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Cathryn Carson & Fernando Perez, Part 1 of 2

Cathryn Carson is an Assoc Prof of History, and the Ops Lead of the Social Sciences D- Lab at UC Berkeley. Fernando Perez is a research scientist at the Henry H. Wheeler Jr. Brain Imaging Center at U.C. Berkeley. Berkeley Institute for Data Science.


Transcript


Speaker 1:        Spectrum's next. 


Speaker 2:        Okay. [inaudible] [inaudible]. 


Speaker 1:        Welcome to spectrum the science [00:00:30] and technology show on k a l x Berkeley, a biweekly 30 minute program bringing you interviews featuring bay area scientists and technologists as well as a calendar of local events and news. 


Speaker 3:        Hi, good afternoon. My name is Brad Swift. I'm the host of today's show this week on spectrum we present part one of our two part series on big data at cal. The Berkeley Institute for Data Science or bids is only [00:01:00] four months old. Two people involved with shaping the institute are Catherine Carson and Fernando Perez and they are our guests. Catherine Carson is an associate professor of history and associate dean of social sciences and the operational lead of the social sciences data lab at UC Berkeley. Fernando Perez is a research scientist at the Henry H. Wheeler Jr Brain imaging center at UC Berkeley. He created the ipython project while a graduate student in 2001 [00:01:30] and continues to lead the project here is part one, Catherine Carson and Fernando Perez. Welcome to spectrum. Thanks for having us and I wanted to get from both of you a little bit of a short summary about the work you're doing now that you just sort of your activity that predates your interest in data science. 


Speaker 4:        Data Science is kind of an Ale defined term I think and it's still an open question precisely what it is, but in a certain sense all of my research has been probably under the umbrella [00:02:00] of what we call today data science since the start. I did my phd in particle physics but it was computational in particle physics and I was doing data analysis in that case of models that were competitionally created. So I've sort of been doing this really since I was a graduate student. What has changed over time is the breadth of disciplines that are interested in these kinds of problems in these kinds of tools and that have these kinds of questions. In physics. This has been kind of a common way of working on writing for a long time. Sort of the deep intersection [00:02:30] between computational tools and large data sets, whether they were created by models or collected experimentally is something that has a long history in physics. 


Speaker 4:        How long the first computers were created to solve differential equations, to plot the trajectories of ballistic missiles. I was one of the very first tasks that's computers were created for so almost since the dawn of coats and so it's really only recently though that the size of the data sets has really jumped. Yes, the size has grown very, [00:03:00] very large in the last couple of decades, especially in the last decade, but I think it's important to not get too hung up on the issue of size because I think when we talk about data science, I like to define it rather in the context of data that is large for the traditional framework tools and conceptual kind of structure of a given discipline rather than it's raw absolute size because yes, in physics for example, we have some of the largest data sets in existence, things like what the LHC creates [00:03:30] for the Higgs Boson. Those data sets are just absolute, absurdly large, but in a given discipline, five megabytes of data might be a lot depending on what it is that you're trying to ask. And so I think it's more, it's much, much more important to think of data that has grown larger than a given discipline was used in manipulating and that therefore poses interesting challenges for that given domain rather than being completely focused on the raw size of the data. 


Speaker 1:        I approached this from an angle that's actually complimentary to Fernando in part because [00:04:00] my job as the interim director of the social sciences data laboratory is not to do data science but to provide the infrastructure, the setting for researchers across the social sciences here who are doing that for themselves. And exactly in the social sciences you see a nice exemplification of the challenge of larger sizes of data than were previously used and new kinds of data as well. So the social sciences are starting to pick up say on [00:04:30] sensor data that has been placed in environmental settings in order to monitor human behavior. And social scientists can then use that in order to design tests around it or to develop ways of interpreting it to answer research questions that are not necessarily anticipated by the folks who put the sensors in place or accessing data that comes out of human interactions online, which is created for entirely different purposes [00:05:00] but makes it possible for social scientists to understand things about human social networks. 


Speaker 1:        So the challenges of building capacity for disciplines to move into new scales of data sets and new kinds of data sets. So one of the ones that I've been seeing as I've been building up d lab and that we've jointly been seeing as we tried to help scope out what the task of the Berkeley Institute for data science is going to be. How about the emergence [00:05:30] of data science? Do you have a sense of the timeline when you started to take note of its feasibility for social sciences? Irrespective of physics, which has a longer history. One of the places that's been driving the conversations in social sciences, actually the funding regime in that the existing beautifully curated data sets that we have from the post World War Two period survey data, principally administrative data on top of that, [00:06:00] those are extremely expensive to produce and to curate and maintain. 


Speaker 1:        And as the social sciences in the last only five to 10 years have been weighing the portfolio of data sources that are supported by funding agencies. We've been forced to confront the fact that the maintenance of the post World War Two regime of surveying may not be feasible into the future and that we're going to have to be shifting to other kinds of data that are generated [00:06:30] for other purposes and repurposing and reusing it, finding new ways to, to cut it and slice it in order to answer new kinds of questions that weren't also accessible to the old surveys. So one way to approach it is through the infrastructure that's needed to generate the data that we're looking at. Another way is simply to look at the infrastructure on campus. One of the launching impetuses for the social sciences data laboratory was in fact the budget cuts of 2009 [00:07:00] here on campus. When we acknowledged that if we were going to support cutting edge methodologically innovative social science on this campus, that we were going to need to find ways to repurpose existing assets and redirect them towards whatever this new frontier in social science is going to be. 


Speaker 5:        You were listening to spectrum on k a l x Berkeley, Catherine Carson and Fernando Perez, our guests. [00:07:30] They are part of the Berkeley Institute for data science known as big [inaudible]. 


Speaker 4:        Fernando, you sort of gave us a generalized definition of data science. Do you want to give it another go just in case you evoke something else? Sure. I want to leave that question slightly on answer because I feel that to some extent, one of the challenges we have as an intellectual effort that we're trying to tackle at the Brooklyn [00:08:00] instead for data science is precisely working on what this field is. Right. I don't want to presuppose that we have a final answer on this question, but at least we, we do know that we have some elements to frame the question and I think it's mostly about an intersection. It's about an intersection of things that were being done already on their own, but that were being done often in isolation. So it's the intersection of methodological work whereby that, I mean things like statistical theory, applied mathematics, computer science, [00:08:30] algorithm development, all of the computational and theoretical mathematical machinery that has been done traditionally, the questions arising from domain disciplines that may have models that may have data sets, that may have sensors that may have a telescope or that may have a gene sequencing array and where are they have their own theoretical models of their organisms or galaxies or whatever it is and where that data can be inscribed and the fact that tools need to be built. 


Speaker 4:        Does data doesn't get analyzed by blackboards? Those data gets analyzed by software, but this is software that is deeply woven [00:09:00] into the fabric of these other two spaces, right? It's software that has to be written with the knowledge of the questions and the discipline and the domain and also with the knowledge of the methodology, the theory. It's that intersection of this triad of things of concrete representation in computational machinery, abstract ideas and methodologies and domain questions that in many ways creates something new when the work has to be done simultaneously with enough depth and enough rigor on all [00:09:30] of these three directions and precisely that intersection is where now the bottleneck is proving to be because you can have the ideas, you can have the questions, you can have the data, you can have the the fear m's, but if you can't put it all together into working concrete tools that you can use efficiently and with a reasonably rapid turnaround, you will not be able to move forward. You will not be able to answer the questions you want to answer about your given discipline and so that embodiment of that intersection is I think where the challenge is opposed. Maybe there is something new called [00:10:00] data science. I'd actually like to suggest that 


Speaker 1:        the indefinable character of data science is actually not a negative because it's an intersection in a way that we're all still very much struggling. How to define it. I won't underplay that exactly in that it's an intersection. It points to the fact that it's not an intellectual thing that we're trying to get our heads around. It's a platform for activity for doing kinds of research that are either enabled or hindered by the [00:10:30] existing institutional and social structures that the research is getting done in, and so if you think of it less as a kind of concept or an intellectual construct and more of a space where people come together, either a physical space or a methodological sharing space, you realize that the indefinable ness is a way of inviting people in rather than drawing clear boundaries around it and saying, we know what this is. It is x and not 


Speaker 4:        why [00:11:00] Berkeley Institute for data science is that where it comes in this invitation, this collection of people and the intersection. That's sort of the goal of it. 


Speaker 1:        That's what we've been asked to build it as not as uh, an institute in the traditional sense of there are folks inside and outside, but in the sense of a meeting point and a crossing site for folks across campus. That's [00:11:30] something that's been put in front of us by the two foundations who have invested in a significant sum of money in us. That's the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Alfred p Sloan Foundation. And it's also become an inspiring vision for those of us who have been engaged in the process over the last year and a half of envisioning what it might be. It's an attempt to address the doing of data science as an intersectional area within a research university that has existing structures [00:12:00] and silos and boundaries within it. 


Speaker 4:        And to some extent you try to deconstruct the silos and leverage the work done by one group, share it with another, you know, the concrete mechanisms are things that we're still very much working on it and we will see how it unfolds. There's even a physical element that reflects this idea of being at a crossroads, which is that the university was willing to commit to [inaudible] the physical space of one room in the main doe library, which is not only physically [00:12:30] at the center of the university and that is very important because it does mean that it is quite literally at the crossroads. It is one central point where many of us walk by frequently, so it's a space that is inviting in that sense too to encounters, to stopping by to having easy collaboration rather than being in some far edge corner of the campus. 


Speaker 4:        But also intellectually the library is traditionally the store of the cultural and scientific memory of an institution. And so building this space in the library is a way of signaling [00:13:00] to our community that it is meant to be a point of encounter and how specifically those encounters will be embodied and what concrete mechanisms of sharing tools, sharing coach, showing data, having lecture series, having joint projects. We're in the process of imagining all of that and we're absolutely certain that we'll make some mistakes along the way, but that is very much the intent is to have something which is by design about as openly and as explicitly collaborative as we can make it and I think [00:13:30] in that sense we are picking up on many of the lessons that Catherine and her team at the d lab have already learned because the d lab has been in operation here in Barrows Hall for about a year and has already done many things in that direction and that at least I personally see them as things in the spirit of what bids is attempting to do at the scale of the entire institution. D Lab has been kind of blazing that trail already for the last year in the context of the social sciences and to the point where their impact has actually spread beyond the social sciences because so many of the things that they were doing or were [00:14:00] found to have very thirsty customers for the particular brand of lemonade that they were selling here at the lab. And their impact has already spread beyond the social sciences. But we hope to take a lot of these lessons and build them with a broader scope. 


