Why are Insects Attracted to Light?

Why are Insects Attracted to Light?


You know when you’re outside at night with
some lights on, and insects start flying straight into the light, and swarming around it? It’s a thing! What is the deal with that? Turns out, nobody knows for sure. But there are a few theories that suggest
that electric lights, fires, and other bright, glowing things might confuse the natural instincts
of these insects. Insects that are drawn to light are known
as positively phototactic – and one of the theories behind their behavior is that these
insects use the moon to navigate at night. These insect species tend to be nocturnal,
and many are migratory. So in order to stay on track while travelling
long distances, they want to stay at a specific angle with respect to the moon. So the theory is that these insects mistake
a point of light they find in the dark – like an electric light – for the moon. This could also explain why certain insects
tend to fly wild circles around our lights: Once they reach the glowing object that they
think is the the moon, they keep drastically changing their angles to the light source,
which throws them for a loop, literally. There are some problems with this theory,
though: For one, not all of positively phototactic insects are migratory, and not all of those
use the moon to navigate. Plus, this doesn’t really explain why they
would head straight toward a light, since they don’t fly directly at the moon. So, there’s another theory, which has more
to do with short-term protection than long-distance navigation. Light can also be a sign of an unobstructed
path, which is a good thing if you’re trying to escape a predator, or just get to Point
B. So if insects think a light is a sign of an
obstacle-free area, you can see why they’d want to head straight for it. And it also explains why they might fly straight
into a bug zapper or a fire, because they don’t expect the light source to be so close. Another thing to consider: Many insects are
really good at detecting ultraviolet light – an ability that lots of flowers exploit
by reflecting UV light to attract them. So positively phototactic insects might aim
for your lamp or campfire because they instinctively think it’s something they want, like a source
of food! Which, of course, makes me feel quite sorry
for them. But the next time you see an insect slamming
into a lamp, keep in mind that not even entomologists are quite sure why it’s doing that. Maybe with some more research, we’ll figure
it out. Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to
all of our patrons on Patreon who keep these answers coming. If you’d like to submit questions to be
answered, or get some videos a few days early, go to patreon.com/scishow. And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow
and subscribe!

Why are Dead Bugs Always on Their Backs?

Why are Dead Bugs Always on Their Backs?


[ intro ] You might notice something odd about those
flies you just swatted, or the cockroaches you nuked with insecticide. It seems like they almost always wind up on
their backs. And that’s not your imagination. Dead bugs really do end up belly up quite
often thanks to a combination of physics and biology. If you think about the shape of your typical
insect, like a cockroach or fly, it’s rounded with fairly thin legs relative to its body. That means most of its body weight is concentrated
near the top of its body, so it has a high center of mass. That’s the point of an object where external
forces like gravity appear to act. And the higher it is, the less tilt is required
before it’s no longer over the object’s base—at which point the object, or insect
in this case, topples. In fact, many bugs would just tip over if
it weren’t for the constant work of their teeny leg muscles—they’re pretty much
always doing a push up to stay upright. Sure, a bug will occasionally stumble onto
its back or purposely roll over as a defense mechanism. But whenever it finds itself in a supine position,
it can right itself with a little coordinated leg or wing action. There’s even one family of insects called
click beetles that launch themselves into a somersault to land right way up. But that all kind of falls apart when an insect
is injured or sick because it loses the ability to perform complex muscular movements. I mean, just picture trying to do a cartwheel
when you’ve got the flu or a broken arm. And any weakness in those leg muscles and
they’ll naturally curl inwards, a bit like how your fingers curl when you rest your hand. Curled legs can’t support that top-heavy
body. The chemicals used to kill bugs also usually
mess with their nervous system directly. Insecticides generally contain neurotoxins,
like organophosphates or pyrethroids, which cause convulsions or paralysis in insects
by over-stimulating or inhibiting their neuronal signals. Either way, the loss of muscular coordination
combined with a high center of mass means the animal probably ends up on its back before
it dies. In fact, if you see a bug on its back, it’s
likely not long for this world. In a 2002 study on Mediterranean fruit flies,
researchers found that as flies aged, they were more likely to go belly up temporarily—and
when that happened, their chances of dying jumped by close to 40 percent. Bugs pretty much never choose to be supine
unless they’re playing dead, so their inability to get up quickly is probably an indicator
that something is wrong. Thanks to our patron Carol for asking, and
to all our other patrons that voted for this question in our Patreon poll. If you want to suggest questions like this
one, vote on which questions we should answer, or just get some really cool rewards like
exclusive blooper reels, you can head over to Patreon.com/SciShow to learn more about
becoming one of our patrons. [ outro ]

