTING PAIRS HA INCREASED FROM 12 IN THE 1980s TO MORE THAN 80 TODAY.

WHITFIELD KNOWS WHERE MOST O THE BALD EAGLES NEST, SO HE ALSO KNOWS WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG.

EVERY SPRING, THERE'S THA ANTICIPATION OF GOING OUT AN SEEING IF SUCH-AND-SUCH EAGLE IS STILL AROUND, IF THEY'RE STILL SUCCESSFULLY NESTING, AND IF THEY'VE SURVIVED

AND ONE REASON THEY SURVIVE -- ILLEGAL HUNTING

IT'S NOT UNCOMMON FOR EAGLE TO COME IN WITH PARTS MISSING, PARTICULARLY THE FEET.

WHEN AN EAGLE IS FOUND DEAD IT'S SENT HERE IDAHO FISH AND GAME BIOLOGIS ROB CAVALLARO STORES DEAD EAGLES IN THIS FREEZER AT HIS OFFICE.

THEY'RE CONSIDERED EVIDENC WHILE A CAUSE OF DEATH I DETERMINED SOME ARE HIT BY CARS OR FLY INTO POWER LINES, BUT OTHERS AR POISONED OR SHOT BY POACHES.

EAGLE PARTS, ESPECIALLY THE TALONS, ARE PRETTY IMPRESSIVE, AND PEOPLE SEE THOSE, AND THEY THINK THEY'RE ABLE TO JUST KEE THAT PART, BUT THEY'RE NOT

CAVALLARO SAYS SOME PEOPL JUST WANT A TRINKET.

OTHERS, THOUGH, ARE MOTIVATED BY A MORE SERIOUS WILDLIF TRAFFICKING TRADE -- A BLACK MARKET FOR EAGLE PARTS EAGLE PARTS CAN BE BIG BUCKS IN A 2011 TRAFFICKING CASE, BALD EAGLE CARCASS SOLD FO $1,000 A SINGLE FEATHER WENT FOR $500 AFTER CAVALLARO PROCESSES TH BIRDS, THEY'RE SHIPPED HERE.

TO THE NATIONAL EAGLE AN WILDLIFE PROPERTY REPOSITORY I COLORADO THE REPOSITORY HOLDS MORE THAN A MILLION PIECES OF EVIDENCE FRO WILDLIFE-TRAFFICKING CASES FRO AROUND THE COUNTRY

AS WITH ANY COMMODITY WHERE THERE IS A LEGAL WAY T COMMERCIALIZE IN IT, THERE'S OFTEN A BLACK MARKET FOR THA COMMODITY, AND WE'VE FOUND THE VERY SAME THING WITH WILDLIFE.

DAN ROLINCE IS ONE OF THE 200 U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE AGENT NATIONWIDE WORKING WILDLIFE-TRAFFICKING CASES

MAKING A WILDLIFE CASE IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT.

TYPICALLY, THE VICTIM DOES NOT HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CALL YOU AND TELL YOU SOMETHING HAPPENED.

FOOTSTOOLS FROM THE ELEPHANT FEET

IN THE LAST TWO YEARS, AGENTS HAVE INVESTIGATED MORE THAN 50 CASES INVOLVING EAGLES THIS IS THE EVIDENCE HALF OF THE REPOSITORY I DEDICATED JUST TO EAGLES AND EAGLE PARTS.

UNLIKE OTHER EVIDENCE AT THE REPOSITORY SUCH AS TIGERS AN TURTLES, EAGLES ARE THE ONLY ANIMALS THAT ARE ACTUALL REPURPOSED

WHEN WE GET BOXES IN, WHICH HAPPENS EVERY DAY, ONE OF OU STAFF MEMBERS WILL EVALUATE TH CONDITION OF THAT BIRD AND DETERMINE WHICH PARTS OR IF TH WHOLE BIRD COULD BE USED T FULFILL AN ORDER

THE ORDER HE'S TALKING ABOU MOST OFTEN COME FROM NATIVE AMERICANS TRIBAL MEMBERS HAVE SPECIA PERMISSION TO POSSESS EAGL FEATHERS AND PARTS TO THEM, THE BIRDS ARE CONSIDERED SACRED.

