Interesting If True - Episode 51: The Science Fair!
Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that sometimes teaches you things
I’m your host this week, Shea, and with me is Aaron
I’m Aaron, and this week I actually learned bees actually are terrible little monsters that all need to be replaced with robots.
It turns out that, thanks the U.S. Military nuclear testing (like in episode 49) American honey is radiologically distinct. As in, it contains cesium. Bees are horrible little jerks!
The Science Fair
As an antithesis to most of our crazy stories, this week I decided to look into real science. And because I am not an engineer and my main subject of study was english I thought I would look up stuff I could easily understand, science fair projects. I was wrong. I still don’t understand most of these amazing projects. I made the mistake of looking up top science fair winners and I didn’t find fun projects measuring the amount of electricity a lemon produces. I found world changing ideas and ingenuity that far too many adults have lost sight of. Today I give you a run down of some of the top young adult science fair winners from around the globe.
One of the bigger science fairs in the world was hosted by Google. Starting in 2011 the competition was open to 13- to 18-year-old students around the globe, who formulate a hypothesis, perform an experiment, and present their results. All students must have an internet connection and a free Google Account to participate, and the projects must be in English, German, Italian, Spanish, or French. The final submission must include ten sections, which are the summary, an “About Me” page, the steps of the project, and a works cited page. Entries are judged on eight core criteria, which include the student’s presentation, question, hypothesis, research, experiment, data, observations, and conclusion. Prizes are awarded to three finalists. The grand prize includes a National Geographic trip to the Galapagos Islands, and a US$50,000 scholarship; finalists will also receive a US$15,000 scholarship and assorted packages from sponsoring organizations. Holy cow, I feel like I would have worked a lot harder on my leamon project had I had these incentives. Unfortunately the last competition was held in 2018 and there has been no news about continuing the competition. I’m guessing once we are all safe from covid we will hopefully see this come back, because as you will see, there have been some incredible breakthroughs and ideas coming from these kids.
Our first Project is made even cooler by it also being the first ever winner from the Google science fair. Shree Bose won Google’s first Science Fair grand prize for her novel way to treat ovarian cancer.
“On a bright, sunny day years ago, a timid, little girl walked through the doors of her elementary school gym carrying a dead, shriveled spinach plant. Blotchy stained blue from repeated, inept injections with food coloring, and withered from weeks of forgotten waterings and neglect, the plant appeared to have all the classic signs of abuse from the shy, unsuspecting perpetrator who proudly held it.The girl stood happily in front of her crudely-made, handwritten project board – eagerly explaining her original idea to anyone who would listen. Her invention, blue spinach for kids, provided an alternative for children who would not eat their green vegetables. Her ingenious solution? Turn the food blue, and, of course, children would happily eat their healthy foods.The little girl explained this excitedly to the passerbys – intently recounting the difficulty of injecting the plant with the dye. Some laughed. Others simply stared. And with that unlikely start, a still-enduring scientific interest was sparked.”
And thus starts the great life journey of Shree Bose, this comes right from her About me page on her science fair website.
Shree became interested in cancer treatment in early high school and reached out to local professors hoping to find someone to help her on her journey. Unfortunately they all said “No,” at least that was until she got word from Dr. Alakananda Basu at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. Shree immediately got to work studying breast cancer. She worked through the summer and was disheartened when she received no recognition at her next fair, but she did find the spark that would keep her going. “I realized that I was doing something I liked, and wasn’t in it simply to win.”
Shree continued working closely with Dr. Basu and noticed that the women became resistant to a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin that is effective against ovarian cancer cells. This is a huge problem for women who have recurrent cancer. After several false starts, she found the answer in a cellular energy protein known as AMPK, or adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (way above my head right now). When AMPK was paired with cisplatin at the beginning of treatment, the combination diminished the effectiveness of cisplatin. But added later on — when the cancer cells were growing resistant — the AMPK worked to maintain the effectiveness of cisplatin. So this drug continued killing the malignant cells, at least in cell cultures. So this was an important breakthrough for chemotherapy resistance treatment and future research. This was such an exciting discovery.
