Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched by Kulturpop.

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched by Kulturpop.


It’s Silly Season. The time of the year when the news goes on  holiday. Which means it’s time to catch up on some of the really cool tech and science stories we missed like fiery webcams and livestreamed fatbergs. It’s time to Mattsplain.

Just like Xmas, Silly Season comes but once a year. With a stack of rants in his overcoat pocket, the traditional lack of tech and science stories during the summer months hasn’t worried Kulturpop’s Matt Armitage until now. 


Are we in the Mattsplained equivalent of a desert?

·      That is normally the case most years.

·      We get to a point where, sometime during July August and really isn’t anything to talk about.

·      This is been such a tumultuous and topsy-turvy year that the stories have kept on coming.

·      And as you said, this year I’ve had more to rant about than I’ve had time to rant.

·      The silly season has been a chance to catch up.

·      And as we doing on and off of the last few weeks I thought we’d catch up on some of the smaller stories and developments that have come out recently.


We have a topic, or topics, I suppose. That means it’s time to Mattsplain. 

·      Let’s start with some environmental stories.

·      We don’t cover nearly as many environmental stories on the show as we probably should.

·      One caught my eye this week was from the wildfires that are raging across California.

·      The one that that Pres Trump says that because there is enough water fight them and the California fire service says comma Nonsense, of course there is.

·      One of things things I can talk about on the show is technology doesn’t always get used for the purpose for which it was originally designed.


This is the story about Daniel Perez, who livestreamed the wildfire raging outside his home?

·      Yes. Perez lives in a small town outside LA.

·      When the police issued a mandatory evacuation order for the town, the last thing Perez did was to turn on his home security cameras and connect them to the Internet before driving over to a relative’s house in a safe zone.

·      As the Flames reached the backyard of this house in the middle of the afternoon, the dead smoke activating the night mode on his camera, Perez was able to watch as the blaze was brought under control.

·      What was really nice about the story was that once the place was under control, Perez notice that his door bell camera was capturing a fireman walking up onto the porch of his house.

·      And is able to use the intercom to talk to the fireman, reassured him that the house was intact, that the flames had damaged garden but not the house itself, and Paris was able to thank the man and his colleagues for their hard work.


We often talk about our tech infrastructure being very delicate. This story shows another side, that it’s robust enough to work during a disaster.

·      That’s the weird thing, isn’t it?

·      Wildfire is a very very strange creature.

·      I won’t bore you all the details of our story I read about to have a type of roof you have often determines whether or not your house gets burned out during world, 

·      I can only guess here, but I’m assuming that either the web coverage came along overhead cables along streets that were protected by the firemen or they were underground and similarly protected.

·      And Not just the Internet, obviously the power was still running even though the town was surrounded by flames.

·      And it’s not the first time this has happened. Back in 2016 another guy in the US watched his house burn to the ground over his WebCam.

·      In this instance, I thought it was nice that somebody was able to thank the fireman in person for saving the home.


From California we’re moving to Paris but sticking with the environment…

·      Yes. Paris is the most densely populated city in Europe.

·      It’s also one of the least green. Which may come as a surprise to a lot of people, who have a mental image of the wide boulevards and trees.

·      Less than 10% of the city’s area is given over to green space.

·      And this unlikely concrete jungle has seen temperatures soar over this summer’s European heatwave.


Not to mention that Paris is in a basin, so it’s a heat trap even in a good year.

·      Let’s plan a project being trialled at a school in Paris called the Ecole Riblette.

·      Back in June, temperatures inside one of the pupil recreation areas, an open courtyard surrounded by concrete walls, reached 55°C.

·      Obviously, in those temperatures pupils had to stay inside school.

·      We covered story a few months ago where Open Plan is in China at taking radical steps to redesign urban spaces to be more adaptable to climate change.

·      One of the simplest ways is to prevent water run-off and to increase the green and vegetation cover.