IT'S A FIRST COME, FIRS SERVE BASIS AS THEY SUBMIT THEIR APPLICATION TO US.

THE REPOSITORY RECEIVED MOR THAN 2,300 EAGLES LAST YEAR AN FILLED ALMOST 4,000 ORDERS

IT IS QUITE AMAZING THAT THAT MANY COME IN THE DOOR AND TH ORDERS THAT GET FILLED

AND WHILE THAT SEEMS LIKE A LOT, ROLINCE SAYS IT DOESN'T COME CLOSE TO MEETING TH DEMAND SOME OF THE FEATHER REQUESTS ARE SO COLOR-SPECIFIC, THERE'S A FIVE-YEAR WAIT THE HIGH DEMAND, HE SAYS, IS ONE OF THE FACTORS THAT MOTIVATES BLACK MARKET

THE BLACK MARKET IS AVAILABLE FOR ANY PART, SO I'VE SEEN TALONS BEING SOLD OR A FUL CARCASS OR JUST A SINGLE FEATHER.

EVEN WHEN POACHERS AR CAUGHT, THOUGH, JAIL TIME IS NOT AS SEVERE AS YOU THINK IN ONE OF THE BIGGEST RECENT CASES, OPERATION ROLLING THUNDER, 1 PEOPLE BUSTED FOR WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING WENT TO JAIL FOR A TOTAL OF 55 MONTHS THAT'S AN AVERAGE OF 4 1/2 MONTHS PER PERSON.

BUT INVESTIGATORS SAY THEY AREN'T ABOUT TO GIVE UP.

ALTHOUGH THERE ARE ALWAYS MORE CASES TO BE MADE, I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT THE EMPHASIS WE'R PLACING ON LARGE-SCALE TRAFFICKING IS HAVING A POSITIVE EFFECT THAT'S WHY WE HAVE TO GET OU THERE AND JUST KEEP DIGGING.

AND WHILE ROLINCE KEEPS DIGGING...

MOVE YOUR HAND DOWN A LITTL BIT.

...WHITFIELD KEEPS BANDING, HOPING HIS HANDS ARE THE LAS HANDS THAT EVER TOUCH A WILD EAGLE.

PEOPLE RECOGNIZE THE BALD EAGLE FOR THE MAJESTY THAT I IS THE FACT THAT IT'S OUR NATIONA SYMBOL WASN'T AN ACCIDENT.

BALD EAGLES ARE SYMBOLS OF THE WILDNESS OF THIS PLACE I THINK WE NEED TO DO ALL WE CAN TO SUSTAIN THIS RESOURCE

THESE DAYS THERE ARE APPS FOR JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, BUT FOR HAPPINESS?

JOINING ME NOW TO DISCUSS TH GROWING INDUSTRY O MENTAL-WELLNESS APPS I OFER LEIDNER, TECH ENTREPRENEU AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE SO-CALLE EMOTIONAL FITNESS PLATFORM HAPPIFY.

ALL RIGHT, WHAT IS HAPPIFY

HAPPIFY IS AN ONLINE SERVIC THAT PROVIDES THE PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES THAT ARE ROOTED I SCIENCE THAT HELP YOU BUIL EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING AND EMOTIONAL FITNESS.

THE SITE AND THE APP IS BASED ON 15 YEARS OF STUDIES DONE PRIMARILY IN THE POSITIVE-PSYCHOLOGY COMMUNITY, THE NEUROSCIENCE COMMUNITY, AN THE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY AND WHAT WE'RE DOING -- WE'R HELPING TO BRING THE INTERVENTIONS, THE ACTIVITIE THAT ARE DEVELOPED BY TH SCIENTISTS INTO THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT AND THE AP ENVIRONMENT.

SO, GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE.

