LabOratory Podcast

Lab Entry #1: Dr. Richard Hill

January 18, 2020 Laboratory Podcast / Richard Hill Season 1 Episode 1
LabOratory Podcast
Lab Entry #1: Dr. Richard Hill
Chapters
00:00:00
LabOratory Podcast Intro
00:00:40
Welcome Introduction
00:00:56
Sam and Rene Dive into the Podcast and Introduce Richard Hill
00:05:44
Richard Hill on How He Became a Scientist
00:10:24
How The Launch of Sputnik Affected the Science World
00:12:56
Richard Hill on Studying Oxygen Consumption in Animals
00:19:22
Richard Hill on Studying Dimethyl Sulfide and Coral Reefs
00:30:05
Richard Hill on Science Philosophy, Peter Medawar, and C.P. Snow
00:33:28
Richard Hill on The Advancement of Technology
00:36:23
Richard Hill on How To Communicate Science Effectively
00:38:17
Richard Hill on Science Journal Accessibility and Teaching Science
00:41:53
Richard Hill's Final Thoughts
00:42:15
Sam and Rene's Recap on Richard Hill
00:44:19
Sam and Rene Outtro
LabOratory Podcast
Lab Entry #1: Dr. Richard Hill
Jan 18, 2020 Season 1 Episode 1
Laboratory Podcast / Richard Hill

The very first Lab(Oratory) Podcast Episode!

In this episode we interview Richard Hill, a Guest Investigator at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and a Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University whose research focused on the biochemistry of tridacnid clams and reef corals. We talk about how he came to be a scientist, the aftermath of Sputnik, where in the world his research on coral reefs has taken him,the biology of giant clams, and his thoughts on how to communicate scientific research to non scientists.


Support the show (http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/laboratory-podcast/)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The very first Lab(Oratory) Podcast Episode!

In this episode we interview Richard Hill, a Guest Investigator at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and a Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University whose research focused on the biochemistry of tridacnid clams and reef corals. We talk about how he came to be a scientist, the aftermath of Sputnik, where in the world his research on coral reefs has taken him,the biology of giant clams, and his thoughts on how to communicate scientific research to non scientists.


Support the show (http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/laboratory-podcast/)

Rene:   0:00
Hi. I'm Rene.  

Sam :   0:01
Hi, I'm Sam, and this is laboratory podcast.  

Sam :   0:40
Welcome to LabOratory Podcast.  

Rene:   0:42
Exploring the human side of Science .

Sam :   0:44
With recorded interviews of emeritus and retired scientists on the evolution  

Rene:   0:49
And history of scientific research throughout their careers.  

Sam :   0:56
Hi Rene, how's it going?  

Rene:   0:57
It's going well. I'm very excited to start diving into these interviews that we've collected over the last few weeks.  

Sam :   1:03
Yes, I'm excited to share with everyone the information we've learned about different people and all the interviews that we've done so far, I've definitely learned a lot. So this first podcast is where we interview Richard Hill. He was one of our very first interviewees, learned a lot from him... How did we find Richard?  

Rene:   1:22
Funny story. I am a research assistant at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. And I work in two different labs there. So, while I was away doing some field work for one of the labs, I heard that there was a guest investigator in the other lab I was working in. So When I came back, I decided that he might be a good interviewing for the podcast. He would be around for another week or so. Hey was visiting from somewhere else, and so I decided to introduce myself to him. So I walked up to his office. I knocked on his door and I said something along the lines off. Hi, I'm Rene. I'm a scientist in your lap. You haven't met me yet. Do you want to be on my podcast? So He laughed at me and he's like, Sure, And we had some really good conversations with him in that moment and as excited to continue it in this interview.  

Sam :   2:22
Yeah, he was a really great first interviewee. I definitely learned a lot from him and his conversations, including that he was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is where I was born. He attended public high school there, and after that went to the University of Delaware for his undergrad degree. He mentions that it only had 5000 students at the time, even though it was a state university. After that, he went to the University of Michigan for his graduate degree, and then he mentioned that he didn't do a post op. What does that mean?  