In 2011 she entered the first google science fair and was chosen as one of 15 finalists flown to Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. In her words “I presented my project looking down a long conference table with 12 of the greatest minds in science. It was an exhilarating, intimidating, OMG moment for me. My introductory video malfunctioned, so I just talked and hoped I didn’t sound too crazy.
When my name was announced as the winner I was handed this big Lego trophy. Time stopped. It hit me: it’s been 12 years of science fairs leading to this big trophy. Twelve years of missing class trips, not going out with my friends and rarely having any down time to relax. This moment made all of that — the hours in the lab, the failures, the rejections — worth it. This was the moment when I realized I was doing something that I loved. This was my own personal pep rally.”
Since her win she is currently an MSTP student at Duke University School of Medicine and graduated from Harvard College in May 2016. In 2014, she cofounded Piper, a STEM education company creating engineering kits for children.
It’s not your average science fair when the 16-year-old winner manages to solve a global waste crisis. But such was the case at 2019’s Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa, Ontario, where Daniel Burd, a high school student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, presented his research on microorganisms that can rapidly biodegrade plastic.
Daniel had a thought it seems the PhDs hadn’t explored: Plastic, one of the most indestructible of manufactured materials, eventually decomposes. It takes 1,000 years but decompose it does, which means there must be microorganisms out there to do the decomposing.
Could those microorganisms be bred to do the job faster? So Daniel came up with his research; “Plastic bags, made from polyethylene, are very popular in our daily lives and have a harsh environmental impact on our ecosystems. Two microbial strains belonging to the genus Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas were isolated from a soil microbial consortium and their ability to degrade polyethylene was investigated.”
The preliminary results were encouraging, so he kept at it, selecting out the most effective strains and interbreeding them. After several weeks of tweaking and optimizing temperatures, Burd achieved a 43 percent degradation of plastic in six weeks, an almost inconceivable accomplishment.
With 500 billion plastic bags manufactured each year and a Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch that grows more expansive by the day, (right now its twice the size of texas) a low-cost and nontoxic method for degrading plastic is the stuff of environmentalists’ dreams and, I would hazard a guess, a pretty good start-up company as well. (There are certainly methods for decomposing plastic, but most are chemical in nature not organic, requiring high temperatures and chemical additives to cause the plasticizers to vaporize. There have been several successful bacteria-based solutions developed at the Department of Biotechnology in Tottori, Japan as well as the Department of Microbiology at the National University of Ireland, but both apply only to styrene compounds.)
It goes without saying that these discoveries need to be tested to ensure, for instance, that the byproducts of organic decomposition are not carcinogenic (as in the case with mammalian metabolism of styrene and benzene). The processing of plastics by these methods would also have to be contained in highly controlled environments. So, no, we’re not talking about a magic panacea or a plastic-free paradise, but the innovative application of microorganisms to break down our most troublesome waste products is nevertheless a major scientific breakthrough.
Jack Andraka found a new cheap way to test one of the world’s most deadly cancers. Jack won the $75,000 grand prize at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, one of the few freshman ever to do so, he’s become a North County High School celebrity to rival any soccer star or homecoming queen. A series of jokes ensue about Andraka’s mad scientist doings in the school’s imaginary “dungeon” laboratory. In reality, Andraka created his potentially revolutionary pancreatic cancer detection tool at nearby Johns Hopkins University, though he does sometimes tinker in a small basement lab at the family’s house in leafy Crownsville, Maryland, where a homemade particle accelerator crowds the foosball table.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
Like many young people in this list who have taken on cancer in their science projects, Jack Andraka — a 15-year-old kid from Maryland — watched a close family member suffer from the disease, and wanted to do something to help others.