Speaker 1:        And in the same way BYD sits at the center of other existing organizations, entities, programs on campus, which are also deeply engaged in data science. And some of them are research centers, others of them are the data science masters program in the School of information where [00:14:30] there is a strong and deliberate attempt to think through how in a intelligent way to train people for outside the university doing data science. So all of these centers of excellence on campus have the potential to get networked in, in a much more synergistic way with the existence of bids with is not encompassing by any means. All of the great work that's getting done in teaching research around data science on this campus 


Speaker 6:        [00:15:00] spectrum is a public affairs show on k a l x Berkeley. Our guests are Cathryn Carson and Fernando Perez. In the next segment they talk about challenges in Berkeley Institute for Data Science Phase 


Speaker 2:        [inaudible]


Speaker 3:        and it seems that that eScience does happen best in teams and multidisciplinary [00:15:30] teams or is that not really the case? 


Speaker 1:        I think we've been working on that assumption in part because it seems too much to ask of any individual to do all the things at once. At the same time, we do have many specimens of individuals who cross the boundaries of the three areas that Fernando was sketching out as domain area expertise, hacking skills and methodological competence. [00:16:00] And it's interesting to think through the intersectional individuals as well. But that said, the default assumption I think is going to have to be that teamwork collaboration and actually all of the social engineering to make that possible is going to be necessary for data science to flourish. And again, that's one of the challenges of working in a research university setting where teamwork is sometimes prized and sometimes deprecated. 


Speaker 4:        That goes back to the incentive people building tools don't necessarily get much attention, [00:16:30] prestige from that. How do you defeat that on an institutional level within the institute or just the community? Ask us in five years if we had any success. That's one of the central challenges that we have and it's not only here at Berkeley, this is actually, there's kind of an ongoing worldwide conversation happening about this every few days. There's another article where this issue keeps being brought up again and again and it's raising in volume. The business of creating tools is becoming actually an increasing [00:17:00] part of the job of people doing science. And so for example, even young faculty who are on the tenure track are finding themselves kind of pushed against the wall because they're finding themselves writing a lot of tools and building a lot of software and having to do it collaboratively and having to engage others and picking up all of these skills and this being an important central part of their work. 


Speaker 4:        But they feel that if their tenure committee is only going to look at their publication record and [00:17:30] 80% of their actual time went into building these things, they are effectively being shortchanged for their effort. And this is a difficult conversation. What are we going to do about it? We have a bunch of ideas. We are going to try many things. I think it's a conversation that has to happen at many levels. Some agencies are beginning, the NSF recently changed the terms of its biosketch requirements for example. And now the section that used to be called relevant publications is called relevant publications and other research outcomes. And in parentheses they explained such as software [00:18:00] projects, et cetera. So this is beginning to change the community that cure rates. For example, large data sets. That's a community that has very similar concerns. It turns out that working on a rich and complex data set may be a Labor that requires years of intensive work and that'd be maybe for a full time endeavor for someone. 


Speaker 4:        And yet those people may end up actually getting little credit for it because maybe they weren't the ones who did use that data set to answer a specific question. But if they're left in the dust, no one will do that job. Right. And so [00:18:30] we need to acknowledge that these tasks are actually becoming a central part of the intellectual effort of research. And maybe one point that is worth mentioning in this context of incentives and careers is that we as the institution of academic science in a broad sense, are facing the challenge today that these career paths and these kinds of intersectional problems and data science are right now extremely highly valued by industry. [00:19:00] What we're seeing today with this problem is genuinely of a different scale and different enough to merit attention and consideration in its own right. Because what's happening is the people who have this intersection of skills and talents and competencies are extraordinarily well regarded by the industry right now, especially here in the bay area. 


Speaker 4:        I know the companies that are trying to hire and I know that people were going there and the good ones can effectively name their price if they can name their price to go into contexts that are not [00:19:30] boring. A lot of the problems that industry has right now with data are actually genuinely interesting problems and they often have datasets that we in academia actually have no access to because it turns out that these days the amount of data that is being generated by web activity, by Apps, by personal devices that create an upload data is actually spectacular. And some of those data sets are really rich and complex and material for interesting work. And Industry also has the resources, the computational resources, the backend, the engineering expertise [00:20:00] to do interesting work on those problems. And so we as an academic institution are facing the challenge that we are making it very difficult for these people to find a space at the university. Yet they are critical to the success of modern data driven research and discovery and yet across the street they are being courted by an industry that isn't just offering them money to do boring work. It's actually offering them respect, yes, compensation, but also respect and intellectual space and a community that values their work and that's something [00:20:30] that is genuinely an issue for us to consider. 


Speaker 4:        Is there a way to cross pollinate between the academic side and industry and work together on building a toolkit? Absolutely. We've had great success in that regard in the last decade with the space that I'm most embedded in, which is the space of open source scientific computing tools in python. We have a licensing model for most of the tools in our space that [00:21:00] is open source but allows for a very easy industry we use and what we find is that that has enabled a very healthy two way dialogue between industry and academia in this context. Yes, industry users, our tools, and they often use them in a proprietary context, but they use them for their own problems and for building their own domain specific products and whatever, but when they want to contribute to the base tool, the base layer if you will, it's much [00:21:30] easier for them. 


Speaker 4:        They simply make the improvements out in the open or they just donate resources. They donate money. Microsoft research last year made $100,000 donation to the python project, which was strictly a donation. This was not a grant to develop any specific feature. This was a blanket, hey, we use your tools and they help what we build and so we would like to support you and we've had a very productive relationship with them in the past, but it's by, not by no means the only one you're at Berkeley. The amp lab was two co-directors are actually part of the team [00:22:00] that is working on bids, a young story and Mike Franklin, the AMPLab has a very large set of tools for data analytics at scale that is now widely used at Twitter and Facebook and many other places. They have industry oriented conferences around their tools. Now they have an annual conference they run twice per year. Large bootcamps, large fractions of their attendees come from industry because industry is using all of these tools and the am Platt has currently more of its funding [00:22:30] comes from industry than it comes from sources like the NSF. And so I think there are, there are actually very, very clear and unambiguous examples of models where the open source work that is coming out of our research universities can have a highly productive and valuable dialogue with the industry. 


Speaker 3:        It seems like long term he would have a real uphill battle to create enough competent people with data trained to [00:23:00] quench both industry and academia so that there would be a, a calming of the flow out of academia. 


Speaker 4:        As we've said a couple of times in our discussions, this is a problem. Uh, it's a very, very challenging set of problems that we've signed up for it, but we feel that it's a problem worth failing on in the sense that we, we know the challenges is, is a steep one. But at the same time, the questions are important enough to be worth making the effort. 


Speaker 6:        [inaudible] [00:23:30] don't miss part two of this interview in two weeks and on the next edition of spectrum spectrum shows are archived on iTunes university. We've created a simple link for the link is tiny url.com/kalx specter. Now, if you're the science and technology events happen, 


Speaker 3:        I mean locally over the next two weeks, [00:24:00] enabling a sustainable energy infrastructure is the title of David Color's presentation. On Wednesday, April 9th David Color is the faculty director of [inaudible] for Energy and the chair of computer science at UC Berkeley. He was selected in scientific American top 50 researchers and technology review 10 technologies that will change the world. His research addresses networks of small embedded wireless devices, planetary scale Internet services, parallel computer architecture, [00:24:30] parallel programming languages, and high-performance communications. This event is free and will be held in Satara Dye Hall Beneteau Auditorium. Wednesday, April 9th at noon. Cal Day is April 12th 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM 357 events for details. Go to the website, cal day.berkeley.edu a lunar eclipse Monday April 14th at 11:00 PM [00:25:00] look through astronomical telescopes at the Lawrence Hall of science to observe the first total lunar eclipse for the bay area since 2011 this is for the night owls among us UC students, staff and faculty are admitted. 


Speaker 3:        Free. General admissions is $10 drought and deluge how applied hydro informatics are becoming standard operating data for all Californians is the title of Joshua Vere's presentation. On Wednesday, [00:25:30] April 16th Joshua veers joined the citrus leadership as the director at UC Merced said in August, 2013 prior to this, Dr Veers has been serving in a research capacity at UC Davis for 10 years since receiving his phd in ecology. This event is free and will be held in Soutar Dye Hall and Beneteau Auditorium Wednesday, April 16th at noon. A feature of spectrum is to present news stories we find interesting here are to. [00:26:00] This story relates to today's interview on big data. On Tuesday, April 1st a workshop titled Big Data Values and governance was held at UC Berkeley. The workshop was hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the UC Berkeley School of Information and the Berkeley Center for law and technology. The day long workshop examined policy and governance questions raised by the use of large and complex data sets and sophisticated analytics to [00:26:30] fuel decision making across all sectors of the economy, academia and government for panels. 


Speaker 3:        Each an hour and a half long framed the issues of values and governance. A webcast. This workshop will be available from the ice school webpage by today or early next week. That's ice school.berkeley.edu vast gene expression map yields neurological and environmental stress insights. Dan Kraits [00:27:00] writing for the Lawrence Berkeley Lab News Center reports a consortium of scientists led by Susan Cell Knicker of Berkeley's labs. Life Sciences Division has conducted the largest survey yet of how information and code it in an animal genome is processed in different organs, stages of development and environmental conditions. Their findings paint a new picture of how genes function in the nervous system and in response to environmental stress. The scientists [00:27:30] studied the fruit fly, an important model organism in genetics research in all organisms. The information encoded in genomes is transcribed into RNA molecules that are either translated into proteins or utilized to perform functions in the cell. The collection of RNA molecules expressed in a cell is known as its transcriptome, which can be thought of as the readout of the genome. 


Speaker 3:        While the genome is essentially [00:28:00] the same in every cell in our bodies, the transcriptome is different in each cell type and consistently changing cells in cardiac tissue are radically different from those in the gut or the brain. For example, Ben Brown of Berkeley Labs said, our study indicates that the total information output of an animal transcriptome is heavily weighted by the needs of the developing nervous system. The scientists also discovered a much broader [00:28:30] response to stress than previously recognized exposure to heavy metals like cadmium resulted in the activation of known stress response pathways that prevent damage to DNA and proteins. It also revealed several new genes of completely unknown function. 


Speaker 7:        You can [inaudible]. Hmm. 


Speaker 3:        The music or during the show [00:29:00] was [inaudible] 


Speaker 5:        produced by Alex Simon. Today's interview with [inaudible] Rao about the show. Please send them to us spectrum [00:29:30] dot kalx@yahoo.com same time. [inaudible].





