We Have Concerns

We Have Concerns

United States

Jeff Cannata and Anthony Carboni talk about the personal philosophical concerns they find lurking inside everyday things. It's fun?


Infinite Improbability Drive  

After months of speculation and leaked documents, NASA's long-awaited EM Drive paper has finally been peer-reviewed and published. And it shows that the 'impossible' propulsion system really does appear to work. Jeff gloats as Anthony considers what this might mean for our prospects of dying in space.

Recycling Cent-er  

A man in Cologne, Germany was recently tried and convicted to ten months in prison for modifying a bottle recycling machine and swindling tens of thousands of euros from the national recycling system. Jeff and Anthony discuss schemes and the human propensity to do way more work than necessary, just to feel like they are cheating the system.

Great American Fake Off  

Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study of 7,804 students from middle school through college. The study is the biggest so far on how teens evaluate information they find online, and it has Anthony and Jeff wondering what the future of "news" will bring.

Never Thaw It Coming  

Ancient viruses and bacteria that have been cryogenically frozen for millennia are waking up, due to global warming. Siberia's permafrost and Greenland's glaciers are melting and thawing, releasing spores that haven't been seen on Earth in millions of years. Can there be a silver lining to this horrifying turn of events? And will Anthony and Jeff discover it, or just melt into their own puddle of anxiety?

Charged Into Battle  

US military scientists have used electrical brain stimulators to enhance mental skills of staff, in research that aims to boost the performance of air crews, drone operators and others in the armed forces’ most demanding roles. The successful tests of the devices pave the way for servicemen and women to be wired up at critical times of duty, so that electrical pulses can be beamed into their brains to improve their effectiveness in high pressure situations. Anthony is very excited about this prospect, but Jeff is worried about what it means for America's soldiers.

A Light Punishment  

Police in southern China are punishing drivers who dazzle other road users with full-beam headlights by making them stare into the lights for a minute. Does the punishment fit the crime? Is it effective? Jeff and Anthony discuss.

Re-poo-able Energy  

According to a report from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, researchers have converted human feces to oil using a process called hydrothermal liquefaction. Hydrothermal liquefaction “mimics the geological conditions the Earth uses to create crude oil, using high pressure and temperature to achieve in minutes something that takes Mother Nature millions of years.” Anthony and Jeff discuss the benefits and costs of turning your poop into the crudest of oils.

Don't Worry, Bee Happy  

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London who study bees suggest that insects have something like emotional states, and that a sweet treat can change the way bumble bees make decisions, producing something akin — although perhaps distantly related — to optimism. Anthony and Jeff digest this info, and try to make sense of an emotional honeybee.


Some info about this episode: 1) It was recorded right after the US Election 2) We didn't intend it to be an entire episode, it just sort of happened. We had concerns, y'know? 3) You don't have to listen to this one. There's a new episode coming day after tomorrow. Feel free to skip this one. 4) We love you.

A Glass Half Foul  

How do you handle nuclear waste that will be radioactive for millions of years, keeping it from harming people and the environment? It isn’t easy, but a researcher has discovered ways to immobilize such waste – the offshoot of decades of nuclear weapons production – in glass and ceramics. Jeff and Anthony discuss the idea of glass harnessing nuclear waste, and what that might mean for the world.

Motivational Freaker  

Basketball players that were grimly reminded of their own inevitable demise before playing took more shots and scored more points in a study published in an upcoming issue of Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. The researchers behind the experiments hypothesize that the pep-talk tactic fits with the established “terror management theory,” which proposes that humans are motivated to seek self-esteem, meaning, and symbolic immortality in order to manage their fear of death. This, of course, is right up Anthony's alley, and he and Jeff discuss how to use this effect practically.

We Didn't Fart the Fire  

A woman in her 30s was undergoing an operation that involved applying a laser to her cervix, when she passed gas that caught fire causing serious injuries to her body. Jeff and Anthony discuss the idea that all of the technology in the word can be subverted by a simple fart.

Yawn of the Dread  

Contagious yawning has been linked to empathy levels in several studies. However, new research in the journal Personality and Individual Differences finds that people with psychopathic traits—especially a lack of empathy—are not as susceptible to catching a case of the yawns. Jeff and Anthony discuss whether not "catching" a yawn makes you a psychopath, and specifically what that means for their own yawning habits.

Cult of Personal IT  

The mass suicide of members of the UFO cult Heaven’s Gate is one of the most bizarre and enduringly fascinating events of the 90s. But nearly 20 years after the strange deaths, part of the cult’s legacy lives on via its perfectly preserved retro website, loyally maintained by two surviving members. Anthony and Jeff discuss the cult, the 90s, and the commitment of these two who were left behind.

Of Mice and Skin  

Scientists in Japan have transformed mouse skin cells into eggs in a dish, and used those eggs to birth fertile pups. The report marks the first creation of eggs entirely outside a mouse. If the process could be made to work for humans, researchers could produce artificial eggs without needing to implant immature cells into ovaries to complete their development. Jeff and Anthony discuss the possibilities of something from nothing, when that something is a living thing.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Pints  

A two-year project by an international team of mathematicians has mapped shortest possible journey to visit 25,000 pubs across the UK, and set a new record for the longest "traveling salesman problem" ever solved. Jeff and Anthony discuss pub crawls, math, and 2 years spent on this kind of thing.

Make the Snake  

A team of researchers led by Axel Visel at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has replaced part of a mouse's DNA—a small sequence known as ZRS— with the equivalent sequence from a snake. That tiny change was enough to “serpentize” the mouse, to stop it from developing any limbs. Jeff and Anthony discuss the ramifications of these gene modifiers, and what it could mean for our future.

Coffee Bean and Key Leaks  

One of the busiest Starbucks in the country is the one located inside the CIA, with a captive caffeine-craving audience of thousands of analysts and agents working on gathering intelligence and launching covert operations around the world. The baristas go through rigorous interviews and background checks and need to be escorted by agency “minders” to leave their work area. There are no frequent-customer award cards, because officials fear the data stored on the cards could be mined by marketers and fall into the wrong hands, outing secret agents. Anthony and Jeff discuss normal jobs jammed inside extraordinary locations.

Jurassic Bark  

Though we have spent hundreds of years imagining dinosaurs as reptilian roarers, our understanding of what dinos may have actually looked and sounded like has evolved. A new study published in Nature reveals that dinosaurs may have been far less aggressive, vocally speaking, eschewing gigantic roars for a much more subtle coo or a duck’s quack. Jeff and Anthony discuss all of the misinformation about dinosaurs, and how quacking would change their cultural appeal.

Bonobo Knows  

An international study found that chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans seem to have the ability to see the world from someone else's point of view, even when they know that point of view is dead wrong — a trait that once was considered uniquely human It's called theory of mind, or the ability to know that others have different beliefs and perspectives. Jeff and Anthony talk about animal intelligence, and the concept of "false thoughts".

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