3 Things You May Not Want to Know About Dust Mites

3 Things You May Not Want to Know About Dust Mites


As you probably have noticed from your existence
on the planet as a human, there’s dust everywhere. It’s probably around you right now, and you
might have heard that it is made of human skin cells. But that’s not quite true.
Some studies have found that more than 60% of household dust comes from outdoors, like
pollen and dirt and sand and even tiny particles of meteorites!
But the rest IS mostly dead bits of you floating around, along with lots and lots of feces
from dust mites. Like, uh, like lots.
And, fair warning, after learning about this, you may never want to, like, get in your bed
again. [Intro] Dust mites are nearly microscopic arachnids
that hover on the border between visible and invisible, with an average length of about
0.3 millimeters. Despite their tiny size, dust mites are all
over. There are two main species: the American dust
mite and the European dust mite, and in the U.S., one study found that 84% of households
had a detectable dust mite population. The good news is, they aren’t technically
parasites because they don’t feed off of the live parts of humans. But I specify “live
parts” because they do eat human tissue. Our dead skin cells are their favorite meal.
The average human sheds about one million skin cells a day, and some of those inevitably
come off in the tossing and turning of sleep. So mattresses and pillows tend to be full
of those human skin cells, making them an ideal dust mite home.
And since a female dust mite will usually lay up to a hundred eggs in her lifetime,
the mite population tends to grow pretty fast. There are, on average, a hundred thousand
dust mites living in the typical mattress. Now, that may be kind of gross, but eating
dead skin cells doesn’t do any humans harm, I mean, it’s just dead skin! Just let it go.
It’s when the dust mites, you know, excrete it, that’s the problem. Mites use digestive
enzymes, called proteases, that can cause allergic reactions in humans.
And there’s plenty to go around – your average mite excretes about 20 fecal pellets per day.
Multiply that by the hundred thousand dust mites in your mattress, and that’s – that’s
a lot of fecal pellets. They’re very small, though!
Those little pellets end up in your pillows and your mattress and get spread through the
air, and when they’re breathed in by someone who’s sensitive to the enzymes, they can cause
wheezing and sneezing and itching and all sorts of not-fun asthma and allergy symptoms.
So killing dust mites isn’t easy, but they do have a weakness: humidity, or the lack
of it. Dust mites don’t drink water; they have to suck it out of the air, so they need
at least 50% humidity to survive. If the humidity drops below that, they go into a sort of panic
mode. When this happens, a lot of mites will gather
together in one spot to try and decrease the surface area of their bodies that’s exposed
to air, so they lose less water. They basically try to form one giant mite-ball, like a Megazord
mite. And if the humidity gets too low for even
that to work, the young mites, called nymphs, will latch on to whatever material’s available,
like carpet fibers, and basically hibernate until the humidity increases again.
That’s why some people find that their dust allergies are seasonal. The dust mite population
decreases in colder months when the humidity is lower and comes back when the nymphs emerge
from hibernation and resume… crapping all over your house.
This survival method is so effective that there’s really no way to completely get rid
of a dust mite colony. There are some ways to decrease their numbers, though, like frequently
washing sheets and pillows in very hot water, using polyester pillow cases and mattress
covers to create a barrier, getting rid of carpet, and using vacuums with special filters.
But most of us will continue to play host to these mostly harmless, but probably unwanted,
house-guests. At least now you know exactly who – or what – you’re sharing your bed with.
Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow, especially to our Subbable subscribers who
make this whole channel possible for themselves and for everyone else. To learn how you can
help keep SciShow going, just go to Subbable.com/scishow, and don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow
and subscribe if you want to keep learning about all the ways in which the world is terrifying.

How Mosquitoes Use Six Needles to Suck Your Blood  |  Deep Look

How Mosquitoes Use Six Needles to Suck Your Blood | Deep Look


This is the deadliest animal in the world. Mosquitoes kill hundreds of thousands of people
each year… the most vulnerable people: children, pregnant women… No other bite kills more humans… or makes
more of us sick. So what makes a mosquito’s bite so effective? For starters, they’re motivated. Only females bite us. They need blood to make
eggs… And a pool of water for their babies to hatch in. Even a piece of trash can hold enough. At first glance, it looks simple — this mosquito
digging her proboscis into us. But the tools she’s using here are sophisticated. First, a protective sheath retracts – see
it bending back? If you look at a mosquito’s head under a
microscope, you can see what that sheath protects. And inside *there* are six needles! Two of them have tiny teeth. She uses those to saw through the skin. They’re so sharp you can barely feel her pushing. These other two needles hold the tissues apart while she works. From under the skin, you can see her probing, looking for a blood vessel. Receptors on the tip of one of her other needles pick up on chemicals that our blood vessels exude naturally and guide her to it. Then she uses this same needle like a straw. As her gut fills up, she separates water from the blood and squeezes it out. See that drop? That frees up space to stuff herself with
more nutritious red blood cells. With another needle, she spits chemicals into us. They get our blood flowing more easily, and give us itchy welts afterwards. And sometimes, before she pries herself away, she leaves a parting gift in her saliva: a virus or a parasite that can sicken or kill
us. There’s nothing in it for her. The viruses
and parasites are just hitching a ride. But this is what makes mortal enemies out of us
and mosquitoes. They take our blood. Sometimes we take theirs.
But often, not soon enough. Good. You’re still there. . These are the
larvae of Culex pipiens, a.k.a. the common house mosquito here in California. Gross, right?
Well, you can avoid them by emptying your rain gutters. Pet water dishes too. While
you’re at it, subscribe! We have so many more science videos coming your way. See you next
time!

Insects & Bugs : How Do Fruit Flies Grow?

Insects & Bugs : How Do Fruit Flies Grow?