Rene:   2:49
So a postdoctoral position is often what you do once you finish your PhD. You have your doctorate it and it's the time where you explore more independent research. You might go to a different university institution or just a different lab, and you will conduct research that ease cohesive sometimes with the research you did in your PhD or slightly different to expand your skill set, and it allows you to grow as an independent researcher before applying to assistant scientist and professorship positions. However, this wasn't his goal. He wanted to be a teacher, a teacher scholar, in his words, and to do that he became a professor about 30 years ago were at Michigan. So he was a professor of zoology and that is now the Department of Integrative Biology. And as a professor, he taught courses such as ecological physiology. He taught environmental physiology, global change biology as well as marine biology, where he was also able to take undergraduate students toe oceanographic research institutions for about three weeks at a time to do hands on field work, which is great for undergrads to get their hands went doing some lab work and field experience during that entire time. He also held a gust investigator position here at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he would come here for the last 30 or so summers toe work with some researchers here and take a break from Michigan in the summer.  

Sam :   4:36
So this is another term that's new to me. What is a guest investigator?  

Rene:   4:40
So as a scientist you often have your home institution, for him is at Michigan, and you can also have a guest investigator position where if you have collaborators in another institution or university, you are able to go visit them and whether it for a week or three weeks or a year. You can work at that institution, and you have access to all that it has to offer, and you are able to do some closer work with your co workers and get some experience in other labs while getting a break from your home institution as well. We often get a lot of best investigators here at WHOI over the summer because folks want to come visit would soul for the summer.  

Sam :   5:28
Who can blame them It's beautiful here on Cape Cod.

Rene:   5:31
I would do the same.  

Sam :   5:32
So here's a little bit of Richard, in his own words, explaining more about his life and his life's work.

Richard Hill:   5:44
Well, I'm I'm a child scientist. It is something that I that I I think this was much more common back then. So this is the fifties and sixties when I was growing when I was coming of age, as we say And um uh, you know, simple things like that you could fix your own car. So it was just really common to be honest about it, especially with boys to tear things apart and put them back together. And to learn as much as a good about how you fix a car and actually do it when we were teenagers and usually it worked, you know? And so there were all these outlets and I always kind of like the logical trying to understand things for reasons that I still don't fully understand, you know, in an endogenous, um to me. So then when I started university, I was thought, See, the thing is, my mother was a practicing artist, so I was raised with that. I've always loved the arts. Um, and I well, mostly painting and sculpture. You know, she was a painter, and now one of my greatest interest actually use the history of art, of all things. Yeah. So I've I've always had that interest. You know, I've never you do meet people in science that have nothing to do with the rest. Whether where the rest is everything, you know. And, uh, I've never been that So then when I went to university, I was pretty, pretty wide in my interests. And I actually got intensely interested in mathematics. And, um, when I had to decide on graduate school, basically, I had a couple tough choices, and one of the dichotomies was whether to go into biology or math. Yeah, that's the difference for you. Well, biology is, of course, it's it's much more. Well, the thing about biology that I used to tell tell students, but then usually a freshman, for example, or a sophomore isn't really quite ready to understand what you're saying. But biology depends so much on history. It's all contingent. You know, the name of the anatomy and the functional properties of today's organisms because they've evolved and all the organisms prior had t be successful. Um S O they had evolved their ways of staying alive, their adaptations and so forth. And because we're descended from them, we have imprints of all that. So you can't understand anything in biology without history. And that's one of the reasons biology is so incredibly diverse. And and I explained usual point where I would bring this up with the students. You know, when you start biology, you can easily feel that all you're doing is memorizing an infinite list of names of body parts of chemical compound. Well, let's stick with biology and body parts of functional properties of on and on and on and on and on. And all the names are different for crustaceans than they are for mammal. See, you've got two lists right there, and then you multiply it by an M unease and produce Elon's and on and on. And the reason for that is it's so historical. It's S O contingent, whereas mathematics is at least the level I ever approached it, which was kind of at the level of differential equations is where I stopped. It's much more pure and abstract it exists unto itself without, I'm sure some mathematicians would be grinding their teeth at me right now, but at least at the level I think most of this might ever understand mathematics. It's not contingent. There really are truths and things which are good, so you don't have nearly the amount definitely nowhere near the amount of just raw memorization to develop a vocabulary to talk about math,

Sam :   10:24
He went on to explain how, no matter what scientific field you pursued in that time, there were a plethora of positions open to new scientists, fueled by recent discoveries and new happenings, the most influential of which was Sputnik.

