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Science Matters with Lawrence Krauss

Airdate: July 25, 2017
Get an update on the latest science news with the witty analysis of Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss.

Guests:
  • Lawrence Krauss - ASU Physicist
Category: Science

Keywords: Lawrence Krauss, ASU, Science,

View Transcript
TED SIMONS: EACH MONTH WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE LATEST SCIENCE NEWS WITH ASU PHYSICIST AND BEST-SELLING SCIENCE WRITER LAURENCE KRAUSS. AMONG THE TOPICS OF CONVERSATION TONIGHT, THE USE OF DNA AS A STORAGE DEVICE. HERE HE IS, LAURENCE KRAUSS.

LAURENCE KRAUSS: HOW ARE YOU DOING?

TED SIMONS: I'M WELL, HOW ARE YOU?

LAURENCE KRAUSS: I'M PRETTY WELL.

TED SIMONS: YOU OKAY? HANGING IN THERE?

I'M HANGING IN THERE. MY DNA IS STORING WHAT IT NEEDS TO.

TED SIMONS: LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS. SOMEONE HAS STORED A FILM CLIP ONTO DNA AND THEN RETRIEVED IT FROM THE DNA?

LAURENCE KRAUSS: IT'S REALLY NEAT. GEORGE CHURCH WROTE A BOOK AND STORED HIS BOOK ON DNA. IT'S BASED ON A GENETIC CODE, A C T G. AND THERE ARE NUCLEOTIDES THAT REPRESENT EACH OF THOSE MOLECULES. AND THE ORDER OF THOSE THINGS DETERMINES A CODE. AND THAT CODE IN NORMAL CASES FOR DNA DETERMINES HOW PROTEINS ARE PRODUCED. IT GIVES A CODE TO TELL THE BODIES HOW TO PRODUCE PROTEIN. BUT IT IS A CODE, JUST LIKE THE CODE WITH ONES AND ZEROS THEY USE IN COMPUTERS. SO DNA CAN BE USED AS A COMPUTER IN A SENSE. IT CAN BE -- YOU CAN STORE INFORMATION BECAUSE, OF COURSE, ALL OF THE INFORMATION THAT MADE YOU THE AMAZING TED SIMONS WAS STORED IN YOUR DNA. IT'S REPRODUCED FAITHFULLY SO YOU REMAIN TED SIMONS, AS THE CELLS REPRODUCE, ALL OF THAT INFORMATION IS STORED FAITHFULLY. WHAT GEORGE DID WAS TAKE THIS AMAZING -- ONE OF THE EARLIEST BITS OF MOVING PHOTOGRAPHY.

TED SIMONS: LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT IT AS WE TALK ABOUT IT. WE'LL SHOW IT.

