MATTSPLAINED [] MSP78 [] Let the Sun Shine

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched @ Kulturpop

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched @ Kulturpop

MATTSPLAINED [] MSP78 [] Let the Sun Shine

If fake news and social media are getting you down, switch up your feed. Every day brings a raft of awesome innovation and fantastic discoveries.

From the historical accuracy of Assassin’s Creed to digital superpowers to donuts with black holes. Or black holes with donuts. We take a look at a tiny handful of the breakthroughs social media hasn’t told you about over the last few weeks. Warning: Contains the words Quaversfreude and Twivalanche.

Produced by Jeff Sandhu for BFM89.9

Produced by Jeff Sandhu for BFM89.9


Show Links:




Episode Transcript


These shows are dictated to and transcribed by machines, and hurriedly edited by a human. Apologies for the typos and grammar flaws.


I’m not saying that after MSP’s 4-episode series on Disruption that Matt Armitage feels that he needs to shake things up, but that would seem like a logical conclusion.

·      Over the past few weeks we’ve gone to some fairly dark places on the show.

·      I wanted to lift a little bit that darkness today.

·      To try and reassure everybody that that it isn’t hopeless.

·      And to try and highlight some of the great innovations and inventions and discoveries that have come out 

·      not over the last few months or years but literally over the last few weeks.

·      I want to show people that however bad things might appear to be, it’s partly because we’re only focusing on one part of the picture.

·      There is so much incredible stuff happening. 

·      One of the stories we talked about last week on geeks was NASA’s intention to put the first female astronaut on the moon within the next five years.

·      It really is a great time to be a human. Animal, not so much.


Where are we starting? With Game of Thrones, like every episode over the past few weeks?

·      Not with game of thrones but with games in general.

·      And I guess the same theory applies for shows like GOT.

·      Games may be helping us to grow our appreciation of history.

·      A report in their new scientist talks about the accuracy that the makers of Assassins Creed Odyssey have gone to accurately recreate the world of Athens in around 400 BC.

·      We know that with movies and TV shows based in ancient times, more attention is paid to plot devices than to the accuracy of geography or the actual surroundings.

·      But with games you don’t have the same time impediments, especially with the sprawling worlds of many of today’s networked titles.

·      And as we seen the physics engines and the replication of surroundings in all manner of games, as well as the attention to detail, is effectively creating these simulations of the world of that time.


Couldn’t you read a book?

·      Of course you could. Or you can go to a museum and look at some of the exhibits.

·      Or go and visit some of these places.

·      Most of us have some artefacts of antiquity hanging around where we live. Possibly even in our own homes.

·      There is a reason that the tech is called virtual reality.

·      So if you’re going to play games, why not immerse yourself in all these fantastic landscapes that bring history to life.

·      Learning isn’t just about absorbing facts in textbooks. It’s about to experience.

·      And what better way to explore ancient Rome or Greece or Victorian London them to walk its streets with a sense of purpose or a mission.

·      And as I said about other games, once you get bored exploring, you can start creating mayhem..


I think we’re sticking with superpowers for the next story…

·      Yes, or an invention that pretty much gives us a superpower

·      The power to see round corners. Just like superman and his laser x-ray whatever it is vision.

·      In theory this isn’t something that actually knew with been able to use imaging algorithms with video images for quite a while to project an image of what things might look like around the corner.

·      And they’ve always required some very stringent conditions, such as they’re not really being much going on around the corner, which kind of defeats the point.


This is the theory of an accidental camera?

·      Yeah, you project patterns of light on the ground at the edge of the corner and those patterns are able to detect at least part of what’s happening around The edge that you can’t see.

·      What changed here is that scientists at Boston University have developed a new algorithm the plugs in what is known as a plausible answer.

·      Essentially the algorithm is trying to anticipate and predict what is around the corner from the variables that you can control.

·      At the moment these images are one-dimensional but the Boston team is already working on imaging algorithms that will enable it to predict two and three-dimensional images.


Is this just a fancy way of making one of those Facebook 3D photos?

·      No. Not every development in technology has to link back to Facebook.

·      I can imagine it having a lot of our security and military applications.