Richard Hill:   10:38
It's a fascinating thing about our cultural history, which is rapidly being forgotten but the massive impact of the launch of Sputnik head. So it was 1957 and, you know, and post World War Two. And as little children we all knew that there are a lot of things going on in the world, and it the U. S. Was competing. Um, and then I remember I was out on a Boy Scout hike. I think it was a Saturday morning or something like that. We were out camping and we'd gone out for a walk along the highway, actually, which was unusual. But one of this leaders had seen a newspaper, and the headline was that the Russians had just put a satellite in orbit and this shocked it's impossible to portray honestly. It shocked the nation that the Russians could be ahead of us because there have been a lot of talk. If you read just magazines in new paint newspapers, you knew that people might be going into space and you knew that that would be, you know, from an adult using adult words that would have been a strategically important thing from a conflict and military point of view as well as others, and the notion for the American people of the time that the Russians could have that leg up on us. So then what happened was that over the ensuing 5 to 10 years, the money gates were just flung open the government. It was unbelievable. I mean, they couldn't give the money away. I mean, my my office, made in graduate school, was working on the ecology of desert lizards and you know where he got his money from the National Institutes of Health, a massive brand. And that kind of says it all. And that was not unusual. There was so much money they, you know, they compared to today. So anyway, it was It wasn't easy, but it was much easier to find a faculty job or that stuff. And so we were much freer

Rene:   12:56
With this newfound freedom. He found himself studying the oxygen consumption in a wide variety of animals. Giant clams, the baby mice  

Sam :   13:03
Hold up. I didn't really know what he was talking about when he explained that he was studying oxygen levels in these animals. So I asked him to expand a little bit further on what exactly it was that he was studying. And here's what he had to say.