His method of using thin sheets of carbon nanotubes to detect cancers in their early stages is 168 times faster, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times cheaper that current cancer detection technology.
Here is how it works: He took a sheet of paper lined with carbon nanotubes (which seem to be useful for just about everything) and coated it with antibodies for mesothelin — a protein present in pancreatic cancer.
Jack said the solution came to him during his high school biology class. He was secretly reading an article about nanotubes while the teacher was talking about antibodies. Jack said the two ideas came together in his head, and he thought he could combine what the teacher was saying with what he knew about nanotubes to create an early detection test for Pancreatic cancer.
Jack Andraka used what he found through Google searches and free online science journals to develop a plan and a budget. Jack contacted about 200 people including researches at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health with a proposal to work in their labs. He got 199 rejections before he finally got an acceptance from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Jack worked after school every day, on weekends and over holidays at Maitra’s lab until he developed his test.
Why did a 15-year-old beat out billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies with his diagnostic test? Perhaps as a young person with no experience, he hadn’t yet learned what everyone else in the industry “knew couldn’t be done.” Certainly, it was in no small part because Anirban Maitra gave him a chance. Not to mention that Jack had an idea and went out and gave it a try.
Maitra later told the Baltimore Sun, “what I tell my lab is, ‘think of Thomas Edison and the light bulb.’ This kid is the Edison of our times. There are going to be a lot of light bulbs coming from him.”
Lauren Hodge found that acidic marinades reduce cancer risk in the kitchen.When a group of physicians filed a lawsuit against some restaurant and fast food chains, claiming they didn’t warn customers about the carcinogenic effects of grilling meat, Lauren Hodge knew she had an idea.
She saw that some lemon juice her mother was using to marinate chicken changed the color of the meat, and wondered if that could block the formation of these carcinogens. It did indeed — the more acidic marinades using lemon juice had the greatest effect, while olive oil seemed to actually make things worse.
The research earned her a prize at the Google Science Fair, showing that some of the best ideas for science research are right under our noses.
Our final science fair story is what I consider to be the greatest discovery of our times. Kaeden has finally answered the question many of us have pondered late at night. Just How Many Surfaces Does Your Cat’s Butt Hole Touch?
Kaeden Griffin, a sixth grader in Tennessee, did a whole science project about cat butts. He wondered how often cat buttholes actually touch surfaces in our homes. I’ll be honest; I wondered that exact question. So I’m glad Kaeden had the good fortune of getting to the bottom of this giant mystery.
According to WRAT, Kaeden used his science fair as an opportunity to figure out the butthole question. He ran an experiment by putting non-toxic lipstick on cat anuses. He then noted where the lipstick popped up around the house. That sounds like a mess, but luckily, his findings proved that cat buttholes don’t touch as much as you might fear.
Kaeden learned that cats with long and medium hair didn’t make any butthole contact with hard or soft surfaces in the house. Cats with short hair also didn’t make contact with hard surfaces. But they did make smears on soft surfaces, like beds.
This is good news. It means houses with cats aren’t quite as filthy as I initially thought. However, cats are a still fairly gross. They hack up hairballs, vomit in weird places, and sometimes miss the litter box. But that’s the price you pay for constant companionship and fluffy cuddles. Just be sure to watch where they shake their rears going forward.
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This week’s story is semi-topical.
Frustratingly, it’s always a bit topical but this week it’s headline topical as a Florida family—because of course it is—was arrested for selling thousands of bottles of MMS under the guise of it being a Covid cure.
Which, first of all, there is no “cure” for Covid-19, so anyone trying sell you one is either a charlatan or an ex-President. Either way, don’t buy into the nonsense.
So Florida man Mark Grenon, and his three sons, Jonathan, Jordan, and Joseph, were accused in federal court of selling a “miracle cure” for Covid and whatever other illness you might express a desire to cure.