I FILL OUT NOT QUITE A SURVEY, BUT I'M TELLING YOU A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MYSELF AND WHAT SORT O CHALLENGES I MIGHT BE FACING WELL, WHAT DOES THE APP DO T MAKE ME FEEL BETTER?

SO, THE APP WILL BASICALL LEARN A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE REASON FOR WHICH YOU CAME TO THE APP AND WHAT IS ESSENTIALL PREVENTING YOU FROM BEING AT YOUR OPTIMAL MENTAL WELLNESS THEN OFFER YOU DAILY ACTIVITIE THAT SOME ARE FUN TO DO, LIK GAMES AND ACTIVITIES, AND SOME ARE BASICALLY INTERVENTIONS THAT HELP YOU KIND OF DEVELOP A MIND-SET FOR BETTER LIVING SO, FOR EXAMPLE, A CLASSIC INTERVENTION IS THE THREE GOOD THINGS SO, OUR BRAIN IS PRIMED TO OVER-INDEX NEGATIVE INFORMATIO OVER POSITIVE INFORMATION, AND BY PRIMING YOU INTO THINKING ABOUT THREE GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN A CERTAIN DAY FO YOU, YOU WOULD, OVER TIME, DEVELOP A BETTER WAY TO DEAL WITH THE NEGATIVE BASIS AN DEVELOP A MORE POSITIVE OUTLOOK.

SO, JUST THINKING ABOUT GOO THINGS ACTUALLY MAKES US HAPPY

IT'S NOT ONLY MAKING US HAPPY.

IT ALSO CHANGES THE WAY OU BRAIN IS WIRED, AND IN RECEN YEARS, NEUROSCIENTISTS HAV STARTED LOOKING INTO THESE BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTIONS AND REALLY MEASURE WHAT'S HAPPENIN IN YOUR BRAIN AS YOU DEVELOP THESE NEURAL PATHWAYS IN YOU BRAIN.

SO, THE ANSWER IS, IT WILL MAK YOU FEEL BETTER, BUT IT ALSO WOULD WIRE YOUR BRAIN IN A DIFFERENT WAY TO BE MORE RECEPTIVE FOR WELL-BEING AND HAPPINESS.

SO, HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS IS WORKING?

SO, WE'VE OBVIOUSLY BEE WORKING WITH SCIENTISTS FROM UPenn, FROM HARVARD FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS TO BUILD THI SERVICE, AND WE'VE BEE MEASURING ANYTHING FROM BEFORE AND AFTER MEASUREMENTS MEASURING AGAINST TYPICA MEASUREMENTS OF DEPRESSION PEOPLE THAT HAVE USED THE APP, AND THEN AFTER 6 WEEKS AND 1 WEEKS, WHAT ARE THEY MEASURING AND WE'RE ABLE TO SEE THAT ACTUALLY, IF YOU'RE PRACTICING THOSE ACTIVITIES ON AN ONGOING BASIS, YOU WILL FEEL BETTER IN A MEASURABLE WAY WE'RE MEASURING YOUR BASE AN YOUR IMPROVEMENT FROM THAT BASE.

SO, WHAT HAPPENS IF I STO USING THE APP?

DO I GO BACK TO FEELING WORSE?

IT WOULD BE VERY SIMILAR TO WHAT'LL HAPPEN IF YOU STOP GOING TO YOUR GYM.

YOUR PHYSICAL FITNESS WOULD, OVER TIME, GO BACK INTO YOUR BASE LEVEL SO, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US HAS A BASE LEVEL OF EMOTIONA WELL-BEING AND HAPPINESS LEVEL

MM-HMM.

AS WE PRACTICE THIS, WE CAN GROW, AND ABOUT 40% OF OUR HAPPINESS POTENTIALLY IS WITHI OUR CONTROL.

50% IS GENES, AND 10% ONLY I CIRCUMSTANTIAL

YOU KNOW, IT'S INTERESTING.