Richard Hill:   13:17
We used oxygen to get energy out of our food molecules. So? So all the things we, I'll just gloss over details, this is pretty much a completely true statement. All the things we do, like contract our muscles talk, uh, digest make antibodies. Um, all these things take energy. And so then is everybody kind of into it. Soon we hear about it. People talk about energy. All the time in the news. So then we get the energy out of our foods. But to do that we have to carry out chemical reactions in ourselves, and our oxygen is essential for most of them. So then we need oxygen. And and the fascinating thing about oxygen is that it sums, in a way, all the things we're doing with energy. So the things that I might do with energy, like I'm moving my arms, I'm talking, I'm digesting. I'm undoubtedly many tissues in my body or repairing damage. It's occurred over the last 24 hours. Um, well, you know, you think about all the things we're doing with energy. There's a lot of them, but because they all need oxygen, the oxygen consumption is kind of a neat summation. All the ways were being active inward to stay alive and succeed ecologically so. So it's an intensely interesting number. And so, for example, clams use oxygen for every unit of their body weight. For every ounce of clammed issue, they use oxygen somewhere around 1/10 as fast a CZ. We do, you know, as a mammal of the same size, but let's say the clan so there's a different intensity of life there. Lambs need less food there, metabolizing less food. They need less oxygen. We need a lot more, and you can tell that from the oxygen consumption. When a person runs, you can readily. This is a big effect. It's really easy to measure. You put somebody on a treadmill. The rate that they use. Oxygen goes up, the faster they run because they're moving, they're doing more work. They need more energy per unit time to do that so they may need more oxygen. I mean, people were measuring the oxygen consumption of single cells. In the thirties and forties, you were using a method called Manama Tree. I guess they were measuring sets of cells, to tell you the truth, so they would. They would take a little tiny glass vessel and they would put in it. Ah, a bunch of cells. But they would have a very good idea. How many you know whether they've put 1000 or 10,000 cells and then as the sees as the cells. There's any organism uses oxygen. They're actually removing the oxygen from the air that's next to them, so that tends to thin the air and lower the pressure, and that's what they would do is they would put these cells a number of cells. They counted into a glass vessel, and then they would connect it just to a column of water or mercury is something you could just make yourself. And as as the cells used oxygen created like a vacuum in the in the glass vessel, the mercury or water moved, and then you could measure how much it moved and you could calibrate all that, and you could then calculate how much oxygen each cell was using. People were doing you. An interesting thing about that and you think about it is you can make the whole thing yourself. So people that became interested in this they could put it all together. But by pulling glass tubes to make them smaller and all kinds of wizardry, we measured oxygen consumption. An undergraduate lab when I was an undergraduate, it's nineteen sixties. My guess is people have been measuring it for maybe nineteen -thirtyish forward. Something like that, Um, but there's just been a steady advance of technology. I think the instruments we were using back in my grand my graduate work had moving parts, and then people came up with a solid state oxygen analyzer, which was still a fairly sizable instrument. And now we have Op Trude. So these air little tiny devices where they have fluorescent materials in them and you send a beam of light along a fiber optic connection, which, and when the light hits the fluorescent material, it fluoresce is and the amount of fluorescence depends on how much oxygen is present and and and so you can make these things, which are you can make them yourself. Actually, which is an amazing thing, which, um, you know, it's It's like a wire, like a simple, smaller even than a lamp wire. And and and then you can measure oxygen consumption. So now you can measure one of my graduate students. Use this to measure the oxygen levels in sea turtle nests that he got interested in whether the sea turtles bury their eggs. What about 1/2 a meter about heavy are deep and in the sand. And so then the question comes up with Mama. Are they getting enough oxygen down? Are they vulnerable? Thio. You know, getting too little oxygen being buried so deep. And so he, uh, with these op tro DS, it's again. It's the size of a lamp where smaller. So he figured out a way to get that wire down into sea turtle, the cavities of sea turtle nests, and then he could measure the oxygen level. There