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The effects of micronutrients on metabolism, inflammation, DNA damage, and aging.TranscriptSpeaker1:Spectrum's next.Speaker2:Mm mm mmSpeaker3:[inaudible].Speaker1:Welcome to spectrum the science and technology show on k a l x [00:00:30] Berkeley, a biweekly 30 minute program bringing you interviews featuring bay area scientists and technologists as well as a calendar of local events and news [inaudible].Speaker4:Good afternoon. My name is Rick Karnofsky. I'm the host of today's show. This week on spectrum we present part one of a two part interview with our guests, Bruce Ames and Rhonda Patrick. Dr Ames is a senior scientist at Children's Hospital, [00:01:00] Oakland Research Institute, director of their nutrition and metabolism center and a professor Ameritas of biochemistry and molecular biology at UC Berkeley. Rhonda Patrick has a phd in biomedical science. Dr. Patrick is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Children's Hospital, Oakland Research Institute in Dr Ames. His lab, she currently conducts clinical trials looking at the effects of [00:01:30] micronutrients on metabolism, inflammation, DNA damage and aging. Here's Brad swift and interviewing doctors, aims and Patrick BruceSpeaker5:Ames and Rhonda Patrick, welcome to spectrum. Thank you very much. Sue, can you help us understand the term micronutrient and briefly explain what they do? Sure.Speaker6:About 40 substances you need in your diet and [00:02:00] you get it from eating a really well balanced style, get them more about eight or 10 of them are essential amino acids. So they're required for making your all your protein. And then there are about 30 vitamins and minerals, roughly 15 minerals in 15 five minutes. So you need the minerals, you need iron and zinc and calcium and magnesium and all these things, you know, and the vitamins [00:02:30] and minerals are coenzymes. So you have 20,000 genes in your body that make proteins, which are enzymes that do bio or Kimiko transformations. And some of them require coenzymes, maybe a quarter of them. So some require magnesium and they don't work unless there's a magnesium attached to the particular pace in the enzyme. And some of them require vitamin B six which is something called [00:03:00] paradoxal, goes through a coenzyme paradox of phosphate.Speaker6:And that's an a few hundred and enzymes and they make your neurotransmitters and other things. And if you don't get any one of these 40 substances, you'd die. But how much we need is, I think there's a lot of guesswork in there and we have a new idea I can talk about later that shakes a lot up puppet. And so when your research, you're trying to measure these [00:03:30] micronutrients obviously, well people can measure them in various ways. Somebody can just measure in blood and say, ah, you have enough vitamin D or you don't have enough vitamin D. But some, for example, calcium and magnesium marine, your bones, but they're also used for all kinds of enzymes and if you get low, the tissue might get low, but you keep your plasma up because you're taking it out of the bone. So just measuring [00:04:00] plasma isn't useful in that case.Speaker6:But anyway, there, uh, each one is a little different. Do you want to talk about the triage theory? Okay, I could talk to about that. Now. Some years ago we kept on finding when we had human cells in culture or mice, that when we left out various vitamins and minerals or didn't have enough, we got DNA damage. I'm an expert in DNA damage and we're interested in how [00:04:30] to prevent DNA damage. We sat leads to cancer and so I kept on wondering why is nature doing this when you're not getting enough of magnesium or iron or zinc, you getting DNA damage and then one day it hit me. I, that's just what nature wants to do. Through all of evolution, we'd been running out of vitamins and minerals. The minerals aren't spread evenly through the soil. The red soils with a lot of iron and the souls that have very little iron.Speaker6:[00:05:00] Selenium is a required mineral, but there's soils with too much saline and we get poisoned. And then the areas where it, you don't have enough selenium so you get poisoned. So it's a little tricky. Back in 2006 I had this idea that nature must do a rationing when you start getting low on any vitamin or mineral, and how would you ration it? The proteins that are essential for survival get it first and the ones that are preventing [00:05:30] some insidious damage that shows up as cancer in 10 years or calcification in the arteries. That's the [inaudible] papers, those proteins lucid. And I call this triage ship. It's a French word for dividing up those wounded soldiers that the doctors can make a difference on. So anyway, I publish this with what data? That wasn't the literature, but it wasn't completely satisfactory. We didn't, hadn't really nailed it, but it was an idea.Speaker6:And then Joyce McCain [00:06:00] in my lab wrote two beautiful reviews, one on selenium and one on vitaminK , and they both fit beautifully. And people who work in these fields had shown that the clotting factors get it first because you don't get your blood clotting and you cut yourself every week or two, you'd just bleed to death. But the price you pay is you don't make the protein that prevents calcification of the arteries so [00:06:30] people can die of calcification the arteries. But that takes 10 years. So when nature has to face keeping alive now so you can reproduce or you're getting calcification arteries in 10 years, it does this tradeoff. And also you don't have enough vitamin K. My ptosis doesn't work quite as accurately. So you'll lose the chromosome here or there and you get cancer in 10 years. But again, it's the trade off between short term survival and longterm health.Speaker6:It all [00:07:00] makes perfect sense. It was a very plausible theory. That's why I came out with it. But it's true for vitaminKand the mechanism used in vitaminKis different than the mechanism and sleeping. So each system has developed a different mechanism for doing this racially. And so that changes our view of vitamins and minerals base. You're paying a price every time. You're a little low on one with them. So it's the disease of aging. So basically when you should have any vitamin or mineral, [00:07:30] it accelerates your aging in some way. You can accelerate some kind of insidious damage. And we're talking about huge numbers of people. 70% of the population is low in vitamin D and we're talking about magnesium, what we said the third 45% 45% these are big numbers and they're cheap boldly sayingSpeaker7:[inaudible]Speaker8:[00:08:00] you are listening to spectrum on a l x, Berkeley. Today's guests are Dr. Bruce Ames and Dr Rhonda PatrickSpeaker9:with the micronutrients and the activity of DNA, RNA. Talk about the effect there, the impact, is there more to talk about that? Absolutely. So there are many different micronutrients [00:08:30] that are required for functions in your body that involve DNA replication involved DNA repair, preventing DNA damage. Things are all very important because we're making 100 billion new cells every day to make a new cell, we have to replicate the entire genome of that cell to make the daughter cell. And that requires a whole holster of enzymes. So if you don't have enough magnesium for those DNA polymerase to work properly, when ends up happening is that their fidelity is [00:09:00] lessen, meaning they don't work as well and they're gonna likely make more errors in that DNA replication that they're performing. And if they can't repair that error, then when ends up happening is that you can get every rotation and depending on whether that mutation has any functional consequences, sort of random, but the more times as occurs, then the more chances you're having of getting a mutation that can, you know, something that's not good and can either cause cell death or it can also [00:09:30] be something that causes dysregulation of the way your genes are expressed.Speaker9:So it's very important to make sure you have the right co factors such as magnesium for DNA replication, also in your mitochondria and your mitochondrial DNA. When you make new Mitochondria, this is called mitochondrial biogenesis. It's an important mechanism to boost the number of mitochondria per cell. And this can occur during things like exercise when your mitochondria also have their own genome and they have to replicate this genome. Well guess what? Those mitochondrial [00:10:00] DNA were preliminaries. This also require magnesium. And so if there's not enough magnesium around, you're not making your mitochondria as optimal as you could be in Mitochondria. Play an important role in every single process in your body, including, you know, neuronal function. So that's really important to make sure that your Mitochondria Hobby. Also, this is very relevant for things like aging. These micronutrients like vitamin D gets converted into a steroid hormone that regulates the expression of over a thousand genes in [00:10:30] your body and some of those genes are involved in DNA repair and also in preventing DNA damage. So these micronutrients are extremely important for a variety of different physiological properties that are going on in your body every single day. Things that you can't see when you look in the mirror, we're talking about something that's not an acute deficiency that's going to lead to a clinical symptom like scurvy.Speaker6:We think bad nutrition is the main thing, accelerating all these degenerative diseases of aging and contributing to these huge medical costs and [00:11:00] all of that. And it's something you can do something about because they're all very cheap minerals that are cheap. So the sourcing of the minerals and vitamins, it's not crucial at this point you think? I don't think so. Yeah. Getting them is the the really the key factor think and I think to really reform people's diet, we're going to need the numbers and we're working to try and show that there's some vulnerable protein that goes first when you're short of McNeese. I [00:11:30] mean you should measure that and then you'll know you're not getting enough and all the consequences or you're disabling all your DNA repair fronts. I'm so whatever.Speaker9:It is ideal to try and get as many of these micronutrients essential vitamins and minerals that you can from your diet. For example, I personally make a smoothie for breakfast every morning, which consists of Kale, spinach, Swiss carrots, tomato, avocado, berries, and I'm getting a broad spectrum of vegetables and fruits [00:12:00] just from that one smoothie. And I think in addition to these essential vitamins and minerals that we know are in these various plants and fruits, I think there's also a lot of micronutrients in there that we have yet to discover that also may be doing important things. However, it's extremely difficult for people to get all of these micronutrients from their diet. And I think in that instance, supplementation can help fill those nutritional gaps. And we've actually shown thatSpeaker6:in general, people in nutrition don't like the idea of pills, but people [00:12:30] are learning about all this. But you shouldn't overdo it. Mae West said too much of a good thing is wonderful, but she was saying about sex, not micronutrients, and particularly for minerals in minerals, there's a sweet spot. Too much can hurt you into little canary,Speaker5:and that's what you're hoping these next generation devices would help people understand where they are situated within, right? The class of vitamins and minerals. What are they up in? What are they down?Speaker6:So this may be a decades [00:13:00] worth of science to do this, but we're trying to frame the ideas and say, look, this is where we're going. And it isn't drugs that are gonna help you. It's getting your diet tuned up, your metabolism [inaudible]Speaker9:your doctor can look at a few different nutrients and vitamin D is one test that they do. But there's a couple of companies that are out there right now such as something called wellness effects. They're measuring a variety of different micronutrients in people's blood, including omega [00:13:30] three fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, calcium. So looking at all these different vitamins and minerals and people are quantifying. It's called the quantified self movement where people are getting their vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids measured. They're making dietary changes. If they find out they're low in vitamin D or they're low in mega three or they have low magnesium, they're making dietary changes and then about three months later they go back and they'd quantify the levels again so they can physically measure and quantify this, this change that they're making in their diet. And I think really that's the direction [00:14:00] to go.Speaker6:Yeah, and analytical methods of Guinea. So wonderful that you can do it on a finger prick of blood. I have two entrepreneurs, scientist friends. One of them has put a machine in every hospital in China and he measures couple of dozen proteins of medical importance and the Chinese are subsidizing this. They think it's going to save money. And another friend of mine from