The bananas are turning brown, they’re starting
to smell a little over-ripe, and now they’re covered with fruit flies. Once you’ve got
fruit flies, it can be hard to get rid of them. But why is it so difficult to get rid
of them? I’m Janice Creneti and this is How Do Fruit Flies Grow? Well, fruit flies are
an insect. They’re an invertebrate which means that they don’t have a backbone. They have
a hard crunchy shell instead. Well, the thing about insects is that they go through a process
call metamorphosis. You may be familiar with the butterfly and the caterpillar. So let’s
look at metamorphosis and the stages that a fruit fly actually goes through. Fruit flies
are called fruit flies ’cause they’re attracted to fruit. And in addition to eating the fruit,
they’ll actually lay their eggs on the fruit. Once thee egg hatches, it becomes a larva,
or what sometimes you might think of as being a caterpillar if we’re talking about a butterfly
metamorphosis. That larva will continue to feed on the fruit. Then it will turn into
a pupa. Now this is the point where it stops eating, it’s actually developing, sort of
like a cocoon, again, if we’re comparing it to butterfly metamorphosis. Then, through
that process, it will actually develop it’s legs, it’s wings, and everything it needs
to become an adult fruit fly. Once that adult fruit fly hatches, it’s ready to start laying
eggs and making more fruit flies in your kitchen. So if you want to get rid of the fruit flies,
the trick is to get rid of the fruit. I’m Janice Creneti and this is How Do Fruit Flies
Grow?

How Some Animals Engineered Air Conditioning

How Some Animals Engineered Air Conditioning


This episode is supported by Edx. Termites, prairie dogs, and people are all
great builders, each in their own way. And we all share one crucial problem. Put a bunch of us in a closed space, breathing
Oxygen in and CO2 out… and it doesn’t end well. Our tallest skyscrapers and deepest mines
are almost completely cut off from outside air. To keep those inside from suffocating, human
engineers use giant machines to bring in fresh air and pump stale air out. Termite mounds have the same problem. The largest are more than 10 meters high. On a human scale, that’s like a skyscraper
three and a half kilometers tall! Only instead of condos and offices, it holds
one big farm. The termites collect wood, which grows fungus,
that the termites eat. All that fungus and the millions of termites
that tend to it create a ton of CO2, which would suffocate the colony *and* their crops
if it builds up. To keep the air fresh, the whole mound acts
like a big lung. During the day, the sun heats the outer chambers
more rapidly than the core, moving air up the outside and down the middle. During the night, this current reverses as
the outer chambers lose heat to the cool night air. The whole time, CO2 and oxygen are exchanged
through tiny holes in the outer walls. What’s amazing is this is all constructed
without a boss. No central architect designing the structure. Just instinct and cooperation lets termites
build huge ventilation engines powered by nothing but daily temperature cycles. Leafcutter ants farm fungus on massive scales
too. One colony in South America covered nearly
50 square meters and was home to over 8 million ants! But unlike those towering termites, the ant
labyrinth reached 8 meters underground. So how do they ventilate their agricultural
city? Before we answer that, I want you to try something. Take a piece of paper, hold it under your
lips, and let the other end curl down. If you blow only across the top of the paper,
what do you think will happen? The force of the air hitting the paper should
push it down, right? Well watch this. Here’s what’s happening: Air is a fluid. When I force air across the top of the paper,
that stream pulls other air along, due to viscosity, which is like the friction of
fluids. This leaves an area of low pressure behind, and the paper is pulled up to fill
it. This is called the Coandă effect. What does that have to do with ants? Check this out. When a breeze flows over a hill, the air is
deflected over the top. This pulls air along too, just like when I blew over the paper, drawing air out of the ant hill along the
way. The ants build lower entrances nearby, where
air is drawn in to replace it, ventilating the whole colony with a little breeze. Prairie dogs get the same effect from their
mounds. Breezes over taller hills draw air through
the connected tunnel system, keeping the whole town breathing fresh. There’s even a tiny shrimp that uses this
same system to keep fresh water flowing through its burrows. Persian and Egyptian architects have used
similar structures to cool buildings for centuries, but tiny animals beat us to that technology
by millions of years Nature is full of species that build their
environment to suit them, countless expert animal architects. Sometimes, all you need to solve the most
complex engineering problems is the awesome power of evolution, …and that’s a breath of fresh air. Stay curious. Thanks to edX, our non-profit partner for
sponsoring this episode. edX.org is where you can learn for free from
Harvard, MIT and other universities around the globe. If you liked this video, you should go check
out Harvard’s Architectural Imagination course. Led by Professor Michael Hays, this online
course shows you how to look at architecture as an expression of culture as well as technical
achievement. It brings you closer to the work of actual
architects and historians through hands-on exercises and historic examples. edX.org offers university level courses in
everything from artificial intelligence to leadership, data science to robots and cybersecurity. There are even courses from my alma mater,
the University of Texas! edX.org puts a universe of free online learning
at your fingertips. Visit edx.org today and discover the courses
that will keep you learning!