YOU SAID ONLY 10% OF OUR HAPPINESS IS CIRCUMSTANTIAL, AND I BET YOU IF YOU SURVEYE PEOPLE, THEY PROBABLY THINK IT'S 80% OR 90%, RIGHT?

IT'S, 'OH, IF I -- IF I GET BETTER JOB OR IF I'M IN A BETTER RELATIONSHIP, IF I MOVE TO A BETTER CITY,' RIGHT?

THEY THINK THAT ALL OF THOSE THINGS MATTER, BUT YOU'RE SAYING THAT'S REALLY NOT THE BULK O WHAT MAKES US HAPPY.

I WAS COMING WITH THE SAM MISCONCEPTIONS THAT MOST PEOPL COME TO THIS AND SAY, OKAY, IF YOU'RE BORN TO AN UNFORTUNATE, LESS PRIVILEGED SITUATION, YOU WILL BE DOOMED TO UNHAPPINESS, AND THE FACT IS THAT SCIENTIST PROVED THAT IT'S NOT THE CASE.

40% IS SOMETHING THAT YOU CA TOTALLY CONTROL.

YOU CAN PRACTICE YOU CAN BUILD SKILLS FOR WELL-BEING, AND THAT, TO ME, I THE 40% THAT MEANS A LOT TO LOT OF PEOPLE.

WHAT'S THE OVERALL GOAL HERE -- TO GET EVERYBODY ON YOUR APP OR OTHER SORTS OF BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATION LIKE THIS

THE OVERALL GOAL IS TO FIRS MAKE PEOPLE AWARE THAT THEIR HAPPINESS LEVEL IS WITHIN THEI CONTROL.

THIS IS A HUGE UNDERTAKING, BU WE STARTED FOUR YEARS AGO, AND WE'VE MADE A GOOD PROGRESS I MAKING PEOPLE AWARE OF THE SCIENCE, OF ITS APPLICATION.

AND THAT'S THE FIRST GOAL.

THE SECOND GOAL IS, AS PEOPL KIND OF BECOME AWARE AND START USING THEIR TECHNOLOGY FOR - FOR POSITIVE OUTCOMES, A OPPOSED TO SPENDING TIME O THINGS THAT DON'T NECESSARIL HELP THEM TO LIVE BETTER LIVES OR HEALTHIER LIVES, WE WANT TO GET AS MANY PEOPLE TO ADOPT THIS BEHAVIOR AS THEY -- AND IN A SIMILAR WAY THAT THEY'VE ADOPTED PHYSICAL FITNESS INTO THEI DAILY ROUTINE.

SOME PEOPLE ARE GONNA SAY 'LISTEN, IF I DID FO SIX WEEKS, I'M GONNA BE BETTER RIGHT?

IF I -- IF I JUST STARTED GOIN TO THE GYM, IF I COUNTED M CALORIES, RIGHT?' THINGS THA ARE VERY SMALL MODIFICATIONS BUT OVER TIME, HAVE A PRETTY BIG EFFECT SO, HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT IT' ACTUALLY THE USE OF THE AP THAT'S DOING IT VERSUS JUS BECOMING A LITTLE BIT MORE MINDFUL OF 'X' OR 'Y'?

SO, WE'VE DONE A LOT OF TESTS AND CONTROL STUDIES WHERE WE ACTUALLY TOOK A GROUP OF PEOPL THAT DID NOT USE THE APP AND DID NOT DO ANYTHING AROUND THEIR HAPPINESS VERSUS PEOPLE THAT HAVE USED THE APP AND KIND O STARTED WORKING, AND W ELIMINATED THE -- THE PLACEB EFFECT FROM THIS APP, AND TH RESULTS WERE PRETTY REMARKABLE

OKAY, AND WHAT ABOUT THAT FINAL GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT SAID, 'REALLY, THE KEY TO MY HAPPINESS IS PUTTING THIS PHONE DOWN AND NOT APPS SO MUCH AND NOT BEING SO CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET 'CAUSE I'M TOO WIRED'?

