Today I tackle questions from viewers on Patreon about Tesla’s Full Self Driving and the future of autonomy, why dogs tilt their heads when you talk to them, our place in the universe, the gulf stream, and the craziest way to terraform Mars.
Hey everybody, today’s gonna be a little bit different.
In the early days of my channel, I answered questions from my audience, hence the name Answers With Joe. I got away from that over time, but there is a level in Patreon where the perk is you get to have a question answered in a video.
And I’ve been TERRIBLE at doing that.
So today I’m going to answer questions from people like you on Patreon. These are going to be shorter answers than usual but if there’s one you really want to see me expand on, let me know in the comments. It might become a full video.
Anyway, that’s all you need to know, gonna be a little bit different but it’ll still be fun. Let’s get to the questions.
John Regel –
Does having a sense of the true size of the universe through the AWJ subject matter make you feel more or less significant?
I’m not going to lie… It messes with my head.
My worldview has changed a lot in the time that I’ve been doing this channel, just by learning – not just learning different things but learning how much there is to know about things.
It’s that whole Dunning-Krueger effect thing.
No matter how narrow and specific the topic might be, I’ve found there’s always a rabbit hole.
And part of that is coming to grips with the fact that we are just very temporary occupants of this thing we call existence and ultimately nothing we do matters.
And that’s not a fun thing to think about.
Though it does make me think of the meme with the existentialist decrying the fact that nothing matters and then there’s the nihilist celebrating because nothing matters!
It’s simultaneously the best and worst news you can hear.
Because yeah when I’m having a particularly lovely panic or anxiety episode, thinking about that is a real bummer, but those late nights when I can’t sleep because I’m cringing about that dumb thing I said to that girl in 9th grade, it’s rather reassuring to think that none of it matters.
It and all the other dumbass things I’ve said and done.
I want to be careful to make sure I don’t sound like I’ve got this all figured out because I very don’t, I struggle with it quite a bit, but one way of framing it that helps me sometimes is to think of it almost like quantum reality vs. macro reality?
Like there are different levels of reality that only vaguely interact with each other and work off of totally different rules but are equally valid.
So no, the problems you and I deal with in our daily lives don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things, but down here, in this little micro reality what we do and how we treat each other and how we live our lives matter a great deal.
And maybe that’s enough.
By the way, this is a good opportunity to promote my new audio podcast because I ask this very question to someone who has spent a lot more time than me thinking about this kind of stuff, so check that out if you haven’t, I’ll put a link down in the description.
John Regel –
Why do dogs tilt their head when you’re talking to them?
Because it’s cute and they’re manipulating us. They’re in charge, you know.
I’ve heard it’s because when they hear something that catches their attention, they turn their heads to kinda recalibrate their ears.
It’s almost like echolocation, they pivot their heads and their radar-dish ears to give a slightly different angle and by comparing those two angles it gives them a more accurate reading on it.
That of course is unconscious and instinctual, it probably goes back to their hunting origins, which would explain why Zoe pretty much only does it when I mention food.
Mike Reed – Will Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) Beta kill people or save lives? What is the future of autonomous cars? Will humans drive at all in 30 years?
I’ll make a prediction real quick. Tesla’s Full Self Driving cars are going to lead to some deaths. I have no doubt about that. You know what’s also going to lead to a lot of deaths? All the other kinds of cars.
According to NHTSA 38,680 people died in car crashes in 2020, that’s about 108 a day. Thats with humans driving the cars. So that’s how that’s going.
So obviously the question isn’t will it kill people, it’s whether or not it will kill less people. And I think that over the long run, yes it will.
For the simple fact that a self-driving car can see in all directions at once and never gets distracted. It’s almost unfair to compare the two because humans just can’t do that.
Of course humans have intuition and the ability to navigate unfamiliar spaces and predict what another human being will do in ways that I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to teach a computer.
Self driving cars can also record massive amounts of data and will be able to show in accidents who is at fault, the computer or the other driver?
As the systems get better, I really think it’s the insurance companies that will spur mass adoption, because they’ll be able to show who is at fault in accidents.
Like I think a point will come where it just costs more to insure a car that doesn’t have self-driving or at least the safety systems that come with self-driving, and that’s going to change things.
So I think it will be cracked, the self-driving car thing. There’s just too much money in it. And I do think Tesla is ahead at this point. But I’ve also been more cynical than other people about how fast it’s going to happen.