Roly Polies Came From the Sea to Conquer the Earth | Deep Look

Roly Polies Came From the Sea to Conquer the Earth | Deep Look


Pill bugs…… roly polies….. potato bugs… whatever you want to call them, somehow there’s something less creepy about these guys than other insects. More loveable, or something. Maybe it’s because they’re not insects
at all. Pill bugs are actually crustaceans. They’re more closely related to shrimp and
lobsters than crickets or beetles. Pill bugs even taste like shellfish, if you
cook them right. Some adventurous foragers call them wood shrimp. As early as 300 million years ago, some intrepid
ancestor crawled out of the ocean, sensing there might be more to eat, or less competition,
on dry land.” But unlike lobsters, pillbugs can roll up
into a perfect little ball for protection. If you look closely you can see the evidence
of where these guys came from. Like their ocean-dwelling cousins, pill bugs
still use gills to breathe. True insects — like this cricket — use a
totally different system. See those tiny holes on this cricket’s abdomen? They’re called spiracles. They lead to a series of tubes that bring
fresh air directly to the insect’s cells. But pill bugs don’t have any of that. To survive on land, they had to adapt. Their gills, called pleopods, are modified
to work in air. Folds in the pleopod gills developed into
hollow branched structures, almost like tiny lungs. In a way, the pillbug is only halfway to becoming
a true land animal. Because… they’re still gills. They need to be kept moist in order to work. Which is why you usually find pill bugs in
moist places, like under damp, rotting logs. They can’t venture too far away. Sure, pill bugs look like the most ordinary
of bugs. But they’re much more than that: evidence
that over evolutionary time, species make big, life-changing leaps. And those stories are written on their bodies. Hey, while we’re on the subject of oddball
crustaceans… check out this episode about mantis shrimp. Their eyes see colors we can’t even
comprehend. Their punch is faster than Muhammad Ali’s. And while we have you: Subscribe. OK? Thank you! And see you next time.