Rene:   19:22
he worked on many questions beyond oxygen consumption, one of which was looking at dimethyl sulfide and coral reefs. Now, to better understand his description of this work, let's break down the structure of coral reefs. Okay, corals have a limestone skeleton that forms the base of the reef. The skeleton is covered with many polyps, which are like tiny sea and enemies. These structures connect to one another, creating a polyp colony of many polyps that act as a single organism. So we a coral reef is just kind of a structure connected with all these enemies all together creating a colony. Sure. Yeah. Each of these polyps have many Zo Zambelli. Bless you. Thanks. Which are tiny algae living inside their tissues, which provide the bright color you're used to seeing on the coral? Oh, the corals. Bright colors coming from the algae. Yes, this is in belly. Bless you. The coral on the algae have a symbiotic relationship mutually beneficial, mutually beneficial. The coral provides the algae with a protected environment and chemical compounds they need for photosynthesis. That kind of like a house kind of like a house. The algae produces oxygen from photosynthesis as well as other natural compounds, including dimethyl sulfide, which is the most abundant biological sulfur compound admitted to the atmosphere. And it is what Richard studied. Andy Richards explains further about his studies on dimethyl sulfide and all the funding exotic places these studies have taken him around the world. All the reef building. Coral in warm water, the animal the coral animal has inside it algal cells. So they So they are all the reef warm water reef building, coral. They're all symbiotic between an animal and and, uh, produce synthesizing. You know, it loosely put a plant, um, and they're photosynthetic and so forth. And because dimethyl sulfide is made by allergy, most of the algae or free living ones, it seemed logical that said it would be made by the allergy in the corals and we were the ones that established that that's true. Published the first paper on it. Um, so that led me to get much more interested in corals that I'd ever been. First. It was just this abstraction. Oh, wouldn't that be clever to show this? And yet, once corals have a beguiling way of catching people's imagination. All the years I taught marine biology, I it was just one of the things that boggled my mind was how many undergraduates? Because he is an undergraduate course. They would hear this that they never heard before about this symbiosis, and they were hooked. That was became one of the things that they were the most intrigued by. But anyway, so that happened to me in a way, and I got more and more interested. And then I heard that giant clams, which you live in brief systems in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. These are the clams. The one species can get to be a yard long. There's only a dozen or so species, and most of them are not that huge. But they're all big, and I found that they also arson, but they also have an algal symbiont algal symbionts, Um and and I forget the question. I think this is relevant to it. So then I found myself working. Oh, yeah, back too. So then giant clams live in really exotic place because they're only in the Western Pacific and the Indian oceans and into the Red Sea. They don't They're not in the Atlantic, and they're not in cold water.  Ultimately, I ended up making several trips to Micronesia and to Okinawa. These were places that I could work on giant clams. Just recently, I'm writing a paper on way. Oh, so this is in the islands just north of Venezuela and put odorant ce in the water that we were positive would affect fish behavior. And one of these odorous there's actually this is the compound that's related to dymethal. So fight, I'll just say that's have really long name. Dymethal.  Appropriately. That's one reason the public doesn't like science. If they sitting, talking like you're having a beer and you talked for five minutes and then they use a Dimethyl phthalate does this. Well, that's the end of the conversation. But anyway, there's a compound that's related to dimethyl sulfide that people had shown that fish respond to in the Caribbean. But when we repeated it in a in A, we didn't repeat the same experiment because we felt there were flaws in the way that was done. But when we again exposed Caribbean fish, we didn't get any response. And that's a That's just an open ended story. There again, I was positive. Yeah, that we would get the response. You know, you become in your own mind, you become convinced that your hypothesis is rape of Is it worth the effort to redesign? Get back to the Caribbean? All of that? Because that's, of course, one of the things anybody, again in an age of money and there were money's needed. When things don't work out as you expected, you there's your time. There's your money. There's all the delays of trying to get grants, support and was something didn't work out like you thought you had to decide. Well, um, I gonna make all those investments to try again. You know, the beauty of the baby mice and the flower in the is didn't take Grant money to do any of that. Because if you're honest and you suppose you suppose that kind of work were you you need grant money for no other reason than travel, right? I mean, if I was to go back to cure, so I would have to get travel money for three or four people because you're doing all this scuba, and, um and you need several observers to be able to get your data you can't do. This is one person. You just can't get enough time in underwater. And then you're going to pay for all the scuba hotels, food on and on and on, right? So you're gonna have to get money from somewhere. And if you're being honest, you're gonna have to admit you've already tried this idea once. And you didn't get the result that you're now applying for money too potentially get. And that's the kiss of death because most reviewers going going back to reviewers, are you just gonna rip you to shreds? It was purely accidental that I did my first measurements on giant clams. I was kind of lead there because I was looking at dimethyl. So Fight and Carl's and then I found at the clams have the algae that live with them like the curls do. So there's that analogy. The only reason I ever looked in clams to begin with was to find out if they were function the same way as Karl's. And and then I in certain ways I finished out my entire career working on giant clams because I weren't published several papers on them and things like that. Yeah, there was a case once that I gave a talk and I were out, began drinking beer afterwards, going to the restaurant with this group of people that we're going to spend the evening talking. And there is this fellow from Saudi Arabia. And you know, there are some giant clams in the Red Sea, and he told me that I had given a talk on dimethyl sulfide dimethyl sulfide. It's very similar chemically, the hydrogen sulfide, and most people find the taste and odor of of dimethyl sulfide to be kind of obnoxious. And this guy from Saudi Arabia that was my my talk was on. So this guy from Saudi Arabia, he was a saint and may well, you know, when we got these giant clams, and we put them in the refrigerator. If we leave them there for a few days, they really stink. And he said, I wonder if that could be your gas And I have no idea why he suggested this. You know, I had given a talk on viruses, I think, and the release of dimethyl sulfide from Marine algal sources, and he's telling me that when he gets these giant and I had not worked on Giant clammed at all, he's telling me these giant clams without you, almost nothing about. If you get them to eat him and you put him in your refrigerator, they stink. And he says, Maybe it's your gas and I'm thinking that really was crazy But you know, he was right because I didn't forget. What he said on became more plausible as time went by. And I ve later demonstrated that after giant clams die, there's a lot of production of dimethyl, so fight in their tissues, and that's because they have the allergy, the allergy build up the ah precursor that doesn't have any taste or or smell. But then when the clams die, um, now the precursor turns to dimethyl sulfide, which stinks to mostly. I actually like the smell of dimethyl sulfide, but so he was right. This is something that's a legend among people who work on dimethyl sulfide, where I don't think anyone has ever done the hard knock science to find out how much it is the gas, but a Japanese guy forgetting one of the earliest people that worked on di Memphis. Oh, so if I called it the see smell and people often quoting certainly sometimes because see, see the allergy that make the allergy and put it this way, they're allergy that live in lakes and ponds and rivers, the freshwater. Most of them don't make dimethyl sulfide name. So there is a state, this disjunction where, even though dimethyl so far again, it's very related, like hydrogen sulfide to hydrogen eso a little goes a long way in terms of smell. You don't need much. It's like if you have a rotten egg, it doesn't have to be all that rotten before you smell this really obnoxious odor.