Which sounds a lot simpler than it is…

·      Absolutely. In a lot of ways it easier when you’re building cities from scratch.

·      And China’s planners are looking back to history. You Looking at the design of stepped paddyfields for example, using that model to retain water, and to feed rings of vegetation that help to call the ecosystem down.

·      In existing cities, and of course that’s much harder.

·      You’re trying to adapt architecture and infrastructure rather than building it to specification.

·      But it’s remarkable how simple the plans in Paris are. And how effective those small changes can be.


We’re not talking about extensive rebuilding?

·      No, we’re talking about planting trees for shade.

·      Putting in flower and vegetable boxes.

·      We’re talking about replacing the Standard concrete a water permeable material that was slowly draining into the ground underneath and will help to prevent so much heat being reflected.

·      Like with the Chinese model, this is looking at social planning from a historical perspective and asking why our cities have become so poorer at dealing with fluctuating weather.


This project is just aimed at schoolchildren?

·      Trying to make an impact citywide.

·      If the results of this project is successful that will be rolled out at all of Paris’s 800 schools.

·      But it’s also intended for Paris’s wider population.

·      When you’re talking about issues like this, it’s also important to make changes to social policy as well as altering physical infrastructure. 

·      It’s  important to make sure that everyone has access to those spaces.

·      Over the past few decades we’ve seen schools shift from being public spaces to being very closed ones.

·      This is partly down to the fears of terrorism and sexual predators and other exploitation of schoolchildren.

·      So those are challenges that have to be overcome, not just in altering the schools, but in extending this kind of scheme to more public buildings and spaces.


The shape of things to come. Which brings us nicely to a new shape that’s already here.

·      Researchers at the University of Seville have discovered a new shape.

·      And no, they weren’t messing around with adult colouring books, they were doing important research in biomedicine.


Which ties back to last week’s show. Don’t be afraid of biotech?

·      Yes exactly. The Seville team was researching into epithelials, the cells that line the inside and the outside of our body and without which TV shows like CSI wouldn’t exist.

·      They found that they adopted a very specific form as they were packed together.

·      Originally they were expected to be like prisms or some kind of pyramid.

·      The shape which has been named a scutoid, resembles a twisted prism.


A bit like those crushable, disposable water bottles?

·      Not so much in the shape that yes very much so in terms of the theory.

·      The reason is so that cells can cram together and pack down.

·      It’s like an architectural building block.

·      It’s what allows how organs to have their rigidity and integrity.


Is there any real world application for the shape?

·      Again, very much so.

·      There’s a nice quote from the team on the design boom website where they describe scutoids is kind of being like the Lego from which animals are made.

·      And of course as we increase our research into areas like 3-D by printing to make replacement or artificial organs, 

·      Knowing how the scutoids work and learning how to replicate them could mean the difference between printing a fully functional human liver or a bowl of bakuteh. 




Before the break we had Matt by the Scutoids. Any more discoveries for us this week?

·      Yes, from human organ soup to something even more disgusting.

·      Last year the Whitechapel Fatberg was liberated from London sewers.

·      A mixture of facts and household waste, its one of the largest ever found.

·      250 m long and weighing 130 tonnes.

·      A small chunk of it was put on display at the Museum of London in February and it proved to be a massive hit.


Is that safe? Like, hygienic?

·      Well, of course it's a major biohazard. You wouldn’t want to actually touch it.

·      Museum spent several months trying it out and it’s now housed inside the box inside a box inside the box.

·      It’s odour has apparently mellowed somewhat, currently smelling rather like a damp basement than a sewer pipe.

·      What was intended to be a temporary exhibit, has now been added to the permanent collection because demand to see it has been so great it is now being Livestreamed to the world.



·      It’s still in the process of decaying, so you can logon periodically to see how it changes over time.

·      And I can send it becomes such an enormous draw, the museum staff wanted to extend its reach.

·      If you’re looking for something that sums up the way Live in densely populated urban centres. Then a fatberg is a pretty good symbol.