Ending the arms race with infectious diseases | Janelle Ayres | TEDxSanDiego

Ending the arms race with infectious diseases | Janelle Ayres | TEDxSanDiego


Translator: Ilya Bychkov
Reviewer: Denise RQ “It is now time to close the book
on infectious diseases and declare the war
against pestilence won.” It is something we all want. We all want to live in a world
free of infectious diseases. Think about when you watch movies
like, “Contagion” or “Outbreak.” or when you watch the news coverage on the Ebola virus
or more recently, the Zika virus. How did seeing those things make you feel? They freaked you out, right? Infectious diseases
evoke legitimate feelings of fear in every single one of us, because none of us is free from the threat
of contracting an infection. The quote that I began with is from
the US Surgeon General from the 1960s. He made this statement in response
to the success of the early antibiotics. It is a statement that accurately reflects
the overall sentiment of the time: which is that because we had such great success
with the early generation of antibiotics, infectious diseases were soon
going to become a worry of the past. I want to tell you about one
person’s war against an infection that took place just last year. That is my dad’s. In January of 2015,
my dad became very sick. It took the doctors
a few weeks to figure it out, but they realized that he had gallstones, and he would have to have
his gallbladder removed. That diagnosis was actually
a relief to all of us, because gallstones are very common
in the United States, and gallbladder removal surgery is one of the most commonly performed
surgeries in the country. So this is basically standard
operating procedure for his doctors. We couldn’t imagine that anything
serious could possibly go wrong. Actually, nothing serious did go
wrong with his surgery. It went quite well.
He was discharged from the hospital, but 12 hours after his discharge,
my mum sent me a text. It said, “He can’t walk.
I have to call an ambulance. I don’t know what’s wrong.” My family is up in the Bay Area; I was down here in San Diego
when this happened. So my sister was communicating to me
from the ICU my dad’s symptoms. I’m the only biologist in my family, so you can imagine how confused they were. How could 12 hours ago
my dad be perfectly healthy, and discharged from the hospital, and now he is laying paralyzed
in a bed in the intensive care unit? But after I heard his symptoms,
I knew exactly what had happened. My dad had sepsis. If you don’t know what sepsis is this is a life-threatening condition that occurs when your body’s response
to an infection is so powerful that it begins damaging
its own tissues and organs. It’s pretty much a death sentence because it has mortality rates
greater than 80%. I dropped everything. I had to rush home. I had to get to the hospital
to be with him and to talk with his doctors. It felt like I couldn’t get there
fast enough. First, my flight was delayed. Then I had to battle Bay Area traffic
for over two hours. I was certain that he was going to be gone
by the time I got to the hospital. But he wasn’t. When I walked into his room in the ICU, my dad waived to me and gave me
one of his classic thumbs up that I had seen 1,000 times growing up. The doctors confirmed
that he did have sepsis. What happened is that his gallstones
went undetected for so long, that his gallbladder became infected. From there, the bacteria
spread into his bloodstream, and then infected his vertebrae,
and that caused his paralysis. It was his body’s response
to the bacteria being in the blood that caused him to have sepsis. The treatment strategy
proposed by his doctors was really the only option
they had available for them: to administer broad spectrum antibiotics and to hope for the best. I sat there for a week with my dad, and I can remember obsessively
watching his vitals monitors, hoping the next blood pressure read
was going to be higher, or the next ventilator read
was going to be lower. I was looking for any indication that the infection was actually
responding to the antibiotics. But the numbers never got better, because he had
an antibiotic-resistant infection, making the only strategy that was
available to him completely useless. After nine days, my dad lost
his war against an infection and he passed away. It is because of the global spread
of the antibiotic resistance, and our current strategies
for treating infectious diseases that my dad died. We are further away than ever from closing
the book on infectious diseases. But why? If we really had such great success
with the early generation antibiotics, how is it possible
that we screw things up so badly that we now are in far worse condition
than we were 50 years ago? And the main issue is our perspective on
how we should be dealing with problems. When we are faced with the challenge, we think that in order to solve
that challenge, we have to annihilate
the source of the problem. If you have a mouse in your house,
you set traps to try to kill that mouse. If you have a weed in your yard, you spray toxic chemicals
all over your yard to try to kill that weed and prevent
new ones from coming in. Infectious diseases are
no exception to this mentality. All of our current strategies
to fight infectious diseases are based on the question: how do we fight infections? As a result, we declared a war
against infectious diseases. We put all our efforts
into developing weapons in the form of antibiotics and antivirals
in order to win this war. But bacteria and viruses
are incredibly slippery targets. They can evolve so quickly resistance
to our weapons, making them obsolete. So what do we do? Our solution has been
to just make more new weapons, make more antibiotics,
make more antivirals. It’s not surprising that the microbes have
evolved resistance to our new weapons. So our perspective is fueling
an ever escalating arms race between us and the infectious diseases. The scary fact is it’s
an arms race we can never win. The second issue, in addition
to driving drug resistance, is that there is a fundamental issue
with this perspective, if we actually want to develop therapies that will enable a patient
to survive an infectious disease. To help you understand
what I mean by this, I want to continue with the war analogy. In an actual war, there is
combat between soldiers. But that combat
does not occur in isolation. Something that can happen is what’s called
“the collateral damage of war,” which is the unintentional
or incidental damage that can occur to civilians,
property, economy, and the society. The same principle
can be applied to an infection that’s occurring in a patient’s body. So if we have a septic patient, there is going to be bacteria,
virus, or even fungus that has entered their bloodstream. Their immune system
is going to recognize that foreign invader and it’s going to mount a killing response
to try to fight that infection. But that fight
is not occurring in isolation. What happens is, basically, every other physiological system
in the patient’s body becomes damaged: the liver, the kidneys,
the intestine, lungs, the cardiovascular system,
all get damaged. You can give
a septic patient antimicrobials, and they might be effective
at killing the infection, but you are left with a patient that has suffered extreme
collateral damage to his body. For my dad, even if his infection
was sensitive to the antibiotics, the likelihood of him
to surviving was very low because he suffered so much physiological
damage from the infection. What he needed were therapies
that would fix that physiological damage. He wasn’t given any drugs that do that
because those drugs don’t exist; because we haven’t been approaching
infectious diseases from the right perspective. So if we’ve been asking
the wrong question, what is the question
that we should be asking? Instead of asking,
“How do we fight infections?”, we should be asking
“How do we survive infections?” I know that a single word change
from “fight” to “survive” seems simple, but by making the single change, we’ve completely changed
the meaning of the question. If we can understand
the answer to this question, we will completely change the way
we treat infectious diseases. We will be able to develop
drugs, therapies, strategies that will enable the patient
to survive an infection without driving drug resistance
in the microbial populations. Because these drugs will be
fixing the collateral damage that’s happened in the patient’s body rather than targeting the microbe
that’s causing the infection. I became very interested in this question,
“How do we survive infections?” when I was getting my PhD
at Stanford about ten years ago. We all know that our bodies
have an immune system, and this immune system is important for recognizing microbes
that are invading our body, and it is important for mounting
a killing response against these microbes to fight the infection. We found in addition to our immune system, our bodies encode
a distinct defense system that we call the tolerance defense system. This tolerance defense system
is absolutely necessary for our ability to survive infections. It protects us from mortality by preventing and fixing
the collateral damage that happens to our bodies
during infectious diseases. This is really exciting
because it means that if we can find out how this tolerance defense system
is working in our bodies, we can change the way
we treat infectious diseases, we will be able to develop therapies that overcome the limitations
of current strategies that are available, we can develop strategies
that promote survival without driving drug resistance. So then how do we go about doing this? This is actually a main goal
of my team at the Salk Institute. We’re committing to understanding
this tolerance defense system so that we can make this a reality. We take a variety of approaches
to address this goal, but one of our main approaches
that we’re really excited about, and that we have already
been successful with is we’re leveraging our interactions
with beneficial microbes. Right now all of you have
about three pounds of bacteria that are living on you body surfaces
exposed to the environment. If we sprinkle in some viruses
and some fungus, now you have your microbiome. Your microbiome is
absolutely essential for your health. We have an evolutionary theory,
that has lead us to predict that the microbiome has evolved mechanisms
to turn on our tolerance defense system. It can effectively manipulate
this defense system to promote our health. We are using the microbiome to teach us
how to turn tolerance defenses on, to teach us what they are,
how to manipulate them to promote health. We are using these microbes
as platforms for drug design so that we can move this into the clinic. For example,
we’ve recently identified an E. coli that lives in the intestines
of healthy individuals. This E. coli has taught us
that we can cure infectious diseases by mediating communication between the immune system,
our fat tissue, and our skeletal muscle, by preventing collateral damage
in the form of skeletal muscle wasting. In pre-clinical trials, just by orally administering
this E. coli to the model patients, we can cure sepsis, bacterial pneumonia,
typhoid fever, and infectious diarrhea without the need for a single antibiotic. I think that’s amazing. I think it’s exciting (Applause) I think it opens up a promising future for our ability to treat
and cure infectious diseases. My lab will continue to do this. We are committed to it,
but we can’t do it alone. We are all vulnerable to the threat
of contracting an infectious disease. We are all terrified of that threat. But if you leave here
with one thing today, I want you to leave here
believing that there is hope to get us out of the mess
that we got ourselves into. The first step to this
is really changing our perspective going from “How do we fight infections?”
to “How do we survive infections?” All of you: doctors, scientists,
health care officials, drug companies need to make
that perspective shift. We have the technology
and knowledge to do it. We have to make that shift,
because it’s only then when we’ll truly be able to close
the door on infectious diseases and end the war against pestilence. Thank you. (Applause)