SO, PART OF WHAT WE'R TEACHING AND USING THE APP I ACTUALLY THAT THERE'S LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE APP

[ CHUCKLES

AND MANY OF THE ACTIVITIE WOULD ACTUALLY PROMPT YOU TO PUT THE PHONE DOWN AND GO SPEND TIME OUTSIDE IN NATURE, GO SPEND TIME WITH YOUR KIDS, WITH YOU IMPORTANT, SIGNIFICANT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE, MEDITATE, DO A LOT OF THINGS THAT ARE NOT RELATED TO THE APP.

WE'RE JUST SAYING, ONCE YOU'RE COMING BACK, USE THE APP AND THE TECHNOLOGY TO GET TH INFORMATION, MEASURE IT, AND ESSENTIALLY, BECOME MORE AWARE THERE IS NO SINGLE APP THA COULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER, BU THERE A TECHNOLOGY THAT YO CAN USE AS A DELIVERY MECHANIS TO TEACH YOU SIMPLE THINGS THA YOU CAN DO IN YOUR DAILY LIFE TO FEEL BETTER.

ALL RIGHT, OFER LEIDNER CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT O HAPPIFY, THANKS SO MUCH.

THANK YOU, HARI

IN OUR NEXT SEGMENT, WE MEE THE TEAM BEHIND THE GAME WUBeeS, WHICH WAS DESIGNED AS A TOOL T STRENGTHEN SOCIAL-INTERACTIO SKILLS FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM.

HERE'S THE STORY

SO, YOUR JOB IS TO TAKE CAR OF THE WUBee AND MAKE IT A HAPPY AS YOU CAN

MM-HMM.

AUTISM POSES MAJOR CHALLENGES FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.

THE DISORDER MAKES IT DIFFICUL TO READ SOCIAL CUES AN COMMUNICATE VERBALLY AND NON-VERBALLY IT'S ALSO BECOMING MORE COMMON

1 IN 68 INDIVIDUALS ACCORDING TO THE CDC, IS DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM, AND S IT'S A VERY NUMBER O INDIVIDUALS BEING DIAGNOSE DAILY, AND THIS EPIDEMIC HAS REALLY CAUSED A SIGNIFICANT NEED AT THE PUBLIC-SCHOOL LEVEL BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF KID COMING AND NOT A LOT OF FOLK THAT ARE TRAINED TO DEAL WIT THE VARIETY OF SKILLS THOSE KIDS COME TO SCHOOL WITH.

TO MEET THAT NEED DR. VASQUES AND DARIN HUGHES CREATED A COMPUTER GAME THAT TEACHES AUTISTIC CHILDREN SOME OF THE SOCIAL SKILLS THEY LACK

THE IDEA BEHIND THE GAME WA THAT, ESSENTIALLY, YOU'R PUTTING THE KID IN THE ROLE OF A CAREGIVER.

YOU HAVE THIS CHARACTER THAT W CALL A WUBee, WHICH IS NEITHER A BOY NOR GIRL IT'S NEITHER A CAT NOR DOG, BU IT HAS ALL THE SAME BASIC NEED THAT A KID MIGHT HAVE.

...THE WUBee'S MOUTH.

I THINK IT WAS IMPORTANT THAT IT SEEMED NON-THREATENING, SO WE DON'T USE MANY HARSH EDGES EVERYTHING'S KIND OF ROUNDED REALLY, IT WAS SOME TRIAL AN ERROR AND SOME GUESSWORK BUT, MEAN, ON SOME SOLID FOUNDATION OF, YOU KNOW, TRYING TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT IS NOT OVER-STIMULATING, BUT, ALSO, IT'S CLEAR ENOUGH THAT THE UNDERSTAND IT RELATES TO THEIR HOME ENVIRONMENT

THERE'S A SECTION IN THE GAME WHERE THE WUBee IS HUNGRY, AND YOU GO TO A KITCHEN, AND YOU START FEEDING IT FOOD, AND REALLY, IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY FO THE CHILD TO DETERMINE EMPATHY THERE.