Like at this point, I would chalk up any FSD accidents to driver error. And with very few exceptions, I’ve always chalked up autopilot accidents to driver error too, I use auto pilot and I’m sorry but anybody who does that sleeping in your car thing while it’s going (I don’t even know how that works with the wheel needing to be turned constantly), that’s just irresponsible driving. Which is the same thing that causes accidents in regular cars.
And look, I’ve seen the videos of the new FSD system and what it can do, Gali Russel has a lot of them and it’s super impressive, like they are super chipping away at the problem, but the gulf between, “hey this is impressive” and “I 100% trust this car with my life” is big. It’s the whole string of nines thing, it has to be 99.99999% safe and that last little bit is the hardest part.
There’s been a bit of a rumor since the last Tesla earnings call that the next car, the $25,000 car that we’ve all been calling the Model 2 this whole time, that it’s going to be called Robotaxi. And may actually not have a steering wheel.
That sounds… optimistic. I mean we’ve been hearing predictions about “feature ready” FSD happening “at the end of the year” for a long time now.
But knowing Tesla, this car might be unveiled in 2022 or 23 but not hit the roads until 2025 or 2026.
It has been 4 years since the new Roadster was unveiled. And if you remember, it was called the 2020 Roadster. Just saying.
So I don’t know, considering the pace of advancement in FSD, maybe that’ll be the case, it would definitely fit with Tesla’s pattern of reducing stuff on the steering column.
But ultimately, I think self-driving cars will be safer, especially as more cars on the road become self-driving, especially if they can communicate with each other. I really think humans are messy, distracted, irrational, and unpredictable and the more computers driving that are none of those things, the safer it will all be.
Having said all that, people love driving. Driving is kinda synonymous with freedom itself. A lot of people won’t want to give that up. So yeah, it’ll be interesting.
But it’s going to be a long time. I would say probably 20 years before self driving cars become the norm.
So spaketh Joestradamus.
Brian Beswick – Question:
If the US or other large country were to change our building codes to require white roofs, how much of an impact of climate change could we make through increased albedo?
Okay, I might be going on a rant real quick.
It has always bewildered me why of all the colors of the rainbow, that we use super dark colors on our roofs here in the US.
I mean I get it if you’re up north and it’s cold and you want to absorb heat, but down here in Texas? We spend all this money putting insulation and radiant barriers in our attics and then put the most heat-absorbing tiles we can find above it, I don’t get it.
I feel like there are so many passive heating and cooling techniques that we’ve lost over the years and we’ve opted to just brute force cool and heat our homes by throwing as much electricity as possible at it, maybe it’s time we relearn some of that stuff.
To answer your question, I don’t think it would make much difference on the scale of climate change, just because it’s such a small percentage of land area it’s unlikely to make a difference.
I found an article on Quora that used a report from the National Renewable Energy Lab that calculated around 5,000 square kilometers of rooftop space in the U.S., that sounds like a lot but the total area of the US is about 3.8 million square kilometers. That’s like .13%
And that’s not nothing, it might make a tiny difference but keep in mind, the US isn’t the rest of the world in fact most of the world is… WATER
Though it might make a difference to the heat island effect you see in large urban areas, so on a microclimate level, sure, maybe.
But, it’s still an interesting question because a more reflective roof might lower the temperature of houses and reduce the amount of AC needed to stay cool in the summer.
In fact, Brian referenced this new paint created by Purdue university that has beaten the record for most reflective paint in the world.
So yeah, if we put that paint on every home and building in the US and it drastically cut down on the amount of AC needed to cool it, that would be a huge energy savings, would reduce strain on the grid, reduce the amount of carbon emissions from power generation, so in that sense it might make a difference in regard to climate change.
You could probably determine a percentage reduction in energy use from that paint on rooftops and then calculate the exact amount of energy that could be saved… But I’ll let you guys do that in the comments because I’ve got to get on to the next question, which is…
Mark Hoffman – In the context of a billion+ years from now; If whatever became of us were able to become a Type II civilization, what might the viability be of using Mercury to attempt a Theia type collision with Mars?
Could Mercury, given its abundance of iron, with just the right impact angle and velocity, create a planetary core capable of producing a protective magnetic field? Might such an impact also be able to form a satellite coalescent accretion disk to help stabilize axial rotation?
This is the most “Bruh” question I have ever heard.
Can we terraform Mars by smashing Mercury into it? I mean… Sure! What could go wrong?
So first of all, let me start by saying that if we did ever become a type II civilization, Mercury is toast. I think we can all agree with that.
I think I talked about this in my Dyson Sphere video? Because the structure would have to be utterly massive and the only place to get all the material would be to dismantle a planet and let’s just be honest, Mercury’s not bringing much to the table as a planet.
