This episode of today explained is brought to you by after the fact believe it or not after the fact is a podcast from the Pew charitable trusts it brings you data and analysis on the issues that matter to you the environment the economy public health by not more about the show at pewtrusts dot org slash explained. That's P W trusts dot org slash explained no. I'm Nassfeld your producer reporter here today explained you've been cooking something up in the Studio Tomorrow The Fiftieth Anniversary of the moon landing tomorrow. What have you been up too so I was talking to Brian resnick senior science reporter friend of the show running the show and he took me on this kind of Long Winding Moon Journey Nice and then like halfway through we kinda switched gears and I ended up taking him on a weird journey? Where does it start so it starts with the fact that everyone wants to go to the moon right now? uh-huh what's old is new again. There is a big push to return to the moon. Make no mistake about we're in a space race today just as we were in the nineteen sixties and the stakes Sir even hotter. Who are we talking about like Elon Musk who wants to go the moon yes on must does want to go to the moon? He thinks he can get to the moon by twenty twenty. One India is launching a moon mission in a few days actually a few days between guests second the moon mission. Sandra has finally begun to try to be launched from the Southeastern Space Research Center China's going South Korea wants to go Russia wants to go. Everyone wants to go and of course NASA wants to go back. It's been called Apollo on steroids on the moon again too big things one they want to put the first woman on the Moon Nice and this is part of what they're calling. The optimist program. New Mission is called arguments. It's named after the Greek Goddess in the twin sister of Apollo and that program Grandma scheduled for two thousand twenty four okay the other big thing they want to do is basically set up this permanent outpost at the moon and they're calling this the gateway gateway to what Mars the point of the gateway would be to serve as a test bed for deep space operations and it's also also GonNa be the gateway to any other part of the sounds like a pretty exciting time to be the moon yeah. It's probably the most exciting time for the moon in the last fifty years. Brian told me that for now NASA's got one major target on the moon right now. Oh Nasr's eyeing is called the South Pole it can basin. It's one of the oldest deepest impact craters on the moon but there's some other spots that'd be fascinating like there's also a case to go back and visit some the Apollo sides. It's just just for fun well. We've left some very important things behind their. What did we leave? We left trash bags. Is there something like special in the trash bags. So there are ninety six bags of human waste left on the Moon from all the Apollo omissions human waste yeah. We're talking about poop or talking about vomit. We're talking about basically anything that came in contact with us that we just left on the surface of the moon basically just to save wait for the return missions so they could carry a lot of moon rocks and cool soil and all that type of stuff so we got bags of Shit on the moon there are garbage bags with shit in them on the moon yes so should the astronauts have been taking the bags of Shit back with them instead of the rocks no now I know because actually they set up this fascinating unintended experiment so if you took massive human feces poop whenever we won't call it Oh shit and you desiccated it dried it evolves water about half of its way to bacteria represents enormous of ray of life. There's something thousand species of microbes that live in our gut and life has been involving here on earth for billions of ears and that whole time that life has been evolving changing thriving here on earth the moon has been dormant dead. It's not just that there's no life on the moon. Moon itself doesn't move you leave. A footprint Brent their thing to blow it away. When the Apollo Program brought humans the moon we brought life to dead world for the first time in billions of years and then we just left life there the answer to whether that life is still living or how long long lived while it was on the moon really points to some fascinating questions about the origin of life on earth and one of the most fascinating questions and astro biology which is what is the upper limit for the resiliency of light and like Ken life existence space so if I can understand this correctly about fifty years ago exactly fifty years ago astronaut started this accidental experiment where they left bags of Shit on the moon and and you WanNa find out if the bacteria in those bags is still alive and just to make like totally sure? Is there any chance we could go back and there's just no bags well. I did call one of the surviving Apollo astronauts you called an astronaut tonight and asked him about his shit. I it was it was one of the more embarrassing phone calls of my journalists to career calling him up a call Charlie Duke who was on the moon for around three days <hes>. With