AND ALSO TO MAYBE THINK ABOUT THEMSELVES IN TERMS OF THESE EMOTIONS, SO YOU KNOW, 'OH, I' HUNGRY, AND MAYBE, YOU KNOW, I REMEMBER THE WUBee WAS SAD WHE THE WUBee WAS HUNGRY WELL, MAYBE THAT'S, YOU KNOW WHY I'M NOT FEELING WELL RIGHT NOW.

...SLOWED IT DOWN THAT IT..

I THINK THAT IT CAN GIVE THEM NECESSARY EMOTIONAL SKILLS T BOND WITH ONE ANOTHER AND FORM RELATIONSHIPS WITH EACH OTHER.

SAPNA IS ASSISTING HUGHES AND VASQUES BY RECODING WUBeeS SO IT WORKS ON COMMON TABLETS AN SMARTPHONES.

FOR HER, IT'S PERSONAL

IN 7th GRADE, I ACTUALL VOLUNTEERED IN AN AUTISTIC CLASSROOM, AND A LOT OF THE KIDS GOT MADE FUN OF SO MUCH BY THE OTHER STUDENTS IN SCHOOL, AND REALLY WANTED TO HELP THEM OUT AND MAKE THEIR LIFE BETTER

SAPNA IS ALSO HELPING B TESTING THE APP.

I HELD AN INTERACTION SESSION BETWEEN THE WUBeeS AND A SUBJECT NAMED C.J. TODAY AND I THINK IT WENT PRETTY WEL BECAUSE IN THE BEGINNING, HE DIDN'T REALLY KNOW WHAT TO DO, BUT AS HE STARTED PLAYING AROUND WITH THE GAME, I SAW HIM REALL FOCUS ON THE HEALTH METERS AND FOCUS ON THE AREAS THAT WERE RED AND CARING FOR THE WUBee WHERE IT NEEDED IT MOST.

C.J.'s MOM THINKS THE APP HOLDS GREAT PROMISE.

ALMOST ALL OF THESE KIDS AR VERY SCREEN-ORIENTED THEY ALL HAVE iPADS, iPHONES iTOUCHES THEY ALL PLAY COMPUTER GAMES THEY ALL DO THINGS, AND IT'S EASIER FOR THEM TO INTERACT.

WE'VE DISCOVERED WITH C.J. THA IF HE'S TALKING TO SOMEONE OVE FaceTime OR TO THE AVATARS, HE WILL MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT.

HE WILL HAVE MORE CONVERSATION JUST USING THE SCREEN.

SO, WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO USING SCREEN SO, WHEN SAPNA SAID SHE HAD TH APP, I THOUGH, THAT'S JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG, AND PEOPLE ARE JUST DESPERATE FOR SOMETHING LIKE THIS, AND HERE'S -- HERE' THIS YOUNG LADY WHO'S IN HIG SCHOOL WHO'S CREATING THIS APP WORKING WITH DR. HUGHES, AND WHAT CAN THIS DO YOU KNOW, THE POSSIBILITIES AR JUST ENDLESS

FOR THE RESEARCHERS, IT WAS IMPORTANT TO CREATE A PRODUC THAT WAS BOTH EFFECTIVE AN WIDELY AVAILABLE

MOST COMPANIES WILL DEVELOP APPLICATIONS, AND THEY'RE IN I FOR, REALLY, TO MAKE MONEY, AN THEY'RE OBVIOUSLY THERE TO DEVELOP THESE APPLICATIONS FOR MASS DOWNLOADS, PURCHASES.