·      To watch it head over to FatCam on Youtube. As of today it looks like a piece of granite.


While we’re on the subjects of liquids and gases, I hear you’ve been to Kelt-9B this week?

·      Not as in actually visiting as it’s 620 light years and that would involve you having to feature Future Matt on the show again. 

·      But reading about it, yes.

·      Kelt-9B is the hottest planet so far discovered. At around 4000°C it’s not as hot as our sun which is around 6000°C.

·      But that still makes it hotter than many of the suns in our universe.


Wasn’t this discovered last year? This news is a little old, even for Mattsplained…

·      It’s back in the news this week because we’ve finally been able to discover what it’s atmosphere consists of.

·      Scientists at the Galileo National telescope in the Canary Islands robot to do some really clever stuff by analysing the tiny fraction of light from the story orbit as it travels through Kelt-9Bs atmosphere.

·      They think the planet is largely gaseous, consisting mainly of hydrogen.

·      They also detected Iron and titanium vapour.

·      Yes, this planet is so hot that it’s air is vaporised metal.


Is that unusual?

·      It’s the first time that we’ve seen signs of metals outside our solar system so yes that is pretty unique.

·      And that’s where able to examine planets further and further away from our own, we can use the same techniques that allow us to spot metals also allow us to spot oxygen or other molecules that are fundamental to the Evolution of life.


From the sewers to the stars. An oddly inspirational message. Let’s stay with space for the next item.

·      There has been renewed interest past few years in setting up permanent or semipermanent basis on the moon.

·      As we know President Trump has just founded space force, and what good would space for speed if its base was our planet?

·      China, India and the US all seems set to revisit the moon in coming years.

·      Of course, if you want to send more than a couple of people for any length of time you start to run into a lot of logistics issues.


Not the least of which is water…

·      You’ve hit it on the head as usual.

·      Recently analysed data has shown that there is water ice in patches surrounding the moon’s polls, with the bulk of it concentrated at the southern pole in areas that are sheltered from the sun’s glare.

·      And it’s hoped that that ice, which has been there for billions of years, could be used to provide drinking water for Moon exploration teams.


What happens when it runs out?

·      That’s the part we are not very good at.

·      We tend to keep using things until they run out without thinking too much of what comes after.

·      Which is why Paris is trying to cool itself down.

·      Extraction of the water may be an issue as well, Data would suggest that it’s not present in sheets like you’d find in a glacier here on earth.

·      Rather the ice is thought to have formed around granules of moondust which is them clustered together.

·      See you probably wouldn’t want to eat it like a lollipop. Especially as that moondust would probably shred your oesophagus.


Ok. We’re back on track. The inspirational imagery has disappeared. What’s happening in the world of AI?

·      How best to describe this next chap, without saying anything litigious?

·      Tony Kaye, the mercurial director of American History X, a great film that was eventually edited by its star Ed Norton and released against Tony Kayes wishes is trying to do away with actors altogether.

·      It’s been reported that his next film Will feature in AI powered machine that has been trained in various acting techniques.


From what I’ve read online, a lot of people are taking this with a grain of salt…

·      And The whole project sounds bizarre.

·      It’s the sequel to a small indie comedy about an Iranian American couple.

·      Tony Kaye had nothing to do with the original and there is nothing about it that suggests it would have a sci-fi premise see you can only imagine that the machine would be trying to emulate series of human actors set in our present time.


Automation is coming to films though…

·      Very much so.

·      We can do incredible things with CGI and increasingly those tasks are being handed off to AI.

·      But we still rely on human performance, even from movie so lord of the rings and planet of the apes, where the incredible Andy Circus does a lot of the motion capture that is then turned into the CG animation.

·      Because we still use a lot of mechanical animals in everything from 82 the Jurassic Park franchise.

·      Whether second born happens or not, this is an obvious path for Directors who really don’t get on with human beings very much.

·      It may not be from Tony Kaye, but I think we can expect to see human free movies in the not too distant future.