Holy Hallucinations 22: Termites and Tosspots

Holy Hallucinations 22: Termites and Tosspots


This is a response to BereanBeacon’s video,
“Termites Place Hex on Evolution.” But before I begin, I’d like to correct
a couple of gross oversights from Holy Hallucinations 21 where I neglected to mention a pair of
great Youtubers who produce material in the areas of philosophy and theology. So if you
haven’t yet been exposed to the fascinating and educational videos of philosophy professor
SisyphusRedeemed, or the eloquent and beautiful deconversion and theological productions of
Evid3nc3, then you really should head over to their channels and click the yellow button.
So now, back to the subject of this episode and that’s the user BereanBeacon and one
particular example of the seemingly endless feast televisual craptitude that you can find
on his channel. I’ll be referring to you as BB for the purposes
of this response, so I hope you don’t take offense, but if you do feel so inclined then
I’d hold off until you see the rest of the video because I can assure that my little
nickname for you is going to be the least of your worries.
Like many of your videos, this one features an episode of the anti-science radio show
“Creation Moments” featuring a feeble-minded, geriatric creationist named Ian Taylor. It
seems Mister Taylor’s sole qualifications for disparaging evolutionary biology are an
undergraduate degree in metallurgy and the willingness and ability to lie like the pope
at an HIV prevention workshop. But lest I be accused of indulging in baseless
ad hominem attacks, let’s take a look at what the old fossil had to say about the evolution
of termites, and then ‘ll explain exactly why he’s either talking straight out of
his arse or has his head stuck up it. “The nest was discovered in in fossilized
wood from Big Bend National Park in Texas. Other scientists examined the grains under
a microscope and found that they were hexagonal in shape. That distictive shape told them
that the grains were termite droppings, and these droppings were identical to those made
by modern termites. With this discovery, they holes in the fossilized wood suddenly made
sense.” It’s hardly surprising of course to hear
a creationist talking crap, because it sometimes seems that that’s all they’re capable
of doing when placed in front of a microphone. The discovery that your rationally challenged
colleague’s referring to was published by David Rohr and colleagues in the peer-reviewed
journal Geology in January, 1987. The fact that this particular episode of “Creation
Moments” was broadcast in March of 2011 is a testament to the breathtakingly fast
pace at the cutting edge of modern Creation Research.
Now on the whole, Taylor makes a reasonable summary of this part of the paper apart from
his description of the fossilized frass as being “identical” to that of modern termites.
The authors of the actual paper do make an argument that the droppings are termitic in
origin because among extant insects only termites and roaches produce hexagonal droppings. They
argue against the possibility that the frass was produced by roaches, firstly because the
pellets were too small; secondly, because modern wood boring roaches prefer to live
in rotting wood and the petrified specimen in question appeared to be sound; and finally
because of the similarity of the distribution of the fossilized frass within the wood and
that of modern origin. At no point, however, do the authors state
that the frass is identical to extant termite fecal pellets, which begs the question as
to why this shriveled old fart said they did. I suspect that what he was doing was opening
the gate to prepare the way for him to drive through his muck-spreader and really start
spraying his shite. But before we see him completely lying his
nuts of for Jesus, let’s watch him as he starts up his tractor.
“The wood had been tunneled out in the same way that modern termites tunnel wood. the
nest was in the centre of the wood, just like modern termite build their nests. These ancient
termites had placed their droppings around the edge of the nest. Modern termites do the
same thing to plug any air leaks and to prevent draughts. In short, every evidence says that
termites from the time of the dinosaurs were built just like modern termites and that they
behaved in the same was as modern termites.” Once again, our budding manure magnate deliberately
overstates the case. Nothing in the paper in any way says, implicitly or explicitly,
that the insects in questions were, ”built just like modern termites.” In fact in their
conclusions the authors clearly state, and I quote, “Because the material reported
here is in the form of trace fossils, and no termites were preserved with the frass,
it is impossible to definitely prove that termites were responsible.
Now, the authors do indeed argue that termites were responsible for both the nest and frass,
and that this fossil is the oldest known example of both. And they also contend that this specimen
represents one of the earliest pieces of evidence of social behavior in insects. However arguing
and contending are very much different to stating as fact, and while these authors do
point to similarities between various aspects of these remains and their extant counterparts,
they never claim that they’re identical because they don’t have the evidence to
justify doing so. In fact, it’s very interesting to just compare
the language used by this creationist cretin and the scientists whose words he’s mining
like a dung beetle that’s just discovered an elephant’s outhouse. While Rohr and colleagues,
like all good scientists, use more circumspect and intellectually honest language when putting
forward their interpretations of the evidence, Taylor resorts to the dogmatic absolutism
of the religious zealot who, certain of the infallible truth of his scripture, can’t
even conceive of the possibility of being wrong.
So at no stage did the paper say anything about the morphology of these animals themselves,
but it appears that this wrinkled old prune doesn’t feel in any way restrained by such
trivialities as common decency or the facts. It seems that Mister Taylor is either demonstrating
the true value of his metallurgy degree in the area of evolutionary paleobiology, or