Boulder, first one is built routed. The second one is Larry Gold. And he developed [00:14:30] an alternative to monoclonal antibodies and he can measure 1500 different proteins in one fingerprint compliant. I mean, it's fantastic and he's working to get them all right now it's a discovery system, but we're going to discover what protein tells you. You're low in magnesium and what protein tells you you're low in vitaminKor protein tells you low in paradox and then it's all going to go to your iPhone and you'll get the diagnosis.Speaker6:We'll cut out the doctors [00:15:00] because they don't know much about Olis anyway, and they're too expensive. So it's not drugs you need for all of this. It's tuning up limit tap of the drugs that youthful. I'm not saying that not and for some things that are absolutely essential, but this area of getting your metabolism tuned up, see, people are worried about a pot Papillion a pesticide and it's all irrelevant. We, we published a hundred papers on that in that era, just saying, look, it's all a distraction from the important thing and important thing [00:15:30] is all these bad diets where eating and obesity isn't just calories in, exercise out a beach. People are starving and what this starving for vitamins and minerals because they're eating sugar and carbohydrate and every possible disease of aging is accelerated and hippies and plus huge costs, years of expensive diabetes and heart disease and cancer, you name it, it's been linked to obesity. So I think it's a big [00:16:00] opportunity to tune people up.Speaker8:Spectrum is a public affairs show on k a l x Berkeley [00:16:30] is this part one of a two part interview with Bruce Ames and Rhonda Patrick.Speaker9:So Rhonda, the recent paper you published on vitamin D explain that. So vitamin D gets converted into a steroid hormone in your body and the steroid hormone can regulate this expression [00:17:00] of between 900 and a thousand different genes. And the way it does that is that there's a little telltale sequence in your gene and it's basically a six nucleotide sequence repeat that's separated by three nucleotides. And this nucleotide sequence itself can determine whether or not vitamin D will turn on a gene or turn off aging. And so vitamin D can do both of these where it turns on genes and turns off genes. Well, what we found is that there's two different genes that encode for Tryptophan hydroxylase, [00:17:30] which is the rate limiting enzyme that converts trip to fan into Serotonin. There's one that's in the brain called Tryptophan hydroxylase too, and there's one that's outside of the blood brain barrier in tissues like Mosley got also in your t cells and your Peniel gland and placenta tissue if you're woman, and this is called Tryptophan hydroxylase one and what we found is that both of these genes have what's called a vitamin D response element that tell a sequence I was telling you about.Speaker9:However, they had [00:18:00] completely opposite vitamin D response elements. One, the one in your brain had an activation sequence turn on and the one in the gut had a repression sequence. The turnoff sequence, which suggested that vitamin D hormone was controlling the expression of these two different genes in opposite directions. Vitamin D's important to turn on Tryptophan hydroxylase and two and your brain so you can make serotonin and it's important to turn it off and your gut to blunt the production of Serotonin in your gut. Serotonin in your gut. Too Much of it causes GI inflammation. [00:18:30] This was a really cool finding because there was a recent paper where they found that autistic individuals, 90% of them had some abnormal tryptophan metabolism and they didn't really identify what it was, but sort of like an Aha moment where it was like trick to fan metabolism. Well, chuck did fan, you need to make Serotonin, and so I started doing some reading and sure enough, there's a whole literature connecting Serotonin to autism.Speaker9:Serotonin is made in your brain. It's an important neurotransmitter, but during early, early brain development, [00:19:00] it is a brain morphogenic meaning it actually is a growth factor that guides the neuronal proliferation, the development, the migration of neurons to different regions in the brain. It plays an essential role in shaping the structure and the wiring of the early developing brain. And so not having enough serotonin in early, early brain development in Utero can lead to very aberrant brain morphological and functional consequences. You know, this was kind of like, wow, well what if you're not getting enough vitamin D during that critical [00:19:30] period, which is important to activate that gene that converts Tryptophan into Serotonin? Is it possible then that you wouldn't be making enough serotonin in that early brain and therefore you wouldn't have a normal brain development? Also, the Serotonin in the gut can cause a lot of GI inflammation and also quite a few autistics have high GI inflammation.Speaker9:Also, they have high levels of Serotonin in their blood. There's something that we call the Serotonin anomaly where they've measured brain levels of Serotonin autistics from SMRI and have also measured blood levels [00:20:00] of Serotonin. And there was sort of this weird dichotomy where autistics had high levels of Serotonin in their blood, but they had low levels in their brain and so it was like, well, why is that? Why would they have high levels in their blood, the low levels in the brain and we think we found a mechanism why if you're low in vitamin D, your vitamin D won't be turning on the one in your brain and you won't be making enough Serotonin in your brain and it won't be repressing the one you've got and you'll be making too much and you've got this sort of a a really cool finding. We also in our paper discuss how estrogen can [00:20:30] activate Tryptofan hydroxylase to in the brain pretty much the same way vitamin D does also a steroid hormone and the sequences, the receptors bind to a somewhat similar under dug out of the literature that people showed. Estrogen can turnSpeaker6:on the Messenger RNA for the brain enzyme making serotonin in girls, but it's not doing it in boys, which explains why five times as many boys get autism as girls. [00:21:00] Anyway, she worked out all this mechanism. We kept on explaining one thing after another render would come in every week, hopping up and down. Look what I found and look what I found and I think she walks on water, but she did this wonderful scholarship, which is a good metaphor, but she used to be a surfing instructor when she was incentive.Speaker9:It's pretty exciting. It was largely theoretical work where we did find a underlying mechanism to connect these dots. So we're hoping now that people in the field are going to continue on and look even deeper.Speaker6:So [00:21:30] what we think we know is how to prevent autism. But what we are not sure of is whether you can give vitamin D to people who have autism and help some of the symptoms. Uh, biggest people need to do clinical trials on all of this and they haven't done them right. But now that we have the mechanism, you can do them right. The trouble is drug companies aren't going to make money with vitamin D and they know that. And so [00:22:00] they're trying to develop a new drug. But we're hoping that these biochemicals trip to fain and vitamin D and nowhere to tone and and may get threes, which are all seem to be involved, which you can find out by reading Ramdas paper that that is going to at least give him mechanisms so we can do more focused clinical trials.Speaker8:[inaudible] [00:22:30] to learn more about the work and Patrick are doing visit their websites, Bruce ames.org and found my fitness.comSpeaker7:ohSpeaker6:papers take a lot of polishing. Basically we're going into all these fields [00:23:00] that we don't know an awful lot about us and that requires a lot of double checking and sending it to experts and getting criticism.Speaker9:First you have to learn everything and then you'd have to put, make the connections together and then you have to write it and then there's a whole process. It's very, it's a lot of work. Personally, my favorite part of it is the creative part where you just make all the connections and you find things and you start fitting things together and it's like, oh yeah, you know, it's just, it's almost like awesome rush, but then once you've make all those connections and you do that creative work, then you really have to [00:23:30] do all the tedious, hard digging and working diligence. Yes and that it's not as much fun. Then once you have a good theorySpeaker6:you assume no. Is it explaining new things that you didn't expect and right away this idea explains so many things and it was all really lying on the ground and round it just picked it up and put it together.Speaker9:People like Bruce and I who liked to make those connections. I think that we play an important role in science as well. Like this paper that we published recently, [00:24:00] while we didn't physically do any experiments, we didn't test our theoretical work. We made a very interesting connection with a mechanism for other people to test. And I think that every once in awhile science needs that because there's so much data out there and now with Google we have access to all this data. So I think that taking people that are familiar with the fields and can put things together like pieces of a puzzle, I think that also advanced the science in a very creative way.Speaker6:Biology's so complicated that there hasn't been much room for people [00:24:30] who just sit in their office and do theoretical work. And we do a lot of experimental work in lab and Rhonda is carrying on an experimental problem while she's doing all this. But I like to get it in between fields. I was always half a geneticist and half a biochemist and it was wonderful because I saw all these problems. The geneticists turned up and the biochemists didn't know existed and the geneticists didn't know how to tackle this was before Watson and crick and all of that. Uh, I'm pretty [00:25:00] old anyway. I think science is so competitive, but if you know two fields in this an interface, you have a big advantage on everybody else and we like to have people in the lab with many different expertise and put things together.Speaker10:[inaudible]Speaker4:you can tune into the rest of Brad's interview with Bruce Ames and Rhonda Patrick [00:25:30] two weeks from now.Speaker7:[inaudible]Speaker4:irregular feature of spectrum is a calendar of the science and technology related events happening in the bay area over the next two weeks. On Thursday, July 10th the bay area skeptics will host a free lecture by Glenn Branch. The deputy director of the National Center for Science Education Branch will present untold stories from the scopes trial. [00:26:00] If you thought that you knew everything about the scopes monkey trial. Thank you again to commemorate the 89th anniversary of this seminal episode in the long contentious history of evolution. Education in the United States branch will tell the story of the scopes trial as it has never been told before. Focusing on obscure under appreciated and amusing details. The event will be at the La Pena Cultural Center, three one zero five Shattuck avenue in Berkeley [00:26:30] and it will start@seventhirtypleasevisitwwwdotbaskeptics.org for more info and here's the new story we think you'll find interesting in a paper published in nature neuroscience on June eight University of Minnesota researchers at B Steiner and a David Reddish report that they have made behavioral and neuro physiological observations of regret [00:27:00] in rats to regret is to recognize that taking an alternative action would have produced a more valued outcome than the action one took.Speaker4:The research team created a circular runway with four spokes and feeding machines at the end of each spoke that contained different flavors of food pellets. The feeding was preceded by a tone that indicated how long the rat would wait at a particular machine for food if the rat left one of these restaurants with waiting time below [00:27:30] its threshold only. Do you find an even longer waiting time at the next spoke? The team hypothesized that the rat may regret the choice. Indeed, the rats that fit this description were more likely than control rats to look toward the spoke. They just left and electrodes indicated that neurons in the orbital frontal cortex fired at the same time. Science news talk to cold Spring Harbor Neuro scientist Alex Vaughan about the paper. He [00:28:00] said, the researchers did a great job of designing a task that can discriminate between the regret of making a poor decision and the disappointment that results when one is punished despite making all the right choices.Speaker8:[inaudible] spectrum shows are archived on iTunes university. [00:28:30] We have created a symbolic for you. The link is tiny, url.com/calix spectrum.Speaker7:OhSpeaker3:[inaudible]. The music [00:29:00] heard during the show was written and produced by Alex diamond. Thank you for listening to spectrum. If you have comments about the show, please send them to us via email. Email address is Doug KLX. Hey, young com.Speaker8:[inaudible].
5/30/2014