Rene:   30:05
Along with pursuing his research, Richard was always an avid reader of science philosophers, especially those who spoke on the ways in which we formulate research questions and design experiments to broaden scientific thought. One such philosopher that has stuck with him is Peter Medawar.

Richard Hill:   30:21
Medawar, it's Peter Medawar who won the Nobel Prize in developmental biology. So in his day he was incredibly famous, not only because he was a Nobel Laureate, but because he was writing books on science sometime this summer was one of the anniversaries of the Two Cultures book, and this was a book that C. P. Snow wrote, If I remember correctly, maybe in the fifties or sixties, where he talked about how among intelligent people, there's a science culture and there's a humanistic culture and it was all about how effectively they communicate with each other and one of the big things in the book. I haven't read it for 30 40 years, but I remember vividly that one of the points he was emphasizing it. There's a kind of a hiatus between these and they don't communicate very much. And how, why and so anyway, meta war to come back to him. Um, he, um, was doing a lot of rating is pretty. You had to be had you had to have some education to read his writing. He was not watering it down at all. But he was trying to do a lot of writing, even though he was a Nobel laureate in biology. And he got the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine. Um, for to address the two cultures, in other words, to talk about science in relation to the larger culture and particularly in regulation of humanity. So try to figure out ways to bridge coming back to your question. So one of the points he made vividly in a number of his books and articles waas that technology should be completely secondary, and he really castigated. He really criticize scientists who discover a technology and then spend the rest of their lives using it. And he criticized them for choosing their questions to match the machines rather than, as he put it, because he does does this extremely articulately, that we should pick the questions first and then and then turn and then see what technologies air there follow their technology, right? And of course, for them, the the demise of a technology is an earth shaking. It's hard to even think of the right adjective event. But then there's other people who are like metal war. At least like he said, we ought to be where we really ought to be. Our focus should be on new questions where where is knowledge going? And then we should use the technologies, and they're kind of a more cafeteria style. You use what you need, don't not be. And, for them technological changes maybe almost irrelevant.

Rene:   33:28
While there are some technological advancements that may be irrelevant for certain questions to be answered, they're definitely certain ones that Richard had come across in his career that knocked his socks off.  

Sam :   33:40
Here are three of his most memorable tech moments.