Apollo Sixteen and what did he say did he take Shit on the moon so I called them up. I think it was sitting in airport. <tone> jolly do try to broach the question really tactfully. I'm asking this distinguished man if he took a shit on the moon and it's like an embarrassing question to ask but like like well not really embarrassing but go ahead yet human waste on the moon we left urine that was collected on a tank and a decent stage and I believe we had a couple Baoliu butts but I'm not sure he's not he's not sure if he took a shit on the moon. Nothing has made me believe more in the conspiracy around the Apollo missions and a national not not being sure if you took a shed on the moon like I would be like my number one memory but we are sure that there is shit on the moon right yeah NASA actually has an absurdly detail document of all the human artifacts had been left on the moon and this is where like they list like ninety six banks of human waste which includes astronaut diapers right like urine so all the stuff would be he potentially testable and potentially host life. Does Charlie think it's alive. Oh yeah he shouted down like immediately spin out. They're exposed to cosmic radiation for forty seven years. I'd be really really surprised if anything ever survive is Charlie right so I said before the moon is kind of the unchanging place but it's also very harsh mhm here on Earth we have this protective magnetic field that protects us from really intense radiation coming from just everywhere in the Galaxy so cosmic radiation kind of like just blasts holes is through Subatomic scale things it's just like the moon is not protected from cosmic radiation. If I'd estate a bear for forty seven years and miss human body I'd be dead because of the cosmic radiation to there's I wild temperature swings on the moon so from day to night on the moon. It's like a couple hundred degrees Fahrenheit of difference the temperature ranges extreme and our landing spots from minus two hundred and stop into two hundred and saw men fan hi it's hot and it's cold. It's freezing and it's hellish. It's everything it's the moon it doesn't have any you know protection from the sun and from the the worst parts of the sun on so it seems pretty unlikely it's alive. Is it even possible it's alive well. Life really surprises us a lot and often so there is life and all sorts of places that you wouldn't necessarily expect it so at the very bottom of the ocean floor pressures are immense and there's like no sunlight life can survive thousands of years. You know trapped in ice. There have been experiments where microbial life has been flown in space actually flown on on the Apollo missions and it survived largely like they were holding out the window or something yeah the like on a stick like a hitchhiker like and it's arrived and survived yeah. This is why it's an open question Gen okay so it seems likely that the bacteria in the shit is dead. It's possible though that it's alive. You're saying NASA should go back. Check it out. Get the shit why it's an idea called Panspermia okay. Have you heard of us no Panspermia so see idea that life didn't start on earth that started somewhere else and it came here. Maybe a hitch deride on an asteroid. If something survive life earliest be revival from dormant state after being on the moon for fifty years it actually lends a lot of weight to this idea that maybe life didn't begin here. Are you know they take a bond grip now. What if life is something that propagates itself across universe naturally Kinda like how light propagates itself across crossed Universal Star Light and then that light will hit everything 'cause light just spreads naturally at the speed of light? What if life is kind of like a radio way if like that and I guess we're basically by studying the moon poop testing testing whether the medium of space can allow life to transfer yeah it helps us understand like if life is like a property of the universe itself or if it's this rare crazy fluke that we see around us in what Brian Looking to Poop to explain the origins of life? It's actually like a pretty rich tradition really what the heck talking about. I'll tell you in a minute in the middle of this podcast. GonNa take a quick break to talk about another podcast. They asked me to talk about a few numbers. I A two comma a five and then a ton zeros. And then seven just picture a seven easy and significance becomes clear in an episode of the Pew Charitable Trust podcast after the fact. Here's a preview with two point five trillion dollars generated annually the ocean would be the the seventh largest national economy in the world. I'm guessing that's like all the oceans combined but still pretty impressive. There's all sorts of fun facts and figures and analysis like that in the Pew Charitable Trusts podcast after the fact. It's kind of like an audio exploration of how we can use data to make a difference in the world today you can find it on stitcher. You can find it most anywhere you get your podcasts. Check it out at P.. E. W. T. R. U.. S. Not S. dot org slash explained again. That's pewtrusts dot org slash explained wait. No what