LAURENCE KRAUSS: THE FAMOUS THING OF THIS HORSE GALLOPING. THEY WANTED TO SEE WHETHER ALL OF THE HORSE'S HOOVES WERE ABOVE THE GROUND AT ANY ONE TIME. IT WAS A FAMOUS FILM. ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE WAS -- WHAT THEY DID WAS DIGITIZE THE FILM. THEN THEY RECORDED THE LEVEL OF GRAY SCALE IN EACH OF THOSE PIXELS WITH A CERTAIN CODE OF ACTG AND RECORDED IT IN A LONG LENGTH OF DNA STRAND THAT RECORDED ALL OF THOSE PIXELS, THEN THEY INSERT IT – USING THE NEW TECHNOLOGY CALLED CRISPR WHICH YOU TALKED ABOUT – INTO AN E. COLI CELL INTO THE DNA OF E. COLI. AND AS THE E. COLI REPRODUCED, THEY KEPT THAT LONG STRAND OF DNA AND REPRODUCED IT FAITHFULLY. AND AFTER MANY GENERATIONS, THEY LOOKED AT THE DNA OF THE E. COLI. AND THEY SAW AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE THAT PRETTY FAITHFULLY ALL OF THE INFORMATION WAS STORED. AND IT'S REALLY INTERESTING BECAUSE YOU COULD USE DNA NOT ONLY TO STORE GENERATION BUT REPRODUCE IT FAITHFULLY. AND STORE IT IN AN INCREDIBLY COMPACT AREA. DNA STORES AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF INFORMATION. SO THE QUESTION IS WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH IT? A LONG TIME AGO RICHARD FEYNMAN TALKED ABOUT MACHINES BEING ABLE TO STORE INFORMATION. AND AS YOU SAID, BACTERIA AND THE DNA DOES SOMETHING WITH IT. IT USES IT TO MAKE SOMETHING, IN THIS CASE IT'S A MOVIE. FOR YOUR BODY, IT MAKES IT RUN. YOU CAN SEE ON THE RIGHT, THAT'S THE REPRODUCED FILM ON THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE AFTER MANY GENERATIONS. SO THE QUESTION IS WELL, WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH CREATING INFORMATION ON DNA? YOU CAN HACK IT. ONE OF THE THINGS WE’VE TALKED ABOUT IS THE DANGERS OF CREATING DANGEROUS VIRUSES BY PUTTING A LONG STRAND OF DNA INTO E. COLI. BUT MORE INTERESTINGLY, MAYBE YOU CAN USE THAT TO STORE INFORMATION AS AN INFORMATION STORAGE DEVICE INSTEAD OF HARD DRIVES. BUT ONE OF THE THINGS THEY TALK ABOUT IS SOMEHOW USING THE DNA AS CELLS THAT CAN GET INTO THINGS LIKE YOUR BRAIN AND OTHER PARTS OF THE BODY AND SOMEHOW RECORDING INFORMATION IN TO THE DNA. THAT'S THE HARD PART. HOW YOU COULD RECORD IT TO DNA IS THE INTERESTING PART. I DON'T KNOW.

TED SIMONS: IF SENATOR McCAIN HAD DNA THAT THEY COULD RECORD AND MONITOR, THEY COULD POSSIBLY SEE A CANCER COMING DOWN THE ROAD?

LAURENCE KRAUSS: YOU COULD TAKE A MOVIE OF WHAT CELL IS THERE, OF WHAT HAPPENED OVER TIME, TAKE IT BACK AND SEE WHAT'S CHANGED OVER TIME TO CREATE THAT DISEASE. THERE’S LOTS OF INTERESTING POSSIBILITIES. HERE IS PROOF OF PRINCIPLE THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY ONCE AGAIN MANIPULATE DNA AND NOW USE BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES TO REPRODUCE INFORMATION AND STORE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF INFORMATION THAT IN THIS CASE IS A MOVING IMAGE, BUT YOU MIGHT IMAGINE IT COULD BE CHANGING CONDITIONS WITHIN YOUR BODY. YOU MIGHT USE INSTEAD OF ELECTRODES TO MEASURE WHAT'S GOING ON, THERE'S SO MANY NEURONS IN THE BRAIN YOU COULDN'T USE ELECTRODES, YOU COULDN'T FIT THEM IN. BUT CELLS YOU COULD FIT IN AND MAYBE RESTORE AND UNDERSTAND WHAT'S HAPPENING. IT'S A LONG SHOT. I THINK IT'S A BEAUTIFUL TEST IN PRINCIPLE OF WHAT MAY BE POSSIBLE.

TED SIMONS: LIKE A BLACK BOX TO AN AIRPLANE.

LAURENCE KRAUSS: LIKE A BLACK BOX IN AN AIRPLANE. RECORDING WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE FLIGHT. MAYBE THE DNA OF THE CELLS COULD BE PROGRAMMED TO RECORD LEVELS OF CERTAIN CHEMICALS AND AGAIN JUST BY THE SIMPLE CODE, A-C-T-G. ALLOWS YOU, IF YOU HAVE A LONG ENOUGH STRAND, TO RECORD ANY AMOUNT OF INFORMATION. SO IT'S AMAZING WHAT WE'RE ABLE TO DO NOW BY MANIPULATING DNA AT ITS BASIC LEVEL. THERE'S SO MANY THINGS INCLUDING CURING DISEASES, ULTIMATELY. AND CRISPR HAS THAT WHICH IS THAT TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS YOU TO CUT AND PASTE LITERALLY CUT AND PASTE STRANDS OF DNA INTO OTHER STRANDS OF DNA. IT'S TREMENDOUSLY INTERESTING. BUT IT'S ALSO WORRISOME, BECAUSE YOU MIGHT -- DANGEROUS PEOPLE MIGHT WANT TO DO BAD THINGS WITH THAT. SO IT'S GOT LIKE MANY –LIKE MANY BITS OF NEW TECHNOLOGY, IT'S GOT AN AMAZINGLY INTERESTING GOOD SIDE BUT A POTENTIAL DOWNSIDE. WE HAVE TO BE AWARE OF THAT.