Mathias Craig, Part 2 of 2

Mathias Craig, Co-Founder and Exec. Dir. of Blue Energy. Blue Energy is a not for profit, NGO working in Caribbean coastal communities of Eastern Nicaragua to help connect them to energy, clean water, sanitation and other services. Blueenergygroup.orgTranscriptSpeaker1:Spectrum's next.Speaker2:Okay. [inaudible] [inaudible].Speaker3:Welcome to spectrum the science and technology show on k l x Berkeley, a biweekly [00:00:30] 30 minute program bringing you interviews featuring bay area scientists and technologists as well as a calendar of loadsSpeaker1:[inaudible] and news.Speaker4:Hi listeners, my name is Brad Swift. I'm the host of today's show this week on spectrum. We present part two of two with our guests, Mathias Craig Co, founder and executive director of Blue Energy. Blue Energy is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization working among the Caribbean coastal communities of [00:01:00] eastern Nicaragua to help connect them to energy, clean water, sanitation, and other essential services. Monte has, Craig is an engineer by training from UC Berkeley and MIT. He talks about what he and blue energy have learned about adapting and localizing technology through projects they undertake with remote isolated communities. Monte has also talks about the future of applied technologies and blue energy in developing areas. Here is part two. [00:01:30] As you work with the technologies that you choose from, how much are you changing those technologies? Are you able to feed back to the people who are actually manufacturing and designing those things?Speaker1:When we started the organization, we thought of ourselves as sort of a technology creator. When we started working with small scale wind power locally manufactured small scale wind turbines, you know, we were early pioneers in that working with the earliest pioneers like Hugh Pigott, as I had mentioned in another group up in [00:02:00] Colorado, went by the name other power. We really saw ourselves as the primary design. We spent a lot of time. We did design workshops, we did a lot of cad drawings and we were really deep into the technology when we thought that technology was going to be 80% of what we could contribute. What we learned a number of years later was that that's not where we can add the most value. There's a lot of people around the world that can work on technology that had better setups and more experience, more resources to throw at the problem, and we needed to leverage [00:02:30] that.Speaker1:That was one key realization. Now, on the other end of the spectrum though, we know that just taking technology from around the world and plugging it in never works. It's a lot of romance about that, but the reality is there's tweaking. There's adaptation that has to take place generally not with a cell phone, not with a pencil against her self-contained units, but with systems. These are systems, not products generally and for that you need adaptation and so we started thinking ourselves as technology [00:03:00] tweakers or packers, hackers or we use the word localize a lot to mean not inventing, but how do you take something that is successful somewhere else in a completely different context or if you get lucky, you find something that's operating in a relatively similar context and you say, okay, what needs to change for that to be effective where we are?Speaker1:We have a ton of examples of this and we found we're very good at this and it's a place where we can add a tremendous amount of value. One example is you have [00:03:30] the mayor's office in Bluefields, which is where we're, we're operationally headquartered there on the Caribbean coast has a lot of requests for latrines to be installed for the communities. It's very poor sanitation in the area. They want to comply with that request. Right now there's thousands of latrine designs out there. How does a severely under-resourced government office figure out which one is going to be appropriate for the local context? The answer is they can't and it's just paralysis there and that's an example of where [00:04:00] we've built very strong partnerships and where we can add a ton of value. We can do that study, we can look at the designs, we can go visit a design in Honduras and check it out and say, oh, this design Central America.Speaker1:Certain cultural similarities. Certain cultural differences can be very different environment, so let's try it out, but it seems promising. Let's test it for a year and let's study. Let's study the the decomposition of the waste. Is it working? Is it not working? And we did a pilot a few years ago looking at a solar latrine where [00:04:30] you you use passive solar heating, sort of greenhouse effect to help decompose the waste faster. We thought it was very promising. It didn't work in Bluefields because very high humidity, the rainiest part of the country and it didn't work like in the highlands of Honduras, but we saved a ton of money by studying that for a year rather than going out and building a thousand units because there was demand for latrines, so we did a lot of work on that. We've done that now with the water filters, with the well [00:05:00] drilling techniques and technology done that with cookstoves biodigesters everywhere in the technology portfolio.Speaker1:I'd say we've had a hand in localizing the technology, adapting it and seeing what's going to work and then helping to roll it out slowly. At the end of last year we built our first latrines and built 55 latrines. We'd been studying and working on the trains for over two years. And one of the key elements of being able to do that technology localization are [00:05:30] the students and the international fellows that come work with us on the ground for either short term programs in the summer summer fellows that come in or longer term fellows that come for three months, six months or a year and work with us on adapting the technology. So behind that latrine program of two years, they was, you know, over half dozen students that did research that contributed to their schoolwork on campus and pushed the design forward. [00:06:00] So that's part of our global leadership program. They get the benefit of learning what real technology design is like in the field and learn about that social element that they don't hear about in class generally.Speaker1:And what we get is we get to move along sort of the r and d side of things. And do you have a good relationship with local governments? Is that one of the things you try to cultivate? Yes, and I think that's something that sets us apart from a lot of nonprofit organizations in development, [00:06:30] generally speaking, but also in Nicaragua's, we've chosen to engage the government directly. The government in some form is what is going to be there and is representative of the people's will in some form. There's always challenges and just like we have in this country about how representative is it, et Cetera, but at the end of the day, it's the ultimate authority in the region and so if you choose to go around it and not engage it as many organizations do, we feel that you severely [00:07:00] limit the potential for your longterm impact. So we engage directly.Speaker1:It's not always easy and we engage at different levels. We engage the national government. We have an office in Managua and the capital city where we're in constant contact with the ministries, with all levels of national governments. We engage there over on the coast. We engage with the regional government. We engage with the indigenous and creole territorial governments. It's a semi-autonomous region. [00:07:30] It's a very complex governance structure in the country, but we engage at all those levels. To discover what their plans are, to help build capacity where we can, you know, we learn and we teach. And then in the best cases to coordinate, you know, we've done a project with the Ministry of Health. We work with the Ministry of Health, the local nurse. We designed an energy system, install it, the Ministry of Health puts in the vaccine freezer and fills it with medicine and we both train the nurse. Well now that is a very [00:08:00] challenging collaboration to manage, but it leads to very big impact if you're willing to do it the right way.Speaker1:You know, one of our strongest partners is the municipal office of Bluefields, the municipal government, the mayor and his staff where we're collaborating on a number of initiatives both within the city of Bluefields and the surrounding communities around water and sanitation, around building a biodigester for the slaughter house so that all that animal waste will cease to be dumped into the river untreated [00:08:30] and will actually become a useful byproduct of methane for cooking. And how many may oriel administrations have you dealt with in the Bluefield? There's been sort of three that we've worked with. Nicaragua is a highly polarized country, politically even more so than the United States. You know, we like to think where the extreme example, but not even close. When you look at the world that Greg was highly political and highly polarized. And when I say highly political, meaning that many [00:09:00] government functions and the services that they deliver are dictated by political affiliations.Speaker1:So the risk of engaging as we do is that you end up on one side or the other and we're on the side of civil society. We want to help strengthen Nicaragua and strengthen the population of Nicaragua regardless of political affiliations. And so in our internal policies, that's very clear. We work with different political parties and in fact we play a very big facilitator [00:09:30] role convening people who would never meet on their own. If we can get the PLC and the Sandinistas to sit down on a table and think about a water and sanitation issue where they politically cannot meet by themselves. We have broker meetings between u s government officials who can't officially sit down or meet directly with with sanity, still government officials because of US policy, but they can be in a meeting talking to us and that can be overheard. Conversations that can be very productive.Speaker4:[00:10:00] Spectrum is public affairs show on k a l x Berkeley. Our guest is Monte Craig Blue Energy Blue Energy is a nonprofit working along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.Speaker1:Are there technologies out there that you'd love to use, are introduced that you just can't really approach? [00:10:30] Oh absolutely. There's a very clear answer to that. For me, it's mobile payments outside of blue energy. Last year I was part of a Fulbright nexus program, a relatively new program. They launched looking at issues of entrepreneurship, climate change and energy in the Americas. So with 20 of us scholars last year and one of the topics I was investigating was pay as you go solar micro grids or home solutions as a new way of opening up access to electricity [00:11:00] to more remote populations in a cost effective way. And it's very powerful, but it hinges on a few technologies. One is the mobile phone. That's going pretty well already. It's exploding worldwide. Nicaragua has pretty good coverage on a population basis, on a geography basis. That's not great in particular in the region we work in because it's isolated and low population density, so not a strong incentive for the network providers, but it's still coming.Speaker1:It's coming and every year is, oh, there's one more cell tower. The communities are getting connected [00:11:30] piece by piece, so that's great. Now if you can layer this concept of mobile payments on top of the cell phone network, it allows you to think of lots of creative ways of delivering your services more cost effectively. For example, if you designed the communal energy system, you can envision a system where somebody has a cell phone, they have a payment application on the cell phone, they make a small payment, you know, a couple of cents. They can pre buy a certain amount of energy and then you have a remote control meter [00:12:00] on their charge controller in their home that you can activate through the cell phone network. So they pre-buy, you receive your money digitally, you turn on their system and provide them x number of units of energy that they pre-bought and when it runs out it goes off the operates.Speaker1:Just like the cell phone and most of the world, they don't have plans, monthly plans, you pre-buy credit, you use them when you're out of credit, you can't make a call. You could do the exact same thing with energy. If you had this mechanism and in a place like the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua where the cost of making a payment [00:12:30] is often as much or more than the payment because you have to take a long boat ride and if it's rainy you could take your days and you have to buy fuel and if you could just do that over your cell phone, you reduce the transaction costs tremendously, which opens up just a ton of new solutions. You know, microfinance, which is taken off all around the world. One of the biggest challenges on the Korean coast in Nicaragua is in microfinance. What people are doing is they're making micropayments over a long period of time, 12 months, 18 months, multiple years in some cases.Speaker1:[00:13:00] But if paying a dollar costs you $2 to make the payment, it all breaks down. If you could make a $1 payment for a couple pennies on your mobile phone, and that's not to mention the traceability, you get digital records of all transactions in a place where it's very hard to collect information. You can also envision it as a mechanism to push back a lot of information to the user. For example, they could remind them to perform maintenance on their batteries rather than sending [00:13:30] a technician out there to check the batteries. Very easier to train somebody how to check the batteries. The problem is they forget to do it, so if you could send them a text every couple months, check the water level on your batteries could have powerful implications in terms of the cost effectiveness of the life cycle of that system for very cheap. That's the one, it's just to me that would revolutionize how we work and I think that the barrier is mobile payments are starting to take off around the world, particularly in east Africa, parts of Southeast Asia [00:14:00] where the underpinning technology platform is strong enough of the cell phone network and government regulation or non regulation is incentivizing in one way or another.Speaker1:The creation of those payment systems. There are a few starting to pop up in Central America, but central and Latin America is very far behind the innovation that's been happening in Africa and in Nicaragua in particular. It's just getting off the ground as one initiative and Pesto in the capital city of Managua, [00:14:30] but it's not clear when or how they're going to expand to a more national network. If that's not something that blue energy