·      The Boston team I think is anticipating that it will be incorporated into autonomous cars.

·      As we know from previous unfortunate accidents that these vehicles have had, unpredictable situations are not always things that they cope with very well.

·      This technology could be one more layer that enables those machines to operate with a high degree of safety in public areas.


I like the idea of superpowers. Are there any more?

·      Superpowers? Yeah there are a couple.


Real superpowers…

·      Okay, I know this is one that all of us experienced.

·      You go in to that hipster restaurant or café for your unicorn coffee and your Dill sprinkled avocado toast.

·      The place looks fantastic. Unfinished concrete floors and walls.

·      Marble topped tables and chairs. 

·      And of course nobody has given the first thought to soundproofing.

·      So even when it’s two thirds empty it sounds like the inside of a beehive and you have to shout to hear the person sitting across the table from you.


That’s not a superpower…

·      The ability to focus on that single voice you want to hear is.

·      The team at Columbia University in New York have come up with a device that actually reads your brainwaves and figures out which voices in the herd to amplify and which to tune out.

·      It works on similar principles to the microphone that a lot of our Digital assistants use 

·      Which work by separating out multiple voices of the coming into a single microphone.


But don’t those work by processing and then separating? That’s not useful in conversation.

·      No, it would be faster and more efficient to Whatsapp each other.

·      That’s where the brain waves come in.

·      In tests with volunteers, and honestly this is where it gets a bit freaky, the researchers were able to tell which voices the volunteers were trying to tune into by monitoring the brainwaves.

·      It’s still early days but the team is working on a system That will allow a simple earpiece that will be able to analyse your brainwaves to contact with your skin.

·      A faster hybrid might be something that is more directional, so the user simply looks in the direction of the people they want to listen to.


And this is for everyone?

·      Well, some condition, like age-related loss of hearing, you can still hear fine but find that you lose some of the granular ability, 

·      for example being able to separate voices from background noise.

·      That kind of solution works equally well for those with good hearing in noisy environments like concerts and music festivals or any kind of raucous cocktail party.

·      At this point I think that three simultaneous voices is the upper limit for the technology,

·      but as with very much any invention you only have to wait a couple of months before versions 2, 3 and four hit the shelves.


Give us a wildcard before we head into the break. 

·      I guess this counts as a superpower

·      Have you ever wanted a sponge that sucks up uranium?

·      I know I have. 

·      I can distinctly remember sitting in the bath as a child thinking ‘I wish this sponge could become a repository of radioactive materials’.

·      Because I used words like repository as a child and had the number of friendships you might expect as a result.

·      But, like the x-ray specs I bought from the back of a comic book, the sponges never did a thing.

·      Which is probably good news. I’m might have been able to say repository, but like most eight year olds I wasn’t trained in the proper handling of fissile material.


The questions I have to say on this show: But all of that could be about to change?

·      We’ve used natural sponges in the ocean, well, as sponges, but also as a tool for measuring the concentration of heavy metals in the water.

·      Because they’re sponges. They absorb stuff so they’re a great tool for us to use to assess their environment over time.

·      Currently, we obtain most of the uranium for powering nuclear powerplants by mining it from the ground.

·      But There are significant trace amounts of uranium in seawater.

·      Estimates of anywhere up to around 4 ½ billion tons of the stuff.

·      Researchers at Hainan University in China have developed a special melamine foam-based sponge, 

o  similar to the ones that we use for household cleaning,

o  These are then coated in chemicals that make these traces of the uranium one two them.


Don’t we already have methods for seawater uranium extraction?

·      Yes but Dong Wang, the lead researcher on the team, claims that this method is more environmentally friendly because the material is more biodegradable than the plastics that are currently used.

·      It’s also a Technology that can be used to help clean up used nuclear waste at power plants.

·      And they can be reused. Once the uranium has been extracted, you can chuck the sponge back in the ocean and it goes soak soak glow all over again.

·      Obviously, it’s still cheaper to mine uranium but we have fairly small supplies in the ground and there are a lot of geopolitical concerns when it comes to who controls access to that material.


So your idea of ending on a high note is to say that there’s a new technology that allows people to obtain uranium as easily as taking a bath or a swim in the sea?

