Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from Aug 28, 2016. It's a collection of podcasts, videos, and other links for people who love to learn online and are fascinated by the world. Click here to get playlists emailed to you as they come out.
The five part series on oil that Planet Money just completed is excellent and worth a listen in its entirety. They tracked oil through its whole lifecycle, from being pumped into 100 barrels from a field in Kansas to talking to someone at a gas station who is filling their car with gas made from that very same oil. Planet Money gets bonus points for referencing several times one of my favorite movies of all time, There Will be Blood, which is loosely based on Oil! by Upton Sinclair. Man, just watching that trailer makes me want to watch it again immediately! Daniel Day-Lewis is simply the best.
Oil #1: We Buy Oil, Aug 10, 19 min Learn: that the U.S. is now actually the largest producer of petroleum in the world, and what it looks like to try to buy 100 barrels of your own oil. Quote: "And even though oil companies are some of the biggest businesses in the world, it is really hard to get inside of them. The whole industry is sort of veiled in mystery. Here at Planet Money, we thought the best way to see into the business of oil would be to get into the business of oil." Oil #2: The Price of Oil, Aug 12, 23 min Learn: about all of the variables that go into setting the price of oil and how all the individual decisions of well operators in the U.S. are largely driving it. Quote: “Here is what sets the price of oil. Take all the oil people are buying today. Start at that end of the spectrum where oil is cheapest to produce and work your way up until you've satisfied all that demand. The more demand there is, the further up the price spectrum you're going to go. And finally, you get to that last barrel you need - the most expensive one someone is willing to buy. That barrel is the one that is setting the global price for oil.” Oil #3: How Fracking Changed the World, Aug 17, 27 min Learn: the interesting story of how fracking was invented by a man named Nick Steinsberger and for better or worse, how he accidentally changed the entire economic landscape of the world energy business. Quote 1: “It was a consensus that we were running out of oil and gas in this country, and we were going to be dependent on nations that we really didn't want to depend on for the future. And to think that, in a short number of years, we not only have this surplus and glut, we're actually exporting oil and gas from this country.” Quote 2: "[...} individual drill sites are not the real environmental problem. The real problem is what fracking has done to the price of oil. If you're an environmentalist, you want oil to be expensive to push us into alternative fuels. When gas is cheap, people drive more. People buy more SUVs. There's no economic incentive to change.” Oil #4: How Oil Got Into Everything, Aug 19, 25 min Learn: how refineries work, how chemist Leo Baekeland invented plastic in 1907, and how scientists are trying everything from using peppermint to genetically engineered E. Coli to try to get us away from this world-wide dependence on oil based plastics. Quote: “Leo had cracked this big chemical mystery using waste from fossil fuels, and other chemists [tinkered]. It's like we add this molecule here and we get Ziploc bags. We add this molecule and we get Styrofoam. You add a different molecule, you get your kids' Legos. And today, it's infinite.” Oil #5: Imagine a World Without Oil, Aug 24, 27 min Learn: how pipelines are like trains, how oil is kind of a miracle, that lunar power could have been a thing, and speculation on how advanced we would be without access to oil. Quote 1: “You don't even think about it. It just sits there. It's the most boring thing in the world. And every time we tried to tell people look at the miracle, really a miracle that just happened, that some plankton laid down their lives millions of years ago and just waited in the ground for Planet Money to come along and pull it out, transforming it in just a couple of days from this prehistoric stew, really, in Kansas to driving a car in Iowa. It is a miracle.” Quote 2: “Wind power does get you tens of terawatts. You could power all of modern civilization on wind power. But the question is, could you build modern wind turbines without the kind of fossil-fueled economy to get you started?” Extra recs: I finally caught up with Reply All, and if you haven't checked out the four part mini-series called "On The Inside", it's really great (ep 64-67). If you liked Netflix's "Making a Murderer", you'll love it. I'm currently binging on law related podcasts because of this so send any recommendations my way!
TED-ED What is the biggest single-cell organism? - Murry Gans, Aug 18, 4 min Learn: why cell growth is limited by a balance between volume and surface area strength. Volume increases faster than surface area, which is also why M & M's are terrible when they are mini (too much candy coating) and perfect when they are larger (more of the inside goodness). Quote: “Caulerpa taxifolia, a green algae that can reach 30 cm long, is believed to be the largest single-cell organisms in the world, thanks to its unique biological hacks.”
Vlogbrothers Apples! CGP Grey Style, Oct 26, 2012, 4 min Learn: everything you've ever wanted to know about apples, done by Hank Green in the style of a CGP Grey video. Quote: “From that one tree came, in effect, every Mcintosh Apple ever eaten. The Mcintosh Apple was so successful that in the end it inspired the naming the Apple Macintosh.” Extra: One of my favorite Planet Money episodes of all time is Episode 627: The Miracle Apple. It's so interesting and made me an instant fan of Honeycrisp apples after immediately going out and grabbing some. Crash Course Role-Playing Games: Crash Course Games #18, Aug 19, 10 min Learn: what the deal with Dungeons and Dragons is and why the kids in Stranger Things would be so obsessed with it. Quote: “RPG’s incorporate every world setting imaginable. You could be a Knight in a medieval world filled with magic and hand to hand combat, an energized hacker in the future, or even a werewolf in Victorian London. The opportunity for a player to assume an alternate persona and explore fantastic worlds is the primary appeal of a role playing game.”
ARTICLES AND OTHER LINKS
I'll post just one link because it's super long. If you loved the oil series from Planet Money, you'll love this post from one of my favorite blogs, Wait But Why. It's part of a longer series on Tesla (the car company, not the scientist), but the detour on energy and fuel sources is fantastic.
Wait But Why The Story of Energy (Part 1 of "How Tesla Will Change the World") Learn: what energy actually is and how it works on our planet, with great little drawings. Quote: "That’s how food is invented—plants know how to take the sun’s joules and turn them into food. At that point, all hell breaks loose as everyone starts murdering everyone else so they can steal their joules. We use “the food chain” as a cute euphemism for this murder/theft cycle, and we use the word “eating” to refer to “stealing someone else’s joules and also murdering them too.” That's all for this week! Connect with me @erikthejones on twitter and if you've learned anything interesting, please forward this link to any curious natured friends or family so they can subscribe. Many thanks!