will create. It's something we can advocate for and speak about, but ultimately we're sort of waiting for that next wave of innovation and technology to come out there so that we can build our services on top of it. Do you have any insights or challenges for engineers out there building technologies that you could potentially use? Like the latrines and solar [00:15:00] and wind? Absolutely. I mean, I think that engineers, especially at fancy institutions like Berkeley, Stanford, and MIT, are often sort of skewed towards thinking about flashy, shiny, new high tech things, which are very fun and exciting and can have an impact on their own, right?Speaker1:But if you're thinking about engineering and technology for the developing world, it is my belief now that you can have a much bigger impact [00:15:30] by looking at simpler technologies and making incremental gains on those. It's not a sexy, right? I mean, studying latrine for multiple years, you're like, how complicated is a latrine? Right? It doesn't have a ton of moving parts. It's from an engineering perspective, it's a little boring, frankly, but there is surprisingly a ton of work to localize the technology to have it create impact and people's first reaction is, hmm, that sounds kind of boring. Second reaction is we ought to be able to figure that out quickly, but that's not true. You know, haven't latrines been figured out? [00:16:00] Aren't there already latrine designs? Absolutely. And there's latrines that work very well in specific contexts and the challenge is not to go and vent a brand new latrine if you're doing that good for you and maybe you'll invent the best one ever.Speaker1:But for the majority of engineers out there, we don't need all of them going out there and renting a new latrine. Most of them, I believe could be most productive if they want to work in the development space to think about the process of localizing technology that already exists fundamentally in other [00:16:30] places and doing the tweaking. When you're in the field and you're working with people and you've seen the impact it's creating, it's very exciting and that's what the summer fellows we receive from. We have a partnership here with UC Berkeley, with the cal energy core, four of their fellows come and work with Berliner g every summer. You can ask them. It's a very rewarding experience and a very exciting experience that doesn't look very exciting on paper. Studying latrines for example, but you get out in the field see the impact. Make the progress and learn the social dimensions which ultimately [00:17:00] are the most critical, so I think a lot of the opportunity for creating impact if you're a young engineer is be willing to get your hands dirty, get out there in the field, understand that it takes time and focus on making a real meaningful contribution that's well documented and that builds on the previous person's work and that is prepared to interconnect with the next person who's going to come down.Speaker1:If you can achieve that, that's how you have a huge impact over time. You're not going come in in six weeks [00:17:30] and sign some brand new thing that's going to solve the water and sanitation problem in the developing world. Those solutions don't exist.Speaker5:[inaudible] you are listening to the spectrum KLX Berkeley Co founder and executive director of Blue Energy Matiaz Craig is our guest. Blue energy facilitates sustainable development in eastern Nicaragua.Speaker1:[00:18:00] Have you learned things about sustainability in your experience in Nicaragua that might reflect back on the developed world? I think that is one of the most critical things that I've learned in the last 10 years is that this really is a two way street. It's very arrogant for people from the quote unquote developed world to go into a poor community in the developing world. See, for example, that they don't have a sanitation solution and say, oh, [00:18:30] what they need. Obviously here is this kind of latrine, like you're an instant expert. Like they've never thought of this before and you're an expert. Why? Because you come from the developed world and you can lecture them and train them on sustainability and what do you really know about sustainability? Last 10 years have been very humbling. We in the United States, for example, as a country, don't live anywhere near sustainably, right?Speaker1:We're consuming resources just left and right. And one approach is to say, oh my gosh, I don't want to [00:19:00] be a hypocrite, so I'm not going to go help. And some people take that path. I know I'm not sustainable, so I'm not going to go help people be sustainable, but I don't think that's very productive. I think what is most productive is to engage in that process out there in the field with an explicit intent of thinking. What can you learn from that experience and how can you take that back to where you come from. That is now an explicit part of our model where we have really two initiatives. We have the community development side, which is the physical work that [00:19:30] gets done in Nicaragua and we have what we call the global leadership program, which is bringing people in in part to contribute to the community development work, but the longterm impact of the global leadership program is to build more awareness in those people who are going to go back to their home countries and be leaders in their community around issues of sustainability for example, and climate change and all these other critical topics because their greatest sort of point of leverage is back in their own community, right?Speaker1:[00:20:00] They can come contribute some in the field, learn something, but if they go on to be a mayor of their town, for example, like that's going to be a huge impact where a business leader in their community with a more heightened sense of awareness of these critical issues like sustainability work on greening initiatives in their town back in the developed world where we're burning through most of the world's resources. Right? I know that. I know I can have a much bigger impact by cutting my electricity consumption in half than I can by installing [00:20:30] a 50 watt solar panel in a remote community. From a global perspective, obviously locally, that 50 watt panel has a huge impact, so I think we have to approach this as a give and take. We can contribute in the field if we do it in an appropriate longterm way, and that we need to be open to that learning experience in the field and take that back in the developed world.Speaker1:I think that's vital. What are the future plans for blue energy? We made [00:21:00] a critical decision a couple of years ago that for our community development work, we're going to stay geographically concentrated. We're gonna stay focused on Nicaragua with a strong emphasis on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. We feel that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done there and we have 10 years of experience building relationships, understanding that the culture and society, the key ingredients we feel to actually having a meaningful impact and those are things that we've invested heavily in and we feel [00:21:30] that they don't scale very well and so we feel that if we were to expand geographically, we would have to change our model and work in a different way that would be less impactful. We'd have bigger numbers and less impact. We feel strongly that we can have the most impact by staying focused in this geography until every person on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua has access to basic sanitation, clean water and electricity.Speaker1:Why would we go work anywhere else? Was the question we finally asked ourselves then. Oh, right now [00:22:00] the way that we have an explicit model for creating impact beyond Nicaragua, it's through the global leadership program and there's different components to that. One I mentioned earlier was bringing in international people to work in Nicaragua, take that transformational experience back home with them and be agents of change in their own lives, in their own communities all around the world. The second component is the institution to institution strengthening. That's when we work with a local government office and train them on it tools [00:22:30] so that they can be more effective in their work. Or we work with another development partner and share technology, so it's a way to have an impact beyond any border, but it's not us going out and physically doing another project. And then the third one is sort of based on the practical action, which is one of the organizations I mentioned earlier that has been an inspiration to me is doing a better job of documenting case studies and the learning and publishing that experience documents that can be shared globally.Speaker1:We are often [00:23:00] requested people say, oh, I see you worked on, you know this bio sand filter. Can you tell me how it's gone? Well, right now that's a long conversation and we do that, but it's not very resource efficient. If we had really well written out, documented case studies of our experience, what worked, what didn't and why and publish that for the global community, I think that could have a big impact and how can people get involved in blue energy? Well, the first thing we need is to grow our support base financial support base. The number [00:23:30] one thing that people can do to help blue energy is to contribute financially to the organization because honestly we feel we have a model that's working very well. We have a very committed, dedicated staff and what we need to do is do more of what we're doing.Speaker1:The second thing is if you are a student or young professional who is looking to compliment traditional classroom education with experiential learning and personal learning and growth opportunities, you should take a look at our global leadership program. [00:24:00] There is a program fee associated with that that helps us run a professional program that is financially self-sustainable and helps fund the project work that you actually do in the field that has local impact. The primary opportunity for that if you're a current student is during the summer and if you're a young professional, we have longer term fellowship opportunities that range from three months to a year. Some of them requiring a two year commitment, but that's an opportunity to really get out there and go through the full cycle, you know, help develop, project, execute, analyze [00:24:30] it. At the end you get an opportunity to see the full picture and that's an opportunity for professional and personal growth that people again have leveraged for all sorts of future opportunities.Speaker1:And then the third thing is technology partnerships. Organizations that we can partner with that are champions of a particular technology, like the water filter for example, that we use. We learned that from an organization in Canada called cost c. A. W. S. T. They issue new plans every year. [00:25:00] We share back our design iterations with them so that it can be incorporated into the evolution of the plans. We're always looking for organizations like that. Just the caveat is we're looking for people that have a longterm commitment and are into design iteration. We're not necessarily looking for the flashiest new gadget that somebody just conceived of. We're looking more for long term technology partnerships. Matiaz Craig, thanks very much for being on spectrum. Thanks very much for having me. It was a pleasure.Speaker2:Okay.Speaker5:[00:25:30] To learn more about blue energy, visit their website. The URL is blue energy group.org spectrum shows are archived on iTunes university. We've created a simple link for you to get there. The link is tiny url.com/k a l [00:26:00] x spectrum.Speaker4:Now several science and technology events happening locally over the next two weeks in honor of its 40th anniversary. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center is sponsoring a series of lectures describing the research behind four Nobel prizes. The laureates are also longtime users of the national energy research. Scientific Computing Center is super computing resources. The last two lectures are being [00:26:30] held at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in June. These lectures are free. Tuesday, June 3rd mapping the universe. TheSpeakeris George Smoot of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley lab. He won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2006 for his work on the cosmic background explorer. The lecture will be in the building 66 auditorium, Tuesday, June 3rd noon to 1:30 PM then on Wednesday, June 11 [00:27:00] data computation and the fate of the universeSpeakeras salt Perlmutter of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for providing evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This lecture will be in Lawrence Berkeley lab building 50 auditorium, Wednesday, June 11th noon to 1:30 PM now we'll follow up on a previous spectrum news story.Speaker4:[00:27:30] The Berkeley News Center reports scientists working together on Kelp Watch 2014 announced today that the west coast shoreline shows no signs of ocean born radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Following their analysis of the first collection of Kelp samples along the western US coastline Kelp Watch 2014 is a project that uses coastal kelp beds as detectors of radioactive seawater arriving from Fukushima [00:28:00] via the North Pacific current. It is a collaborative effort led by Steven Manley, marine biology professor at California State University, Long Beach and Kai vetter, head of applied nuclear physics at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a nuclear engineering professor at the University of California Berkeley. The new results are from samples primarily collected from February 24th through March 14th our data does not show the presence of Fukushima radio isotopes [00:28:30] in west coast, giant kelp or bull kelp. Manly said these results should reassure the public that our coastline is safe and that we are monitoring it for these materials. At the same time, these results provide us with a baseline for which we can compare samples gathered later in the year. Information about the procedures and results including the results of the first samples analysis are available to the public at the website. Kelp watch.berkeley.edu the researchers [00:29:00] will continually update the website for public viewing as more samples arrive and are analyzed, including samples from Canada. The second of the three 2014 sampling periods is scheduled to begin in early July.Speaker4:The Muse occurred during the show was written and produced by Alex Simon.Speaker6:Thank you for listening to spectrum. [00:29:30] If you have comments about the show, please send them to us via email. Our email address is spectrum dot k a l x@yahoo.com us in two weeksSpeaker7:at the same time. [inaudible].
5/16/2014