merely being a compulsive liar. Of course he is a creationist apologist, so perhaps
I shouldn’t be surprised. So with all that said. I’d love to ask this
stupid old bastard exactly which of the more than 2000 species of extant termites he thinks
these invisible fossils are “just like?” That comment alone speaks volumes about the
childish and simplistic mind that we’re dealing with here.
And now we get back to the question of why Farmer Taylor is so insistent on misrepresenting
this physical evidence. So now that he’s fired up his John Deere, let’s take at look
at what he’s been planning to do with it. “That there is no evidence of termite evolution
in this nest agrees perfectly with the Bible’s claim that all things reproduce after their
kind.” And there we have it. With this devious sleight
of hand the creatard claims that these ancient termites that weren’t actually in the fossil,
that produced similar fecal pellets and that behaved in a similar manner, are in fact the
same as the termites that are alive today, and so evolution must not occur. One can only
wonder whether he read the same paper I did. Or whether he read it at all.
And so a 65-million year-old fossil that was found in a late Cretaceous formation and in
itself conclusively negates biblical creation and a young earth is, with a generous dollop
of dishonestly, a liberal sprinkling of sophistry and a side dish of reprehensible lies is served
up as proof positive for the Abrahamic creation myth. And here I’ve been for the past year
arguing that there’s no such thing as magic. Of course, there’s nothing new here, just
a rehashing the same dismal failed arguments we’ve heard time and time again with organisms
such as crinoids, various mollusks, shrimp and plants and, of course, coelacanths, otherwise
colloquially known as living fossils. All your deceptive little muck-raker’s done
is substitute the word “termite” as an excuse to spew out the same old pathetically
unconvincing bullshit. This argument of course completely ignores
the well-documented concept of evolutionary stasis. It’s been clearly understood for
decades that evolutionary lineages can and do remain relatively stable morphologically
over periods of millions of years in the absence of dramatic changes in selective pressures.
This stasis is maintained, at least in part, by the statistical stabilization of gene pools
in large populations by allele dilution and gene flow, although the exact contributions
of these and other factors are the subject of active debate and research by today’s
evolutionary biologists. Thus, given a sufficiently large breeding population and a sufficiently
stable environment evolutionary theory easily accounts for phenotypic persistence, be it
in snails, or shrimp or fish or termites. However, over longer periods of time even
this persistence of phenotypes begins to apply only to gross morphology. Zoologists and paleontologists
with the appropriate training and experience are able to easily distinguish similar species
within the fossil record and to differentiate extant species from their extinct relatives,
even creating mathematical algorithms to quantify these differences.
Of course none of this matters to the fatuous creatards who try to propound this stunted
and sickly runt of an argument in its many forms. The fact that this concept has been
explained countless times does nothing to prevent them from gleefully interpreting stasis
as an absence of any evolutionary process at all, presumably by conceitedly using a
maxim along the lines of “it looks the same to my ignorant and untrained eye, so it is
the same.” By way of an example, let me quote from a
random paper I selected on trilobite morphology that demonstrates the detail and precision
used by a trained professional: “Granulation is coarsest on the posterior half of the axial
rings, on the glabella and cheeks, and on the pleural ribs of thorax and pygidium (pahy-jid-ee-uhm);
furrows are finely granulated to smooth.” In contrast the creationists who make these
arguments about living fossils essentially simply assert the lack of any evolutionary
change with no evidence or argument and no reference to any specific specimens or morphological
features. Essentially they best they can do is: “sure looks the same, don’t it? Hyuk,
hyuk.” That might impress you, BB, but it elicits an entirely different response from
anyone who can tell the difference between a laboratory and a lobotomy.
Now, before I wrap up this section, let’s get back to the subject of termites so I can
show you what a little real research can do. Based on morphological analyses of extant
species and on the fossil record it’s been long accepted that termites and cockroaches
are descended from a common roach-like ancestor. Unsurprisingly more recent DNA analysis has
confirmed this to be the case, providing three independent verifications of the evolutionary
relationships of these insects. Additionally, Mastotermes darwiniensis, the
most roach-like of the termites is the only one that carries an endosymbiotic bacterium
that’s common to all cockroaches. Researchers predicted that these Blattabacteria should
have co-evolved their hosts and recently conducted a molecular analysis of a number of roaches
and termite and their respective microbial symbionts. The resulting phylogenies of both
insects and bacteria were almost identical, and provided a breathtaking validation of
evolutionary theory, for only evolution both predicted and provides an explanation for
the convergence of these cladograms. This is just one example of the countless
equally impressive pieces of evidence that all converge inexorably to the same conclusion:
that evolution is a fact that is beautifully explained by the theory of the same name regardless
of what cretins like Ian Taylor have to say about it. And if he doesn’t like it – then
he can stick it up his compost heap. So now that I’ve dealt with that, it’s
time to turn my attention back to you BB. I have to say that I initially found the second
half of your video a little surreal as it was, to put it mildly, a bit of a non-sequitur.
I’m not sure whether this was an editing error on your part or merely a sign of a short
attention span, but you changed the subject faster than William Lane Craig after an honest