·      Of course, it’s not that easy. Can you ring him doesn’t have to be processed in ways that create weapons grade material.

·      A lot of powerplants we currently have are based on nuclear technologies that allow you to create plutonium as a military byproduct.

·      And as we run out of oil and until renewables are as effective, we will likely see an upsurge in the adoption of nuclear Power generation as a bridge technology.


After the break. More superpowers, interplanetary visitations and, perhaps, even an app or two.




We’re back. Today is all about inventions and innovations to restore your faith in technology. Shall we stick with the environment a little longer?

·      It’s tricky to do stories about plastics given the threat they pose to our world.

·      And on our last story we were making the case that there sponge base technologies are more sustainable way of gathering uranium than plastic based techniques.

·      So if you announce the plastics might help to combat emissions and climate change, you better get ready for a Twivalanchee


A Twivalanchee?

·      Yes an avalanche of tweets. Most of them negative.

·      It’s my latest attempt to invent a buzzword.

·      Last week I tried out Quaversfreude, which is that feeling of pleasure you get when a friend asks you for a Crisp – a potato chip = and you tell them that they’re all gone.

·      It’s a very British reference. 

·      For Queen, country and crisps as our national motto goes.


Is there some clever device you’re going to use to get from crisps to plastics?

·      Yes, I cleverly got you to ask me that question.

·      Plastic crystals are not a new technology: we’ve had them for decades.

·      You find them in paints, cosmetics and of course in all manner of plastic products.

·      And to some years they’ve been looked at as a way to Store energy.

·      Bing Li, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of sciences Institute of Metal research, has been looking at ways in which they could be used to cool refrigeration equipment.


Why is there always and air conditioning story when we do these happy science shows?

·      Okay, regular listeners to the show will know that I don’t like the heat.

·      I’m always looking at ways to cool down and technologies that make refrigeration more efficient and effective.

·      Because of the huge irony there. As the world heats the more we need air conditioners and refrigerators that are able to operate in higher temperatures.

·      And those devices themselves contribute significantly to this spiral of warming.

·      So that’s a link we have to break.


And plastic crystals may be one of the ways that we can break that link.

·      Bing Li is betting on it. 

·      Apparently these plastic crystals have what is known as a disordered structure.

·      They don’t have that regular pattern that we often see in material science.

·      One of the properties of this structure is that small amounts of pressure actually switch them between ordered and disordered states.

·      This leads to these big transfers of energy, which is why they were looked at as storage devices.

·      And They can also be used very effectively as refrigerants. 

·      Those massive changes make them much more effective and efficient than our current compressor based refrigeration systems.


There you have it. Plastic saving the world. I can only assume that you are going to save dolphins by spraying them with crude oil, next?

·      Doubter. They shall know ye by the marks upon your skin.

·      Weirdly, it feels like today’s show is being sponsored by China.

·      But there is such amazing science and technology coming out of the country right now.

·      Which is something you it’s easy to overlook if you’re concentrating on stories about National governments and certain tech companies and infrastructure projects.

·      Medical researchers at Zheijang University are developing a glue that can be used to repair internal injuries and will simply dissolve into the body overtime.

·      So for example in the case of people having transplants or who have dramatic injuries where you have to open up the body and go into the cavity, you no longer need to use any stitches.

·      And the article didn’t go into these details but I’m conjecturing here, 

·      because the glue stops bleeding in about 30s, I imagine it will become a tool used by surgeons in cases of traumatic injury.


So you just squirt it with a glue gun?

·      I think it’s a bit less work boots and hard hat than that.

·      It’s made from a mixture of polymers and water and it’s activated by UV light.

·      So you cut the area that is bleeding shine the light on it and then it mimics those proteins and clotting agents that the body uses naturally to close wounds.

·      At the moment I think it’s been formulated to work with the proteins formed of animals like pigs and rats

·      I don’t think it something that were going to be seeing used on humans in the immediate future

·      But I imagine it won’t be too long until the advice to get a little bit more sunlight is more than an old wives tale.


Give us an app…

·      Okay. I’m going to stick with health.