Richard Hill:   33:44
One day I was at work and I had a close friend of the time. We would go out and have beers together and so forth, and I'd been in a meeting where if you can believe this, nobody told us that there was a machine where you could type out a document and then you go back in and change words in it without having to use white correction tape. And I remember this vividly because we were going to the bar that day, so a few hours later, I met up with Tom, and I just remember do you know? But these these technologists who have this thing and we talked I was the first biologist at the University of Michigan to get involved with computers. And then, you know, the computers, we only saw them at a distance. They would be behind a window, and they would be, what the size of 23 minivans. And you would put your data on punch cards and you would take them in, and then you would wait till the next morning or whatever, and you'd find out that your output had appeared. And then you run over and you discover that you forgot to put a dot in the first line so you'd waited for the last few hours and you didn't have any output. So then you do it again and do it again. And to get to the computer yet, Oh, University of Michigan had to walk 10 minutes each way. Um, and of course, we all know today Now people wander around with computers with vastly more computing power in their hands, their smartphones. I was going to give a seminar, give a talk at another university. This was probably 20 years ago, almost of the date. So I went down, gave the talk, and somebody took me in there teaching lab and showed me a sequencing machine. I mean, honestly, my jaw didn't drop figuratively. That's exactly what happened. I the wrath was just taking. I had no idea that undergraduate students could be. This is this is literally the Let's see Oh my God. Undergraduate students, air sequencing DNA. And then, honestly, all I could think about was the evil that could be done with that by its become that routine by people who wish evil on the world. And I was driving myself. I remember thinking about it as I drove home.

Sam :   36:23
Most people can easily recognize changes made in the scientific community when they can see it on a day to day basis for things such as technology and computers. It's pretty easy to see the advancements and to wrap your mind around it. But for most non scientists, it's harder to imagine the changes that are more ephemeral. So when we asked Richard about what he thinks the best way is to reach the broader public on important scientific questions such as CO2 and Climate Change. This is what he had to say.

Richard Hill:   36:51
If I had somebody come to me and say, Explain what? Why is co two such a worry or methane? And then you think, Well, you see it, you have to decide Well, how valid Oven answered. Oh, I want to provide great and And if you're gonna provide a real answer, something that will stand up to scrutiny. So if you're talking to a great person, they're gonna mull it over. And when they do that, they'll actually not feel they were misled. There will actually be able to move through the ideas because they're valid there. There's just no way to do that without an hour of semi heavy lifting. Because you have to start with the electromagnetic spectrum and you have to get into the point that well, a lot objects put out electromagnetic energy. But the spectrum of that energy depends on the surface temperature of the objects, not the deep temperature, the surface temperature. There's no other place to start, and we don't know how to make that interesting to people who aren't scientists. I think it's a simple is that we have no idea. I've tried several times. I think your audience almost has to think about it that no you.

Rene:   38:17
In an ideal world, people will be able to ask questions, get answers and continue to dive into, said answers on their own accord. However, Richard recognizes that this is becoming more difficult as time goes on and the accessibility to primary literature is changing.

Richard Hill:   38:34
Up until about 20 years ago, you could be a hobo, and you could read the scientific journals very accessible. Yeah, most libraries, You mean you? Obviously you had to have our library card to take anything out. But most university in public libraries, you could walk in and out no matter who you were. And then all the journals were sitting on shelves like these in this room, this room has a bunch of bookshelves, and you could sit there all day and read them. And that's vanishing before our eyes. Because as everything goes digital, as soon as it's digital and it's not sitting on a shelf like that now, people you know there's a certain type of person who right away things well, we can make money off it now and this is really tragic is their tragic changes because it means that it means you almost have to already. Well, you have to be a student or a professional to even be able to read the world's scientific literature, Maur and more and more it's not. We're not in an absolute point on that yet, but we're heading there and most of the gym. You know, there's been a great growth in the number of journals because of the increase in the amount of science being done in the number of people publishing in science. It's all in Internet, Internet, um, phenomenon. But so there. So as the numbers of journals have expanded, most of the new ones are for pay again. Going back to that in the old model Anybody? It could be a 10 year old whose blossoming interest in science or any other field I don't know what's happening in the non science journals. I assume it's somewhat similar, but, you know, it could be a 10 year old. It could be an 85 year old trying to keep their brain alive by being curious and all. It could be, Ah, hobo, somebody who's just kind of not part of the general culture. Anybody could go into hundreds of libraries and find the world's literature and sit there all day and read it and come back the next day. Definitely. It's to me, blindingly obvious. What we have to do to the degree we see ourselves is preparing teachers, scholars. We need to during their science education. We need to deliberately help them our work with them. So they have more to say than technical points, you know. So they're studying as they're going through their graduate educations, not just the technology, so that they because soon's will get that from Google. You know, the teachers have to have more to say than that, you know, more to say than a power point. It lists all the facts and that involves. You know, the philosophy of science issues like the core issue here is how do we communicate this to the general society? There may not be answers, but there ought to be well informed conversations.