So… secondly, if anyone tries to sell you a “miracle cure” of any kind, it’s nonsense right out of the gate. The words “miracle”, “medical”, and “survived” are seldom seen in the same sentence and there’s a bloody good reason for it. A bloody-poop good reason!
For the Florida-family, I suspect they’ll be going to jail for killing people with bleach, or perhaps threatening to do a terrorism. Prior to his arrest, Mark announced on a podcast last year that something something, “2nd Amendment” something something “halting the sale of MMS [is] ‘treason'” and that trying to stop him would be as if “they want a Waco?” which… woof. Threatening to do a Waco is not a good first foot in the door… They, like most MMS proponents, made their nonsense in a backyard shed in association with a church, because churches can do whatever they like in America. From NBC News, the church is described as “an ‘avowedly’ nonreligious church called Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, [and] the solution was marketed and sold as a cure-all for cancer, autism, diabetes and other disorders and diseases” because of course it was. But not to worry, it seems they’re not lawyering up and will defend themselves, so… lots of freeman-on-the-land nonsense I’m betting but i’m not even going to pretend to mark this for followup because screw them.
But what is Miracle Mineral Solution?
Basically, it’s Chlorine Dioxide, or industrial bleach.
Sellers offer sodium chlorite (NaClO2), a chemical typically used in making paper or as disinfectant, with instructions to mix it with some “natural” acid like lemon or orange juice—which is how you know it’s good for you! Organic!
Once mixed with a juice or vinegar acid you have chlorine dioxide, which is “toxic” and causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening low blood pressure due to, obviously, massive dehydration.
The Covid bit is somewhat new, MMS has been used for Autism and subsequently cancer for a long time. Though it was originally sold, by Jim Humble—who is anything but—to cure, from the MMS website:
restore partial or full health to hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a wide range of disease, including cancer, diabetes, hepatitis A, B, C, Lyme disease, MRSA, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, malaria, autism, infections of all kinds, arthritis, high cholesterol, acid reflux, kidney or liver diseases, aches and pains, allergies, urinary tract infections, digestive problems, high blood pressure, obesity, parasites, tumors and cysts, depression, sinus problems, eye disease, ear infections, dengue fever, skin problems, dental issues, problems with prostate (high PSA), erectile dysfunction and the list goes on.
And boy does it ever…
They explain that MMS doesn’t cure things, it kills the pathogens and poisons that cause those diseases.
Micracle Mineral Suplament, aka Micacle Mineral Solution, Master Mineral Solution, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, and Water Purification Solution (WPS). Like most woo-woo bullshit, it has a dozen names but all refer to chlorine dioxide, an industrial bleach not made to be taken internally…
But that’s the recommendation.
Again from the MMS website, instructions:
“Basically, after making it up, you take a few drops of it. You judge if you’re getting better by how nauseous you feel after taking it. Seriously.”
Good thing the nausea is to be expected, otherwise one might worry about the effects of drinking bleach… which according to every medical or governmental group I could find, are super duper bad.
From the FDA:
Miracle Mineral Solution has not been approved by the FDA for any use, but these products continue to be promoted on social media as a remedy for treating autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and flu, among other conditions. However, the solution, when mixed, develops into a dangerous bleach which has caused serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.
The Australian Department of Health says more or less the same thing, but they’re way more polite about it than I thought they’d be.
But you know who isn’t? Canada. Selling MMS in Canada has been illegal for a while now
Health Canada is reminding Canadians of the serious risks posed by ingesting products containing sodium chlorite and advises anyone involved in the advertising or sale of MMS or similar products that they are subject to enforcement action. We urge Canadians to report the sale of these products to Health Canada using our online complaint form. Sodium chlorite is a chemical used mainly as a textile bleaching agent and disinfectant as well as for industrial water purification. Ingesting sodium chlorite in the concentrations contained in MMS products can cause poisoning, kidney failure, harm to red blood cells, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, among other harms.