WE WERE REALLY MORE INTERESTED IN DEVELOPING AN APPLICATION T THEN REALLY ADDRESS SPECIFIC SKILLS, MOST NOTABLY THE INTERRELATIONAL SKILLS, EMPATH SKILLS, PERSPECTIVE-TAKING SKILLS, AND WE WANTED TO MAK SURE THAT THERE WAS A STRONG RESEARCH TO DEMONSTRATE THAT THERE WAS A STRONG OUTCOME O THE GAME, NOT ONLY FOR PARENTS BUT FOR OUR SCHOOLS AND TH CHILDREN TO USE AND SHOW, HEY, YEAH, THIS PRODUCT, NOT ONLY I IT FUN BUT IT ALSO PRODUCES GREAT OUTCOME FOR SKILLS

SAPNA HAS EVERY INTENTION O SEEING THAT HAPPEN

MY LONG-TERM RESEARCH GOAL IS BASED ON TWO MAIN PROJECTS THE FIRST IS EXPANDING THE WUBeeS, AND THEN THE SECOND IS INVOLVING ANOTHER PROJECT CALLED TEACH LIVE, AND THOSE AR MIXED-REALITY AVATARS.

SOMETHING LIKE TEACH LIVE I NOT GOING TO BE AVAILABLE TO THE MASS POPULATION.

JUST THE COMMUNICATION DEVICES THAT THEY WERE USING, SOME O THEM ARE $4,000.

THE COST IS GONNA BE VER PROHIBITIVE FOR MOST PEOPLE, BUT AN APP IS NOT.

YOUR ROLE IN THE GAME..

YOU'RE STARTING TO LOOK A SOMETHING THAT CAN JUST CHANGE EVERYTHING FOR THESE KIDS AN FOR THESE FAMILIES

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS TO USE THE WUBeeS AS A DIAGNOSTIC TES TO DETERMINE KIDS THAT CAN BENEFIT FROM THE TEACH LIV THERAPY.

IF THE WUBeeS CAN PROVE WHIC CHILDREN WILL BENEFIT, PARENTS OF THE KIDS WILL BE A LOT MORE LIKELY TO PAY FOR THAT EXPENSIVE THERAPY AND OUT THE KIDS

INNOVATIVE SCIENTIFIC TECHNOLOGY IS CONSTANTLY TRANSFORMING THE WAY WE LOOK A ORGANISMS.

WITH MorphoBank, A WEB APPLICATION THAT PROVIDES AN ONLINE DATABASE AND WORKSPAC FOR EVOLUTIONARY RESEARCH, SCIENTISTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD CAN JOIN FORCES TO BUILD EVOLUTIONARY TREES OF DIFFEREN SPECIES.

IT'S A SMALL SORT O BROWNISH-GRAY SPECIES BIGGER THAN A MOUSE, ABOUT 250 GRAMS.

IT WAS AN INSECT-EATING MAMMAL AND IT LIVED IN WHAT'S CALLE THE EARLY PALEOCENE, WHICH IS TIME THAT JUST FOLLOWED TH EXTINCTION OF THE DINOSAURS THAT PEOPLE TEND TO BE MORE FAMILIA WITH HUMANS ARE DEFINITELY PLACENTA MAMMALS, AND THIS ANCESTOR THA WE'VE RECONSTRUCTED IS PART OF OUR BROAD FAMILY TREE.

ITS OFFICIAL IS A HYPOTHETICAL PLACENTAL ANCESTOR BECAUSE W DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE A FOSSIL O THIS WE CAN TAKE INFORMATION FROM THE FOSSIL RECORD, INFORMATION FRO LIVING SPECIES, AND THEN LOO BACK AT A TIME LIKE TH PALEOCENE AND REALLY SAW WIT SOME CONFIDENCE WHAT WE THIN EXTINCT ANIMALS LOOKED LIKE AT THAT TIME.

WHAT WE DO TO RECONSTRUCT WHAT ANY ANCESTOR MIGHT HAVE BEEN LIKE IS, IN ESSENCE MAPPING THE TRAITS THAT WE KNO ABOUT AND WORKING OUR WAY BACK DOWN THE BRANCHES.

THE ONLY WAY THAT THIS WAS POSSIBLE WAS BECAUSE WE WERE WORKING IN MorphoBank.