But smashing it into another planet to try to recreate what happened here on Earth… Bruh.
First of all, the axial rotation thing, it seems to me that it would be a lot easier to just collect asteroids from the asteroid belt and form an accretion disk from that, or clump them together to create a moon-like gravity well.
But yeah, to get a magnetic field working on Mars, I see what you’re saying, you’ve gotta rearrange the guts a bit to get a spinning inner core.
This by the way is arguably more important than the accretion disk or the moon bit, because without doing this we can never develop a thick atmosphere on Mars, because the solar wind would keep eroding it.
A more practical approach was suggested a few years ago at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 workshop by the Director of Planetary Science at NASA, Jim Green. He suggested putting a giant magnetic dipole at Mars’ L1 Lagrange point.
This would block the solar wind enough to keep most of it from hitting the planet, possibly enough for the atmosphere to thicken.
This is still a massive project that we don’t quite have the technology to do yet, but maybe in another 50 years or so?
We would still be unprotected on the surface from cosmic rays and whatnot, but there could be similar solutions on the ground to create artificial magnetic shields.
As for if it would work… I would imagine a species advanced enough to even try this would be advanced enough to make sure it worked… that the speed and angle are right and whatnot.
And the mass… So they would probably have to reduce the mass of Mercury because they say that Thea was roughly the size of Mars. And I looked this up, Mars is about 15% the mass of Earth, at 6.4185 x 1023 kg
Mercury is 3.285 x 1023kg which is 51.2% the mass of Mars so they would probably need to whittle down Mercury to get the ratio right.
Anyway, they would have to be much smarter than me but like I said, if they’re advanced enough to try it, I’m guessing they could make it work.
What the probably couldn’t do, which is the major Achilles heel of this whole idea, is make the planet habitable again for literally billions of years.
Which, if making it habitable is the point, that is pretty much the craziest possible way to do it.
Fun thought experiment though.
Cole Parker – How about this: why the hell isn’t Scotland freezing. It’s seems to be the same latitude of northern Maine or southern Sweden. Sure “gulf” stream. But how is that even a thing. And how fucked are they if it ends.
Someone’s salty today!
You seem really upset that Scotland is not a frozen wasteland. What did Scotland do to you?
Point on the doll where William Wallace hurt you.
I actually have a video on the way about this. Not on the way necessarily but on deck. I’m thinking about it.
Yeah, the gulf stream is interesting and it is weakening, and if it were to collapse… it would be bad.
I think that was the premise behind The Day After Tomorrow, highly regarded as the most accurate climate change movie ever made.
But yeah, ocean currents are weird and super complex. I mean it’s fluid dynamics. It’s literally chaos.
I do plan on fully covering this topic in the somewhat near future so I’ll just kinda give a quick overview here.
The ocean currents, including the gulf stream, are thermohaline currents, thermohaline standing for temperature and salt content.
They’re influenced by a variety of things, wind, the Coriolis effect, tides, but most importantly, density.
Cold water is more dense than hot water and saltier water is more dense than less salty water. Thermo – haline.
And denser water sinks below less dense water, which is why you can have surface currents of hot water and deep ocean currents of cold water.
So the water from the tropics get a lot of sun and warm up. The winds create a current that moves that hot water north along the east coast of North America, and as it moves into the north Atlantic, there’s less sun, the air gets colder so the water gets colder.
It’s also thought that the winds evaporate the water and make it more salty.
So this now colder, saltier water sinks in giant columns of water like underwater waterfalls. Apparently more water flows through this column than all the rivers in the world.
This is actually known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.
This creates the cold deep ocean current, which flows back toward the tropics, and the cycle repeats itself.
The heat this system brings to Europe is as much energy as a million nuclear power plants. I read that somewhere.
And of course climate change is messing with this because as the arctic ice melts into the ocean, it’s changing the salt content because all that ice water is fresh water, so it’s diluting the ocean, right in that important spot.
So yeah… that’s not great.
We’re already seeing some signals that the current could be slowing down, the fear is that it could completely collapse, which would plunge northern Europe into a kind of ice age.
Yes, ironically global warming could trigger an ice age, but only in Europe, it would have far ranging effects on climate systems around the world, making some areas uninhabitable from the heat.
So Cole, I guess if things keep going this way you’ll have your wish and Glasgow could be totally under a glacier. Live your dreams kids.
But that’s all the questions for today, thanks to all my patreon members for supporting the channel, I hope to do more lightning round videos like this going forward.