Rene:   41:52
Upon concluding our discussion with Richard, he left us with one final thought.

Richard Hill:   41:57
I do think people should be learning about as much as they can as broadly as they can.

Sam :   42:06
What a great final statement truly resonating with the spirit of this podcast.

Rene:   42:11
I agree, is an awesome first interview to have as well. Was there anything in particular that you found fascinating or something new that you learned that you really enjoyed today?  

Sam :   42:20
Well, I really liked his stories about working with the giant clams and on the coral reefs. That was fascinating. I had never heard anything about this study of oxygen or how they used to do it in the 1920's. So that was all new and pretty revelatory to me. I also enjoyed his discussion of the science philosophers. Having been a little bit into philosophy myself, I'm really looking forward to Medawar and reading more about his work.  

Rene:   42:46
Yeah, it was really nice to learn about the research he did on the coral reefs and the giant clams. The two things that stood out to me the most where the effects that Sputnik had on the scientific community and the floodgates of money that it opened just trying to wrap my head around the amount of discoveries and experiments that happened due to that money is a wild concept. There's also really nice to hear him discuss the inaccessibility of primary litter, turn al it ease and how it's getting harder and harder to be able to read these papers that not only are vital for people's jobs as researchers, but also should be accessible for others to read if they wanted to learn more about certain topics. So that was really nice to hear him discuss those ideas.  

Sam :   43:40
Do you think that there's gonna be another Sputnik in our lifetime? That was pretty revolutionary.  

Rene:   43:48
I think that there will be a revolutionary idea or a concept or invention similar to Sputnik. But whether it opens a floodgate of money to the research is a very different question.  

Sam :   44:00
I hope so.  

Rene:   44:01
Me too. I would like that research money.  

Rene:   44:05
Well, thank you again to Richard Hill for being our first interviewee and letting me knock on his door to randomly and come join us on this adventure. We're going on.  

Sam :   44:14
Yes. Thank you, Richard. You are amazing. I really appreciate you spending your time with us.  

Sam :   44:19
Thanks for joining us y'all, we're a new podcast, so please support us. You can find us online at laboratory dash podcast dot com.  

Rene:   44:28
You can follow us on Instagram @laboratorypodcast.  

Sam :   44:32
Please feel free to reach out and email us at [email protected]  

Rene:   44:37
And you can always listen to our latest episodes wherever you stream your podcast.  

Sam :   44:42
Stay tuned.  

Rene:   44:43
This has been laboratory podcast on This was our latest lab notebook entry.

Sam :   44:48
Thanks for listening.

LabOratory Podcast Intro
Welcome Introduction
Sam and Rene Dive into the Podcast and Introduce Richard Hill
Richard Hill on How He Became a Scientist
How The Launch of Sputnik Affected the Science World
Richard Hill on Studying Oxygen Consumption in Animals
Richard Hill on Studying Dimethyl Sulfide and Coral Reefs
Richard Hill on Science Philosophy, Peter Medawar, and C.P. Snow
Richard Hill on The Advancement of Technology
Richard Hill on How To Communicate Science Effectively
Richard Hill on Science Journal Accessibility and Teaching Science
Richard Hill's Final Thoughts
Sam and Rene's Recap on Richard Hill
Sam and Rene Outtro