This isn’t the only arts and AI story we’ve heard this week, is it?

·      I spotted this story in new scientist.

·      It’s about a text to image algorithm that draws whatever you type.

·      It was developed by a guy called Tao Xu at Microsoft research.

·      It was trained on a subset of photographs and descriptions, so when you type a series of words it matches them to particular colours, textures or shapes.


Can we try it? Is it good?

·      The New scientist writer concluded that the results are a bit rubbish, and I have to disagree.

·      The results are extremely surreal because the algorithm isn’t interpreting the words in the same way that we would.

·      So if you ask it to draw a picture of a woman, it puts together something that roughly resembles a woman

·      And yes, you can try it. Cristobal Valenzuela, an artist and researcher at New York University has built a basic website around it for you to try.

·      Go to and click on the work tab, and look for the Text 2 Image link.

·      I’ve had about 2 hours of fun with it so far. And no, I haven’t asked it for anything rude.


Now, you said before the show that this next item is about Freda…

·      Well, it’s more about BFM getting more out of the Enterprise Team by replacing Freda with a mean robot.

·      A team at the University of Clermont Auvergne put people through a series of tests based on the Stroop Task.


Which is?

·      If you’ve used those brain training apps you may be familiar with it. 

·      It’s really infuriating, say the word green is spelled out onscreen but the colour is red.

·      Or you may get a series of different colours blue green red, and none of them is the colour they spell.

·      Anyway, depending on the question you either choose the colour and not the word or the word and not the colour and you’re measured on your reaction time.

·      It’s infuriating. It makes you want to throw your phone at the wall.


And the robot helps how?

·      In the tests the university team carried out, the test subjects were overseen by a small robot.

·      Some test subjects were overseen by a robot with a friendly demeanour


The moral of the story is that we’re scared of robots?

·      Yes. Because they’re mean.


This episode is starting to feel like a bad dream, which is ironic as our last item is about dreams. Bad or good, I’m not sure. 

·      That depends on how much time you want to spend exploring your psyche. 

·      Have you ever had lucid dreams?


Jeff Replies

·      I don’t think I have. It’s kind of the Holy Grail of the wellness and meditation crowd.

·      That you can be awake inside your dreams and control them.


Isn’t there an app for that?

·      Plenty of apps claim to help you get into that state,

·      This is actually a combination of an alzheimers treatment called galantamine and a cognitive behaviour treatment,


Why? So people can indulge their fantasies of flying?

·      It might seem that way but this is medical research rather than biohacking. 

·      This is a trial that’s being done under medical supervision at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

·      There are actual and good reasons for doing this. 

·      The hope is that lucid dreaming can help people to overcome fears and other nasty stuff lurking in the subconscious.


What did the test subjects do with their dreams?

·      There were 121 adults in the study, ranging from 19 to 75 years of age.

·      Of those who achieved a lucid state, one dreamed of falling donkeys and was able to consciously move out of their way.

·      Another participant used it to indulge her fantasies of rollerblading through a shopping mall.

·      One of the pioneers of the project, Benjamin Baird has tried it himself and marvelled at how he could feel the texture of objects in his dream. 

·      He also brought a dead flower back to life.


None of those is what you might call overcoming trauma…

·      Unless you have a fear of falling donkeys.

·      Of course not, this is a test not treatment, to see if the theory works.

·      Only once we can reliably put people into that lucid state can we begin to research the effect and extent of the control rather than relying on hippy apps and hearsay.

·      It’s better to put mentally healthy people into that lucid dreaming state first, than to use it on people with really phobias or disorders.

·      We’re making a lot of breakthroughs in terms of our understanding of the brain and consciousness and subconsciousness.

·      Which is absolutely essential as we’re seeing a marked increase or at least an increase in people coming forward for the treatment of mental disorders.

·      So, falling donkeys and rollerblading in malls may sound like a typical silly season story, but there’s serious intent lurking behind the fun.