TED SIMONS: LET'S BE AWARE OF OUR SUN. BIG BEAUTIFUL SUN THERE IN THE SKY. THERE'S A NEW REPORT ON THE SUN AND WE'RE LEARNING NEW THINGS ABOUT OUR FRIEND?

LAURENCE KRAUSS: WELL THE SUN LOOKS LIIKE IT’S QUIESCENT. IT'S ALWAYS HOT IN JULY IN PHOENIX. AND IT IS. BUT IT’S ACTUALLY A DYNAMIC CHANGING OBJECT. THE SUN HAS A CYCLE, AN 11-YEAR CYCLE THAT IT GOES THROUGH REGULARLY CALLED THE SOLAR CYCLE. WHAT'S AMAZING IS THE SUN HAS THIS INTENSE MAGNETIC FIELD CAUSED BY THE FACT THAT THERE'S A MOVEMENT OF CHARGED PARTICLES. WHATEVER CHARGED PARTICLES MOVE AROUND, THEY CREATE A MAGNETIC FIELD. AND THERE ARE THESE HUGE PLASMAS MOVING THROUGH THE SUN BACK TO THE CORE AND OUTSIDE. ALL OF THIS CONVECTION WITHIN THE SUN. AND IF THER ARE CHARGED PARTICLES, THEY’RE PRODUCING INTENSE MAGNETIC FIELDS. WHAT'S AMAZING IS, THE MAGNETIC FIELDS OF THE SUN FLIPS SIGN EVERY 11 YEARS, IT FLIPS POLARITY. THE NORTH AND SOUTH POLE FLIP.

TED SIMONS: IS IT A GRADUAL FLIP?

LAURENCE KRAUSS: IT’S A GRADUAL FLIP THAT SLOWLY CHANGES AND SUDDENLY FLIPS. IN THE PERIOD OF SUDDEN FLIPPING, WHAT'S HAPPENING IS THE CONVECTION OF THE LAYERS IN THE SUN OF THOSE CHARGED PARTICLES, THEY'RE CHANGING THEIR DIRECTION OVER THAT TIME. DURING THAT PERIOD IT'S WHEN WE HAVE WHAT'S CALLED THE SOLAR MAXIMUM. DURING THAT PERIOD WHEN THE SOLAR MAGNETIC FIELD IS CHANGING. THAT'S WHEN THE MAGNETIC FIELD ON THE SURFACE OF THE SUN BECOMES VERY IRREGULAR AND TURBULENT. THAT'S WHERE WE SEE THE SUN SPOTS AND ALL THESE SOLAR STORMS. THAT'S OF CONCERN TO US BECAUSE. WHEN THERE'S AN INTENSE SOLAR STORM THROWING OUT INTENSE MAGNETIC FIELDS AND RADIATION AND CHARGED PARTICLES, THAT COULD AFFECT COMMUNICATION HERE ON EARTH. WE WORRY DURING EVERY SOLAR MAXIMUM IF THERE'S A HUGE SOLAR FLARE IF IT MIGHT IN PRINCIPLE CUT OUT ALL OF THE TV IN THE COUNTRY FOR ONE NIGHT. YOU MIGHT NOT BE ON THE AIR. BUT WORSE, IT MIGHT AFFECT POWER GRIDS AND OTHER THINGS. WE WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SOLAR MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM. AND WHAT'S BEEN PRINTED RECENTLY, PEOPLE WERE TRYING TO UNDERSTAND HOW THIS HAPPENS WITH THE SUN. THEY'VE BEEN ABLE TO MODEL VERY ACCURATELY THE GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF HOW YOU MIGHT UNDERSTAND THOSE CONVECTION LAYERS. I DON'T KNOW IF WE HAVE A --

TED SIMONS: WE HAVE AN IMAGE OF THE CORONAL, THE HIGHS AND THE LOWS HERE. WHAT EXACTLY ARE THOSE?