MorphoBank IS A CLOUD-BASED WE APPLICATION FOR SCIENTISTS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN STORIN INFORMATION ABOUT THE PHENOME OR THE MORPHOLOGY, ANATOMY OF ORGANISMS AND USING IT TO BUIL EVOLUTIONARY TREES OF THOS ORGANISMS.

IN A SENSE, THIS IS KIND OF LIKE OUR ATOM-SMASHER PROJECT, YOU KNOW THE NEXT WAVE, THE NEX POSSIBILITY FOR WORK AND WHAT WE CALL COMPARATIVE AND EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY DNA SEQUENCING BECAME AN ENORMOUS TRANSFORMATION IN THE WAY WE LOOK AT ORGANISMS AT THE SAME TIME, WE CAN'T FORGET ALL THE EXTERNAL FEATURES ABOVE THE LEVEL OF THE GENOME WE CALL THE PHENOME AND WHAT'S GREAT IS, WE NOW HAVE SOME OF THE DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES THAT ALLOW US TO STUDY THOSE THINGS IN WAYS THAT ARE SOMEWHAT COMPATIBLE WITH STUDYING THE GENOME SO, THAT'S WHAT I THINK IS THE NEXT PART OF THE ARC AND, TO ME, THE MOST EXCITING ONE.

WHEN WE PUT ALL OUR OBSERVATIONS TOGETHER, THEY SI IN A THING CALLED A MATRIX, AN THAT MATRIX CAN THEN BE THROUG AN ALGORITHM TO PRODUCE A TREE AND THEN THAT TREE IS WHAT TELLS US WHICH SPECIES ARE RELATED T EACH OTHER MorphoBank IS ONE OF MAN DIFFERENT KINDS OF INITIATIVES TO BRING ANATOMY INTO THE 21st CENTURY AND TO MAKE IT A BIG SCIENCE, WHERE TEAMS O COLLABORATORS CAN GO AND WORK IN A SHARED CONTEXT ON A HYPOTHESIS THAT THEY'RE TESTING OVER THE COURSE OF THIS WORK, WE HAD SIX DIFFERENT COUNTRIE INVOLVED, SO A TEAM OF 15 OR 2 COLLABORATORS OVER THE YEARS

WE HAD A CORE TEAM HERE A THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, ANOTHER TEAM BASED AT THE CARNEGIE MUSEUM.

WE HAVE VERY IMPORTANT COLLABORATORS AT SEVERAL OTHER INSTITUTIONS -- IN STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE.

THIS IS PROBABLY THE BIGGES EFFORT EVER IN THIS KIND OF WAY.

IT SHOWS SOME INTERESTING THINGS THAT AREN'T NECESSARIL REPRODUCED IN THE GENOME TREES INDEED, OUR RESULTS SUGGEST THAT THE TIMING OF THE EVOLUTION OF THIS GROUP WAS A FAIRLY LATE EVENT, RIGHT AFTER THE SO-CALLED DINOSAUR EXTINCTION EVENT, THE CRETACEOUS EXTINCTION EVENT, AND, YOU KNOW, THE INFERENCE THERE IS THAT MAY HAVE OPENED UP A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR THI GROUP OF LITTLE, MEEK MAMMALS TO RADIATE TO ALL KINDS OF FORMS.

THINKING ABOUT DEEP TIM IS -- IS HARD TO -- IS HARD TO WRAP YOUR MIND AROUND.

IT'S A VERY, VERY LONG EXPANSE -- FAR EXCEEDS OUR OWN LIFETIMES.

AND TO BE ABLE TO SAY SOMETHIN ABOUT THAT IS, I THINK, A VERY EXCITING WAY TO CONNECT OUR OW EVOLUTION TO THE HISTORY OF LIFE AND -- AND THE BIGGER PICTURE OF WHAT'S HAPPENED AND HOW SPECIE HAVE CHANGED THROUGH TIME.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OU WEBSITE.

CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

YOU CAN ALSO SUBSCRIBE TO OU YouTube CHANNEL.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN THANKS FOR WATCHING.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WA MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING AN CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.