This quote comes from a 2018 press release announcing the prosecution of Stanley Nowak, a BC nutter selling MMS.
You notice that they talk about concentrations. The actual use of sodium chlorite is down right miniscule. It doesn’t take much to purify water or de-ink textiles. MMS proponents would have you mix a 28% solution with distilled water, add a shot of acid, then drink it all.
For his part, Humble claims to have discovered MMS as a treatment for malaria in Africa. He claims to have treated 100,000 victims across Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Malawi. Fortunately, his “medical” trip was cut short by some missionaries who, from Humble:
“A couple of missionaries decided I was evil and told all the missionaries in the area … so that sort of slowed things down … They quit using the MMS. People didn’t get treated.”
So they deserve and award. Once floundering in Africa Humble moved back to North America and began selling MMS here. To get around the FDA and other governmental groups, he created the church I mentioned earlier, because there’s nothing that religion can’t help make less safe.
Again from Humble:
“Look at the Catholics. Their priests have been molesting women and children for centuries and the governments have not been able to stop it. If handled properly a church can protect us from vaccinations that we don’t want, from forced insurance, and from many things that a government might want to use to oppress us.”
And so they made a church that used MMS as a sacrament… if you can manage a $500 to $800 “donation” to the church that is totally, for surezies, not a payment for MMS.
“As an aside, if you peruse the Genesis II official Facebook page, you’ll find all manner of quackery, including functional medicine, anti-vaccine tirades, anti-GMO pseudoscience, anti-fluoridation fear mongering, and, of course, an ad for a “documentary” lauding the church as having found in MMS the cure to 97% of disease.”
Listed as a reverend of the church, Humble and Genesis II were sued by the sate of Texas in 2017 and barred from selling MMS there. Of course, you can still book at $500 religious “seminar” that gives you the instructions and components to make your own. His colleague in setting up that church, Stanley, yep that Stanley, is still in jail as far as I can tell.
So it’s dubious as all fuck and properly harmful. Just to recap, MMS should not be taken orally, or given anally, the second favorite way to deliver the “treatment” often in cases of severe autism. Unfortunately, in autism-mommy circles MMS is big, like real big. The Autism Research Institute, of course, recommends against using MMS in the strongest possible terms as its use has a long track record of killing non-verbal children.
Sadly, as seen on Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog, the MMS Genesis II Church hosted an event in a Washington state hotel last year to try to cure people’s covid. No idea how many it killed, but the promo video shows it being force fed to a lot of babies.
Still available in Mexico, you can find all manner of testimonials and videos from Humble saying things like:
“We gotta give him just enough [industrial bleaching agent] that he don’t get sick but he’s on the edge of getting sick! So we’ve got to keep him just on the very edge and therefore it’s pretty intense for cancer, he needs to take it 4/5 times a day, small amounts instead of a big batch.”
From those, sadly, you can Google names to find no shortage of people MMS has killed. It’s killed seven people in America this year alone, kids mostly whose desperate parents made them bath in MMS, or drink it, or put it up the bum, all of which causes horrible illness, sickness, then death. Last year, following Trump’s “bleach cures covid” statments, a number of people died making home-made MMS from fish tank cleaners and similar-sounding chemicals.
All in all MMS is of course a hoax and nonsense, but it’s also dangerous woo that somehow, keeps spreading. Now illegal in most places markets have sprung up to ship patients to countries where it is legal, so they can die horribly there.
To end the story, the only real good news is that Humble and his terrible children are all now facing a dozen murder charges in as many countries. So fingers crossed they die in jail.
For us, there’s not much to do or say except, don’t drink bleach and if you hear someone talking about MMS, inform them, and if they keep talking about it—especially for their kids—call CPS before you have to to a baby-funeral.
I’m Shea, this week I learned that even if you’re fully vaccinated the CDC still recommends staying at home with your dog so they aren’t sad when you leave, and I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.
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Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.
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