question. So, let’s do the same and take a look at
what you had to say about that stale and rancid puddle of Creationist vomit known as the Life
Science Prize. “They could easily shut down us creationists
by simply taking doctor Mastropaulo’s challenge and defeat him. If they have any evidence
they could bring us to an embarrassing halt as creationists. They could silence out voice.
They could make us look like morons.” Of course it wouldn’t take a scientist accepting
this challenge to make creationists look like morons because they’ve been doing a bang-up
job of that themselves for over a century. And if you don’t believe me then just take
a look at some of the many fine examples of stupendous fuckwittery from your fellow mentally
castrated intellectual eunuchs right here on Youtube.
So now let’s get back to the challenge. Firstly, let me point out that your faith
in your apparent hero, Joseph Mastropaolo, is as misplaced as your faith in your pitifully
childish and patently fallacious fairy tales. You see, it seems that the good doctor is
a kinesiologist with a PhD in the field, although, according to his entry in creationwiki, not
a particularly good one since his record of 6 peer-reviewed publications in an academic
career of over 26 years is about as impressive as a pair of hamster testicles dangling off
of a bull elephant. So while this may qualify him to comment on
the correct posture for a creationist to adopt while talking endless wank to avoid a case
of terminal brain-strain, it hardly fosters confidence in his ability to debate the veracity
of evolutionary theory with even a moderately qualified biologist. I strongly suspect that
if such a debate ever took place he’d be picking the shrapnel out of his arse for a
year afterwards. Secondly, it took just five minutes for me
to find two published accounts of exactly how Mastropaulo and his slimy henchmen reacted
when Biology Professors Michael Zimmerman and non-other than Richard Dawkins probed
them by pretending to be interested in a debate. It was more than amusing to read how their
enthusiasm dried up faster than a suspicious stain on a priest’s trousers after choir
practice when anyone even vaguely resembling an unbiased and/or qualified adjudicator was
suggested. The desperation in their frenzied attempts to extricate themselves from the
possibility of being called on their bullshit was nothing short of palpable despite the
liberal seasoning of false bravado. From just these two accounts it should, be
more than blindingly obvious to anyone whose brain isn’t seeping out of their anal sphincter
that Mastropaulo has no intention in participating in a debate. This particularly odious and
dishonest little reptile uses the façade of a genuine challenge to publicize his intellectually
indefensible position, and this is no more evident than the fact that anyone who declines
to participate in his charade is automatically adjudged to have lost the debate by default.
As a result he’s collected more so-called victories than an evangelical preacher has
venereal diseases and proudly displays his dishonesty on his web page, presumably either
because he’s too stupid to realize exactly how big a douchebag this makes look like or
because he thinks it’s OK to be a lying tosspot as long as you’re doing it for Jesus.
So, aside from this being a tactic that I might expect from a fifth grader that takes
the “short bus” to school, it’s one of the most underhanded and reprehensible
kinds of behavior imaginable. If this is the kind of lying pustule you need to fall back
on to cling to your primitive superstitions, BB, then perhaps you need to ask yourself
whether they’re really worth clinging to. Because from where I’m standing it appears
that you’re tossing very things your religion is supposed to stand for into the same cesspit
that Joseph Mastropaulo’s wallowing in. “They don’t do it because the rules for
Life Science Prize restrict them to real science. Not propaganda. Not the power of the pulpit.
They also have many pulpits in their favor. Not the power of that headlines. They’re restricted
to science and that’s why they won’t contend for the Life Science Prize.”
So presumably it was this fear of debating “real” science that compelled Michael
Zimmerman to suggest that the judge be at least a member of the National Academy of
Science? Presumably this is also why he suggested a definition of evolution (that is, “change
in allele frequency over time”) that has been in virtually, and I quote, “every biology
textbook for the past half century.” Scared of science, BB? Really?
If your Doctor Douchbag was so keen to debate science, then can you explain why he wouldn’t
accept these quite reasonable terms? Why he insisted that this scientific debate could
only be adjudicated by a superior court judge? Better still, can you explain why he wouldn’t
even accept Zimmerman’s suggestion of using an ordained priest, Dr Francisco Ayala as
a judge? Could it be that it was because Ayala is a past president of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Science? Could
it be that Mastropaulo didn’t explain why Ayala was unacceptable because he was too
busy browning his kecks at the prospect of being shown up for what he really is?
So you see, BB, if by “science” you mean what every sane and rational human being on
the planet understands by that word, then it’s pretty clear that the only one avoiding
a debate on it is your Doctor Dickhead. If, on the other hand, by “science” you mean
that hazy, ill-defined concept that seems to roughly approximate to “anything that
conflicts with my delusional belief system”, (you know,the same usage that I’ve heard
coming from such monumental Youtube fucktards such as Nephilimfree and Eye2EyeIIIV?), then
you might have a point. Because at the end of the day, working scientists
have much better and much more productive things to be doing with their time than pandering
to the hallucinations of a bunch of feeble-minded, deceitful simpletons.
So quite frankly, BB, you and Joseph Mastropaulo can take your pathetic and transparently dishonest
little challenge and stick it back up where it belongs to keep it safe and warm. Because
all you’re doing by parading it around so proudly in public is demonstrating quite clearly
how your Beacon is running on only a 5-watt bulb.