Mathias Craig, Part 1 of 2

Mathias Craig, Co-Founder and Exec. Dir. of Blue Energy. Blue Energy is a not for profit, NGO working in Caribbean coastal communities of Eastern Nicaragua to help connect them to energy, clean water, sanitation and other services. Blueenergygroup.orgTranscriptSpeaker1:Spectrum's next.Speaker2:Okay. Welcome to spectrum the science and technology show on k a l ex Berkeley, a biweekly 30 minute program bringing you interviews featuring bay area scientists and technologists as well as a calendar [00:00:30] of local events and news.Speaker3:Hi and good afternoon. My name is Brad Swift. I'm the host of today's show. This week on spectrum. We present part one of two with our guest Monte as Craig Co founder and executive director of Blue Energy. Blue Energy is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization working among the Caribbean coastal communities of eastern Nicaragua to help connect them to energy, clean water, sanitation, and other essential services. Matiaz Craig is an engineer by training right here at UC Berkeley. [00:01:00] He talks about what he and blue energy have learned about applying and localizing technology through projects that they undertake with remote isolated communities. Give a listen to part one. Monte has. Craig, welcome to spectrum. Thank you for having me. How were you initially drawn to technology?Speaker1:It started really early for me. I was a tinkerer. I always thought that I would be an inventor when I was young. So I think the, the attraction came, came super early and [00:01:30] then when I studied here at UC Berkeley in civil and environmental engineering, I started getting exposed to technology. Just sort of took it from there.Speaker3:When was it that you started down this path of connecting technology with sustainability and equitable development?Speaker1:So I started thinking about that again while I was here at UC Berkeley, I had the opportunity to take a number of classes in the energy and resource group with Professor Richard Norgaard and Dan Cayman, which was really inspirational [00:02:00] for me. And I started to see renewable energy in particular as an opportunity to use technology in a green, sustainable way. And also I liked the international element of it, but this is a global issue around the environment and also around issues of energy and water. And it was easy to see how they could fit together. I think it really started here. And then in graduate school I was at MIT and I had the opportunity to take a class called entrepreneurship in the developing world with Professor Alex Pentland [00:02:30] over in the media lab and that was my first sort of insight into how I might combine those things. Practically speaking in an organization,Speaker3:when you first started trying to couple those things, energy generation, sustainability, what was the status quo of things?Speaker1:What was the landscape like? What year was it? I started thinking about renewable energy and wind power back in 1999 when I was a student here at Berkeley. It [00:03:00] was a class project in 2002 at MIT and we launched in Nicaragua in 2004 I think the landscape for small wind in particular, which was what drew my interest initially, it was pretty sparse out there. There weren't many organizations doing small scale wind for development. There have been some small scale wind turbine manufacturers in Europe and in the United States for a number of decades on a commercial scale, but they weren't really thinking about emerging markets and how wind [00:03:30] might contribute to rural electrification in those places. And we formed some nice partnerships, one with Hugh Pigott from Scotland who was the original inventor of the wind turbine design that we were using and worked with him for a number of years to add our own contribution to the design and evolve it.Speaker1:And were there other groups in the field that you kind of model yourself after? We didn't really have any models for the small scale wind, but there were some organizations that I looked up to and kept track of [00:04:00] in terms of community development, the how to implement technology in community situations in the developing world in particular, one group was called it DG. It was intermediate technology development group. It's now called practical action. They've been around since the 60s promoting how do you do responsible development in communities, deploying technology, but thinking about all the other dimensions around that work. And then another group I have a lot of respect for is out of Portland, Oregon, green empowerment. They've worked a lot with practical action as well. [00:04:30] It's a holistic view on how to use technology to create impact, but with a recognition of all the other components that have to go into that work.Speaker1:And what was the learning curve like for you and your organization in the early years? Very steep. When we launched the organization, we had a lot of passion, a lot of commitment, a lot of ideas, but we did not have formal business training. Our level of experience in the field, we had some historical experience in Nicaragua, but trying [00:05:00] to launch your organization at work there is quite different than visiting. So I'd say the learning curve was extremely steep. That's been one of the most rewarding parts of this job for the last 10 years is every day I feel like I'm learning something new. And I think in the beginning of the organization we didn't have a very solid structure or a very big organization in terms of number of people. And we've had a lot of turnover over the years. And that's where I think the learning curve remains fairly steep for the institution because you have to [00:05:30] figure out how do you bridge those changes within the organization and how do you document your learning so that you don't have to constantly re learn the same lessons and you get to move on to the next lesson.Speaker1:When we launched the organization, we had no money, no experience, no major backers, no big team, and we really built it from scratch. And I think there's a lot of learning along the way there. What were the biggest challenges in the early days? Well, the challenges have evolved a lot over the 10 years. [00:06:00] In the early days, I would say the biggest challenge was cash. You know, cash flow for an organization is always a critical issue. And I think in the early days when we had actually no financing, that was a huge issue because we weren't able to pay salaries. It was a struggle to scrape together a little bit of money to buy materials. You know that's okay early on. In fact it can be quite healthy for an organization to start that way because it forces you to be very efficient and to think three times about doing anything before you do it.Speaker1:[00:06:30] Finding the talent that you need to tackle something as complex as infrastructure in the kind of region that we're in is very challenging and so you can sometimes attract the talent, but then how do you retain it? And it's not only a money issue, it's not only being able to pay people a fair wage, but it's a very dynamic context, a very dynamic environment. And people come and go. You know, if you invest a lot in training, which is a core part of our philosophy, build local capacity, but then that person moves on, [00:07:00] moves to the u s or you train them well enough that they can be employed in the capitol city and has a bit of a brain drain there. So you can't think of, okay, we're just going to invest a lot in this handful of employees. You fifth think, how are we systematically going to continuously train people that we onboard, retain them as long as we can and maybe help them move on to new bright careers. But I think that turnover issues is a big one.Speaker2:You were listening to spectrum [00:07:30] on KALX Berkeley Co founder and executive director of Blue Energy. All Monte has, Craig is our guests. What's your currentSpeaker1:assess for going into a new community? How do you do that? I would say we do it very slowly and thoughtfully. Our approaches. We want to pick communities where we think there's a tremendous amount of need, but where there's also we say in Spanish that the contract parties, the, the commitment [00:08:00] from the people we're going to work with, that the solutions that we're providing and building with them are things that they actually want to commit to and invest in. Early on in the organization, it was a bit throwing darts at a board and to where you're going to start, but in the last five, six years it's become much more systematic and we spend a lot of time visiting with communities. Generally how it starts is one of the leaders from the community comes and finds us. Now we have enough of a presence, enough of a reputation [00:08:30] on the coast that we're a known entity and somebody, you know, the leader of a community comes, says, oh, I saw this water project in this other community.Speaker1:We would like that as well and we don't just jump at that. We say, okay, duly noted. Thank you for coming. And then when we're out doing, say maintenance or a service visit in another community, we will stop by that community and have a look and start having the meetings. And it's a long process of getting understand the community at first, sort of informally. And then if we think there's an opportunity actually [00:09:00] going into a project development phase where we're starting to look at what the specific needs are, what are the solutions that we could provide, how might they match? And then doing things like understanding the power dynamics in the community. Okay, this one person came and solicited the service and they said they were the leader, but what does that mean? Are they an elected leader? Who Do they represent? Or the head of the fishing cooperative or the head of the church or the head of the communal board.Speaker1:So we're very cognizant of the fact that communities aren't monolithic and the community [00:09:30] doesn't come speak to you. Somebody does with an agenda and you want to understand who are they representing and you want to understand if they're a minority voice, what do other people think in the community? Who makes decisions? How do they make decisions, understand all of that before you get into a project. Because infrastructure projects to be successful really require longterm relationships. They aren't widgets, they're not selling them pencils and just transactional. They walk away with a pencil, everything's [00:10:00] fine. If you're putting in a water system or an energy system requires operation and maintenance, maybe upgrades in the future, you want to connect those services to economic opportunity to ways to improve health, to support education. There's a lot of moving parts and you want to make sure that the people you're going to work with will stay committed and that the solution will actually provide some benefit and not be just a neat gadget out there on the field for six months and then not work.Speaker1:So I think [00:10:30] it's very deliberate. We typically add only a couple of new communities per year and then we continue to work with the communities we've historically worked with. Our philosophy is to add new services, to look for new ways to leverage what we've done in the past. If we did a solar lamp program in the past, maybe now they're ready for a larger solar system. Now that they've seen solar and they've worked with it for awhile. So we look at how can we sort of keep moving up the ladder in terms of providing better and better services with more impact. [00:11:00] So within that meeting with them, you know, assessing what the community's like, what's the dynamic around what sort of technologies you'll use and how much education is involved in all that. Different technologies require different levels of involvement, different levels of commitment. Some of them are simpler.Speaker1:For example, if you're doing a solar lantern project, you don't have to have the buy in of the entire community in a longterm plan necessarily to do a fairly [00:11:30] self contained technology such as that versus if you're doing a solar powered water pumping storage distribution system for a new pilot farm where you might have a lot of stake holders, a lot of moving parts. So we definitely look at how cohesive is the community. You know, some communities are communities by name only because on a map they have one name but it's 50 families that don't really talk or work together on things. Other communities are very tightly knit, [00:12:00] are very into communal goals. And that has a tremendous effect on what solutions we perceive as being viable. Not necessarily ones that we'll do, but even within the sort of the viable range. Because solar water pumping micro farm project requires a lot of coordination.Speaker1:So if it's a community that's very fractured and very individualistic, that kind of project probably isn't going to work. So that might not be on the table today. So we're always thinking in time horizons to you might see that, oh there could be [00:12:30] an opportunity for that two, three years from now. So it's very much not a cookie cutter approach we put in as much if not more time on the community engagement side of things as we do on the technology. And that's reflected in our staff. You know, how we allocate our time and effort and a lot of that's based on the history of your experience of doing this. And when it hasn't worked. Absolutely. When we started the organization and my brother and I and other members of the organization early on, we know from history going back [00:13:00] before the organization at our mother's work in these communities that the social dimensions are critical.Speaker1:The technical solution alone will never work. You have to understand people and communities to make that pairing. But I used to think it would be about 80% technology and 20% social, which I thought was a huge improvement over a lot of development initiatives, which are 99% technology, 1% social and almost always fail. So I thought, oh, very progressive and forward looking at us to think 80 20 now I know it's the other way around. [00:13:30] I mean now I say I don't think technology is ever more than 10 or maybe 20% of a solution both in terms of budget but time and the challenges you face and what you have to overcome. You know, you come in with certain ideas about what people need and the right way of doing things. But often those aren't very well informed and they often aren't very well rooted in the reality of the local context.Speaker1:And I'll give you one example. When we started, we thought communal solutions are the best. So we're going to do community based [00:14:00] solutions versus home scale solutions. So we went in and in the communities we worked in the beginning we just implemented community based solutions. But as I just mentioned earlier, in some of those communities, there isn't a strong social cohesion and the community actually doesn't really want to work together on issues. Well if you come in with a community based solution, it's not going to work very well, but you feel that that's the way it should be. So you start to let go a little by little about your preconceived notions about the way things ought to be and [00:14:30] how they should go. And you start to listen more and listen and observe and adapt your solutions and your