LAURENCE KRAUSS: THAT'S THE OUTSIDE OF THE SUN. SO WHAT HAPPENS IS, OF COURSE, THE -- AS YOU ADD THE SOLAR MAXIMUM, YOU HAVE ALL OF THESE TURBULENT REGIONS AT THE SURFACE OF THE SUN. BUT THERE'S A REGION OUTSIDE OF THE SUN CALLED THE CORONA. THAT'S HOTTER THAN THE SURFACE OF THE SUN. IT'S MILLIONS OF DEGREES, THE SPARSE ATMOSPHERE. WHERE THE SURFACE OF THE SUN IS ONLY THOUSANDS OF DEGREES. AS YOU HAVE THE HOT SPOTS ON THE SURFACE, YOU HAVE HOT SPOTS ON THE CORONA. THE NEW STUDY AT THE SAME TIME IS TRYING TO UNDERSTAND -- MEASURE WHETHER YOU COULD UNDERSTAND BECAUSE THE WHOLE CORONA HEATS UP A LITTLE BIT. IT GOES FROM 1.3 MILLION DEGREES TO 1.9 MILLION DEGREES WHEN YOU GO FROM MINIMUM TO MAXIMUM. AND PEOPLE SAYING WHY THE WHOLE CORONA CENTER GETS HOTTER AND NOT JUST SPOTS HOTTER. HERE ARE SOME MEASUREMENTS. THE IMAGE IS SUPPOSED TO ACTUALLY MOVE BUT CLEARLY HERE IT IS. YOU CAN SEE IT OVER TIME. SO THE WHOLE IDEA IS THAT WE'VE KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME ABOUT THE 11-YEAR CYCLES WITH THE SUN. WE NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THEM BECAUSE THEY AFFECT THE -- THE BAD NEWS IS DURING THE SOLAR MAXIMUM, YOU GET THESE INTENSE FLARES OR BURSTS THAT COULD DISRUPT COMMUNICATIONS OR POWER GRIDS. AT THE SAME TIME WE'RE ALSO HELPED BY IT. THE SUN GETS A LITTLE DISORDERED AS IT FLIPS. THEN THAT SORT OF PROPAGATES OUT AND YOU GET THE SHEETS OF MAGNETIC FIELD THAT ARE CURVY. AND WE'RE GETTING BOMBARDED BY COSMIC RAYS FROM DISTANT GALAXIES. THE MAGNETIC FIELD AROUND THE SUN PROTECTS IT FROM THOSE. AS THE SHEETS BECOME CURVY, IT DISTORTS AND PROTECTS US FROM THE DISTANT COSMIC RAYS. WE'VE GOT AT THE SAME TIME, THE DANGER OF WHAT'S HAPPENING FOR THE SOLAR MAXIMUM. THAT'S BAD FOR US, AND THE GOOD PART THAT'S PROTECTING US FROM THE OUTSIDE.

TED SIMONS: YOU NEED THE GOOD WITH THE BAD.

LAURENCE KRAUSS: YEAH, AND HOPEFULLY THEY BALANCE. WE SURVIVE BOTH

WE'VE GOT A FEW MINUTES LEFT HERE. THERE'S AN AMAZING PHOTOGRAPH OF THE GREAT RED SPOT OF JUPITER. WE TAKE A LOOK AT THIS PHOTOGRAPH. THAT'S A STORM. BUT THERE ARE STORMS WITHIN THAT STORM.