·      If this app gets approval by the US FDA, you may soon be able to diagnose ear infections in young children using nothing more than an app, your smartphone and a piece of paper.


This sounds that one of your get rich quick schemes…

·      I know! There are so many businessmen out there who think like me.

·      It’s heartwarming.

·      Apparently Kids get loads of ear infections.

·      I don’t know why. I don’t have any kids. I’m guessing it’s probably just carelessness.

·      Having seen my own nieces and nephews in this situation, I know that it can cause a great deal of distress

·      Especially when the child struggles to explain to a parent exactly what’s wrong.


How does it work?

·      Well, the app was developed by a guy called Justin Chan at the University of Seattle.

·      And it emits a soft chirping sound – see how this links to my Twivalanchee? = and the app analyses the wave those sounds are reflected.

·      Because the sections often cause a fluid, so that sounds that normally would cause eardrum to vibrate are reflected back.

·      So those reflections on the speed of those reflections can indicate whether a fluid buildup is present.


Where does the paper come in?

·      You turn into a little funnel that goes into the child’s ear and your phone speakers sends out those pulses.

·      A mixture of fantastically high-tech and low-grade analogue.

·      Much like this show.

·      So far the app has been tested on a Bunch of children between the ages of 18 months and 17 years old.


I thought you said the child might not be able to explain what’s wrong?

·      Well, exactly. The 18 month old child will probably be fairly lucid while the 17-year-old is likely to be functionally monosyllabic.

·      So you need all the help you can get.

·      So far the accuracy has been around 85%.

·      And obviously this is not about a definitive diagnosis.

·      It’s about making those decisions whether someone needs further medical care.

·      In countries where health care is expensive, it can also may be help you to avoid the costly experience of an unnecessary visit to the clinic.


There you go. Matt Armitage: a man who can never spend too little on a child.

·      That’s a bit unfair.

·      As I have no evidence to debunk it with, I’m going to deflect it with some space news.

·      We’re back to China again. Or at least the moon via China.

·      China’s Yutu 2 moon Rover, a name which had both of us stumbling last time we mentioned it, 

o  has spotted rocks that may have been punched through the surface crust of the moon.

·      And it is hoped that this may give us information about the satellites early magma ocean.

·      So this is really the first time that we get to see what the mantle of the moon is made of.

·      And that it appears to be quite different from Earth’s own mantle.

·      Something that may have been caused by the presence of water on earth.

·      Scientists are also hoping that it will be a useful comparison point, not just with our planet but with others.

·      it allows us to use the moon as a base point  forother planets with a magma ocean 

·      and to track how they, unlike the moon, have evolved in the billions of years since.

·      Shall we finish with a food related story?


As long as it’s not some frightening, grown in a laboratory or made out of plastic story.

·      No. It’s a story about doughnuts and black holes.

·      As we mentioned before, you were lucky enough to be present when the Photos of a blackhole were unveiled to the media in the US a few weeks ago.

·      Back in April we had more black hole photos.

·      This time from V404 Cygni, which is 7800 light-years from us.

·      Apparently it’s a bit of a lonely system, a binary system that consists of just a black hole and a star.

·      Right now the black hole is sucking gases from the star at an incredible rate.

·      I guess it’s a Little like when you’re blowing up a balloon and you let the air come back into your lungs you suddenly fill your lungs And your stomach puff up.

·      What the black hole is doing is taking material from the start so fast that it’s swelling in the middle.

·      Normally be flat and astronomers have likened its shape to a doughnut.

·      What really strikes me about this story is that we can see all of this happening.


In terms of technology?

·      Yes. Like we said at the start of the last few weeks we’ve been talking about distortion and the power of the companies over individuals.

·      Today I wanted to demonstrate some of the huge volume of stories about individuals and companies that are doing incredible things to improve our lives.

·      And you don’t have to looked very hard for the stories.

·      Most of these came from the new scientist website and they’re all from the last four or five weeks.

·      I think we featured 8 or 9 stories today and I could easily have done three times that amount just from the same time period.

·      So, if the news or social media is getting you down, then change the news or social media that you’re Reading or watching.

·      Because we are living in an incredible time, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.