methodologies to the reality of what's out there.Speaker1:And will you often start with a gateway technology, like you were describing the home solar lantern idea or do you sometimes go all in and say this community is ripe for a big project? I would say now we have the full spectrum there. I'd say most communities we are looking for a simpler solution and gateway or beachhead, you know a way to get in there because [00:15:00] we know that if you implement a relatively simple technology to start with, the main value that you're getting is that interaction. You're getting to know the community, but without project do they meet their end of the bargain? You know, are they actually contributing? Like they said they would. If things go badly, you don't lose much. Right? So it's a cheap way to have some immediate impact and get to know and understand the communities better over time and then sort of move up that ladder of complexity where you can have even greater impact.Speaker1:Some [00:15:30] communities though are very well organized and it looks like all the ingredients are there for successful engagement. It's just they've never had the opportunity. So in those ones, sometimes you skip ahead and you think, okay, maybe we can start with a more complicated system. The main cases that I can think of in my head where we've seen that is where one of the few other development organizations on the coast, because there really aren't many, has already been working in that community and you can leverage the [00:16:00] progress that they've made. And we have some great examples north of Bluefields where probably our strongest partner [inaudible] has been working for over 25 years. Really, really strong community engagement training on the basics of improved farming techniques, financial literacy, just doing great work. So if you go into a community that they've been working with and you start to plan a bigger project, those committee members have already benefited from 10 years of training. And so we notice a huge difference there. [00:16:30] And so for those communities we can think about jumping ahead.Speaker3:Mm [inaudible] spectrum is a public affairs show on k a l x Berkeley. Our guest is Matiaz Craig Blue Energy. When you start working with a community and you're having success and you've been with them for a number of years, is there a point at which you walk away or the flip side of that, [00:17:00] if it fails, do you say, this isn't going to work? We have to move on.Speaker1:Our approach with the communities again is the vision is longterm engagement because we know that the challenges that they're facing are very deeply rooted. I mean, these are decades, centuries old barriers that they're facing. You don't solve that in a quarter. You don't solve that in a fiscal year. It's a longterm relationship. Our approach is more continue to build the relationship and think about entering and exiting particular solutions. You might try [00:17:30] a solution and then it turns out that solution in this community doesn't work. It doesn't mean the community is broken. It doesn't mean that they're not worth working with. It means that that's not the right approach. So yeah, there's definitely times where we've entered in, as I mentioned earlier, with the communal approach. It's just pushing this boulder up hill year after and you're trying to build this community association. And it's not working. And we've made some tough decisions in our past where you say, okay, we tried that for a couple of years, we invested a lot.Speaker1:It [00:18:00] did not work. You go take out that equipment but you don't abandon the community. So now based on what we've learned, what is a better solution? And that's an interactive conversation community. And it's a tough conversation when you go in to take out a technology, sometimes you have to clear the table, acknowledge your mistakes, go back to that conversation about what might work and then reenter with a new solution. And so we certainly have done that. The amount of engagement and commitment to any particular community [00:18:30] in any particular year has a lot to do with funding. These communities are often very difficult to reach. Remember, there's almost no roads on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, almost no civil infrastructure of any kind. So it's a major commitment to get out there and work with these communities. And it has a lot to do with our funding.Speaker1:So one community we might work with do a number of projects. Then there might be a little, if there's no funding and then we might re-engage, we stay in conversation with them, but we're not out there doing site visits and as frequently if there isn't a budget for it, but I [00:19:00] don't think that we've ever said, no, we're not going to work with this community anymore on anything. We've never reached that point, but certainly solutions have evolved over time. Are there any of these communities, would you consider them indigenous people? Absolutely. I think that's one of the most interesting things about Nicaragua that's often not known outside of the country is that Nicaragua was colonized by the Spanish and the British at the same time and you have two fundamentally different histories on the Pacific [00:19:30] side and on the Caribbean side of the country you have much more homogenous population on the Pacific.Speaker1:The Spanish, we're sort of building a new empire, a new society, and their approach towards indigenous populations was particularly aggressive and resulted in almost total elimination of indigenous populations. Whereas on the Caribbean coast, the British just had a very different approach. They didn't want to build a large British colony. On the Caribbean coast, they were more interested in the geographic and strategic importance [00:20:00] of that territory. So they wanted control over it. They actually promoted certain indigenous groups on the coast to work for them. So the mosquito Indians were sort of chosen as the most sophisticated, the largest population. So they were given uniforms and armed and the Bible was translated into mosquito. Of course there was a lot of brutality and everything, but it wasn't an extermination policy as it was on the Pacific. And so you have a very different ethnographic history on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua has historically been largely indigenous.Speaker1:[00:20:30] And then since the time of the British colonization, afro descendant populations that that were brought over during the slave trade and some that different waves. And it's a very complex story. I can't really do it justice here. But on the indigenous side, there's believe seven or more indigenous groups on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, we interact primarily with three of them. So a lot of the communities we work in are indigenous communities. And then we also work with creole, which is one of the Afro [00:21:00] descendant groups. And Garifuna communities, which is a different effort to send an it group that are descended from escaped slaves. It's a very complex ethnographic history on the Caribbean coast, very ethnically diverse, multicultural, and that's part of the beauty of it and there's a certain strength in that. It's also part of the challenge because each of those communities has very different worldviews.Speaker1:Is there linguistic diversity within the cultural diversity? Still [00:21:30] there is a lot of linguistic diversity and in fact linguistic diversity is what is the pre blue energy story. That's what brings us to Nicaragua in the first place because our mother collector involved is a linguist who specializes in indigenous languages of the Americas in particular and she works on language documentation and revitalization and that's the work that actually brought her to Nicaragua in the early eighties and had [00:22:00] her working out on the Caribbean coast with the Rama people, which is one of the indigenous groups to the south of Bluefields with a language that was really unwritten and was dying out. NativeSpeakers where there was only a handful left to very old. And so our mother has spent, you know, it's been an ongoing project. It was very intensive during the 80s but it still continues on to this day, continuous generation of new content where she wrote a dictionary, she wrote the syntax and then she's been creating pedagogical materials, [00:22:30] books about the birds and the plants and things that are important to people there.Speaker1:So that's deeply ingrained in our fabric, both as people, but also I think in the organization of blue energy where we came in thinking more about technical solutions, but we have this history and this, this very important understanding that comes from her work. Really dealing with people and culture. The technologies that you're using, how many of them are you manufacturing locally and how many [00:23:00] do you have to import? So when we first started, we really came in with the idea that local manufacturing was central to what we wanted to do and that it was intrinsically good. We were focused again on the small scale wind turbines that we were committed to manufacturing right there in Bluefields. I think one of the key learnings that we've had is that local manufacturing certainly does have pros. You do get to create more local employment. You do get to build more local technical capacity.Speaker1:[00:23:30] Those remain true, but that you also have to look at the opportunity cost. If there's a very high precision part, for example, if your machine that needs to be built, if you can't meet the quality standards locally to be able to consistently produce that part within those specifications, but you continue with the local production anyways. What's you're doing is you're creating a future cost. Your maintenance services will need to be greater in the coming years. And in an environment like the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua [00:24:00] where maintenance can be very expensive because it's hard to get places, it's hard to train people to do certain kinds of technical work. You might actually be creating a quite large future cost. And so I think we got more realistic and a deeper understanding of what the pros and the cons of local manufacturing where. And one of the things we came to realize with the small scale wind turbines we were producing was that given sort of the fractured market on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, [00:24:30] we couldn't produce a high enough volume of the units to justify the kinds of investments in setting up the manufacturing and managing quality control that would be required to guarantee that every unit coming off the assembly line was in top shape and wasn't creating future problems for the organization.Speaker1:That in addition to some other issues of there being a lower wind resource than we had expected and the price of solar coming down dramatically in the last 10 years. And essentially in most cases out competing [00:25:00] small scale wind except in the best wind sites. We decided in 2011 to actually cease producing small scale wind turbines. And at that time we also took just a deep look at all the different technologies that we were working with. So what we have today is it's a mix. You know, we don't try to manufacture solar panels, we don't try to manufacture inverters. Let's buy a high quality internationally available inverter. And let's put our focus [00:25:30] on other things where we could have a greater impact. So on the electricity side, most of the components are off the shelf. And then what we do is we do the design, the need assessment, how many inverters do you need, what size, what size, solar panels, what kind of solar panels?Speaker1:Right? We do that work, assemble it all, and then we do some local building of components like the structural house of the system. For example, for other technologies like [00:26:00] the Bio sans water filter, like the cookstove, the designs that we're working with, there's a huge gain for local manufacturer. From a technical standpoint, they're very easy to manufacture, so they don't compare to trying to build a solar panel or a wind turbine. So when you do an analysis there, you realize that makes perfect sense to manufacturer the water filter locally in Bluefields. And so we do that. We have a shop space where we manufacture all those water filters locally. Cookstove similar issue. [00:26:30] It's largely built from locally sourced materials, different kinds of mud and rock and things that we've worked hard to identify in the region that we can optimize and so again it wouldn't make sense to try to bring that in from China orSpeaker4:even the capital city. Makes sense to manufacture that locally.Speaker2:[inaudible] to learn more about blue energy, visit their website, blue energy group.org in part two Mathias [00:27:00] discusses adapting technologies, technologies he would like to work with and the future of blue energy. Now Rick [inaudible] present some of the science and technology events happening locallySpeaker4:over the next two weeks on May 20th Science Festival Director Kashara Hari Well Interview Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of freakonomics superfreakonomics and now think like a freak as part of a Commonwealth club program [00:27:30] at the Castro theater four to nine Castro street at market in San Francisco. The new book aims to help show how to use economics to analyze the decisions we make, the plans we create and even the morals we choose. Tickets. Start at $10 for more information, visit Commonwealth club.org carry the one radio are hosting a free event on Thursday May 29th doors at six 30 show at seven [00:28:00] to produce the program. Sound off at Genentech Hall on the ucs F Mission Bay campus, 616th street in San Francisco. Sound off, we'll feature Dr Kiki Sanford, who we'll interview three scientists. First, UC Berkeley is Dr. Frederick. Loosen well, discuss communication, sound processing. Then ucsfs. Dr. John Howard explores the role of auditory feedback in speech.Speaker4:Finally, UC Berkeley's [00:28:30] Aaron brand studies the love songs from jumping spiders. rsvp@soundoffthateventbrite.com here's Rick Kaneski with a news story in a paper published in science on May 12th Amy Ogan, Benjamin East Smith and Brooke middly of the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington report that a marine ice sheet claps is potentially underway for the Thwaites [00:29:00] glacier basin in west Antarctica. The ice sheet has been long considered to be prone to instability. The team has applied a numerical model to predict glacier melt and they found that it is already melting. At a rate that is likely too fast to stop. The team predicts runaway collapse of the shelf and somewhere between 200 and 900 years in nature and news is summary of the paper. Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds called it a seminal work saying [00:29:30] that it is the first to really demonstrate what people have suspected, that the Thwaites glacier has a bigger threat to future sea level. Then Pine Island music occurred during the show was written and produced. Alex Simon,Speaker3:thank you for listening to spectrum. If you have comments about the show, please send them to us via email or email address is spectrum@yahoo.com join us in two weeks at this same time.