IT'S A BIG STORM. IT’S A BIGGER STORM THAN YOU EVER HAVE HERE IN MONSOON SEASON. AND IN PHOENIX, THAT STORM, THAT RED SPOT, IS 10,000 MILES ACROSS. THAT MAKES IT BIGGER THAN THE SIZE OF THE EARTH, THE DIAMETER OF THE EARTH. THAT STORM IS LARGER THAN THE WHOLE EARTH. MOREOVER, AND IT'S A BIG STORM, IN THE CENTER OF THAT TWIRLING STORM, THE WINDS ARE GOING ABOUT 400 MILES-PER-HOUR. THE OTHER THING IS, IT’S BEEN AROUND FOR PERHAPS IN THE SAME FORM MORE OR LESS FOR 350 YEARS. AT LEAST 150 YEARS HAS BEEN MEASURED. PROBABLY WHEN GALILEO FIRST TURNED THE TELESCOPE TO JUPITER, THEY SAW A STORM. WE CAN'T PROVE IT WAS THE SAME STORM. WE KNOW THE STORM HAS BEEN RAGING WITH THE CIRCULAR PATTERN FOR OVER 150 YEARS. INTENSELY WITH THE SIZE TWICE THE SIZE OF THE EARTH AND IF YOU LOOK -- THIS IS WHAT WE CAN SEE. THIS IS A JUNO SPACECRAFT LAUNCHED IN 2011. GOT TO 2016 TO JUPITER. AND THEY WILL BE GOING IN TO THE ATMOSPHERE OF JUPITER BEFORE IT CRASHES TO JUPITER IN 2018. HERE'S ABOUT 5,000 MILES ABOVE JUPITER. YOU CAN BEGIN TO SEE THE TURBULENT STORMS WITHIN THE STORM. AND, IN FACT ALSO, THERE WAS AN EARLIER PROBE, THE GALILEO PROBE OF JUPITER A DECADE OR SO EARLIER. SCIENTISTS ARE SAYING THEY CAN BEGIN TO SEE SOME DIFFERENCES. SO ALTHOUGH THE RED SPOT IS CONTINUALLY THERE, IT'S CHANGING OVER TIME. AND WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND, WE DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND WHY IT'S THERE. WE DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY IT'S RED.

TED SIMONS: WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON ON THE SURFACE OF JUPITER, DO WE?

LAURENCE KRAUSS: JUPITER IS A GAS GIANT. SO “SURFACE” IS A KIND OF UNUSUAL --

TED SIMONS: SO WE DO KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON UNDERNEATH ALL THAT NOISE.

LAURENCE KRAUSS: IT'S A DENSE ATMOSPHERE. IN THE CENTER, IT'S A -- THERE'S PROBABLY SOLID HYDROGEN. BUT THE OUTER PARTS, IT'S JUST VERY, VERY DENSE GAS. WE THINK -- IT'S GOT ALL SORTS OF STUFF. THE CURRENT WISDOM IS THERE'S AMMONIUM HYDROSULFATE WHICH, WHEN EXPOSED TO UV RADIATION, TURNS RED. THEY THINK THE REASON THE SPOT IS RED IS THAT THE MATERIAL GETS TURBULENTLY PUSHED UP AND GETS EXPOSED TO ULTRA VIOLET RADIATION. BUT WE DON’T KNOW AND THAT’S WHAT’S AMAZING, THAT THIS IS THE FIRST CLOSE-UP OF THE SPOT ON JUPITER THAT'S BEEN SEEN MORE OR LESS FOR 350 YEARS. I FIND IT AMAZING THAT THERE'S A STORM RAGING FOR 350 YEARS OVER AN AREA BIGGER THAN THE SIZE OF THE EARTH.

TED SIMONS: AND WE DON'T KNOW WHAT DRIVES THE STORM.

LAURENCE KRAUSS: THAT'S WHAT WE SAY EVERY MONTH WHEN I'M HERE. THE UNIVERSE IS AMAZING. RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSE, EVERY TIME WE OPEN A NEW WINDOW ON THE UNIVERSE, WE'RE SURPRISED.

TED SIMONS: FASCINATING STUFF FROM THE LITTLE DN A, TO THE GREAT SPOT STORM OF JUPITER.

LAURENCE KRAUSS: ISN'T IT AMAZING?

TED SIMONS: IT IS.

LAURENCE KRAUSS: THAT'S WHY I LIKE TALKING TO YOU ABOUT IT.

TED SIMONS: COME BACK NEXT MONTH?

LAURENCE KRAUSS: I THINK I WILL.

TED SIMONS: GOOD TO HEAR. THANKS FOR BEING HERE. UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON", THERE’S A NEW UNIVERSITY OPENING ITS DOORS IN SURPRISE.