In the first half, science journalist Kathleen McAuliffe revealed how parasites and microscopic creatures manipulate the brain chemistry of humans and animals, altering their behavior, and psychology. Around 20% of Americans are infected by toxoplasma-- a one-celled parasite that spreads from rodents to cats to humans. People are sometimes exposed to it when cleaning the cat litter box (washing hands afterward generally prevents infection). While most people who have the parasite remain unaffected, some do undergo various changes, she reported. In fact, a Czech biologist named Jaroslav Flegr became convinced the parasite was controlling his mind, which led him to launch a series of human studies that showed infected people are more likely to get in car crashes, attempt suicide, and suffer from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
There's also a dog parasite called toxocara, a roundworm that sometimes causes problems for humans if infected. McAuliffe detailed how the rabies virus can lead to bizarre behavior in humans bitten by rabid animals, including fear of water, and hypersexualization. Interestingly, she noted that one emotion keeps people safe from parasites-- disgust. Humans have a natural revulsion to rotting foods, and gross or stinky things that might physically sicken us if we came into direct contact with them.
In the latter half, space historian Robert Zimmerman discussed the latest in space technology and developments. We are on the verge of a renaissance in space that is akin to the computer revolution, he enthused, with a number of companies developing new and cheaper ways to put rockets into orbit. SpaceX, he noted, currently rules the launch industry, with more launches than any other company or nation, so far this year. One company called ARCA, he reported, is developing an "aerospike engine," with a nozzle that reacts to atmospheric changes during space flight.
Zimmerman was critical of the Outer Space Treaty, which forbids claims of sovereignty on any celestial body, moon or planet. He believes the treaty should be renegotiated to allow nations or concerns to claim territories within a given body, and this would help encourage further space exploration. China, he added, has become a big player in space, and is planning to build a space station in 2020, with a lunar program to follow. He also talked about possible future NASA missions such as a probe to Jupiter's moon Europa, which appears to have an underground ocean, and Titan, Saturn's moon, to explore its methane lakes.
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