are you talking about. POOP can explain the universe and this is a really old idea what so bear with me for a second after we started talking about how you know we should look to the poop on the moon in order to find out about human history I started looking around and I found this article from the anthropologist Allen Dundas about all of these societies ladies across the world who have myths where the world is created from Shit created like some celestial being takes a dump and like forms it with like Plato this really gross yeah I mean that's the basic idea yeah but since Dan this is no longer alive I talked to an old friend is Robert Siegel and this is not the Robert Siegel from N._p._R.. This one is professor of religious studies. The University of Aberdeen here in Scotland so Robert pulled out dundas essay and we went through some of these mets so the fine people in Benin in West Africa have a myth where a cosmic serpent creates mountains by pooping all over the land in India. There's a version geneve creation myth where the character Bima poops on Rama's head the theses is thrown into the water which immediately dries up and the Earth's form. There's a Japanese goddess who gives birth to other gods who are created from her poop in other versions worm excretes the earth or the world is formed from the Excreta of aunts and then there's this Chukchi math from Siberia where there are these two figures raven and his wife Ravens wife tells Raven to go and try to create the World Ravens wife gives birth if two twins and Raven wants to help too but isn't sure how then raven flies and defecates every piece of excrement falls upon water rose quickly and becomes land. Okay Shit is somehow fertile fertile. It's like a substance of creation as idea. It seems like there's this sort of common trope in myth that Shit is somehow related to the creative process done this goes even further he sort of equates Shet with another sort of Brown muddy substance that a lot of us may be familiar with from genesis which would be the creation of man from dirt so did these cultures like revere shit like we we tend to find a repulsive. I'll speak for myself. I tend to find it repulsive. Even though I I can find you know aw in like what's happening in it that these cultures. How do they see shit? I can give you one example. Which is the Aztecs I spoke to a professor? Who Research did you do on the seriously rabbit hole on just talked to Cecilia client? WHO's a professor emeritus at U._C._L._A.? Because I stumbled across an article of hers with the Subtitle Subtitle the significance of Holy Shit in ancient Mexico great title everybody loved that title and if you take a look at now what the Aztec language you can see that their view of shit was really different the word for gold in West Coast teak tail klopp and it translates as yellow sacred excrement in other words Holy Shit Holy Shit for they ask sex it was a way of literally churning disease restoring order and balanced to the universe someone who had been in slade could be freed if he stepped on a pile of human excrement and it kind of bring something extra to the idea of Holy Shit for us. It's just a way of putting things together that don't sort of as long as a way of saying wow toward the Aztecs the term to quit lot which translates is holy shit would have had a much more profound and doubled meaning. I'm getting a little bit of sense while you're telling me about this. That is like not quite crystallizing for me so I understand why cultures around the world look at shed and say Oh this is important. There's there's interesting things here this is this is a part of life and humanity by don't understand why it would be in all these creation myths so there's no real conclusive answer on this but there's a bunch of different explanations and some of them are kind of wacky hit me with something really wacky here. Let's start with Dundas his theory. He's the dead professor who wrote that essay about all those poop mets his alive friend Robert Siegel Walk me through it. He argues that males don't get pregnant. They're jealous okay and what they do. To compensate in their myth is to attribute creation to something that's a supposedly alternative to pregnancy which is shedding a freud idea. Yeah it's sort of like flipping Freud on its head instead of penis envy. You have pregnancy N. B.. Okay okay. I think it's the bid over the top and so does Robert. I just think that's excessive for another sort of less grandiose theory. We can just say that like a fundamental level. Ship is the first thing that you create and so at a very very basic level. The involvement is shit is making creation natural. We went from psychoanalytic too well. This is like the first thing any human can create so anything that created us like the first thing they do. They take adoption worlds here. Okay I get that right thirty three which makes even more sense that not only shit the first thing that you create but like shit itself is is creative shit uses fertilizer is maybe the Greenwich example of shipping associated with things positive. It's almost miraculous that you know you can put it on the ground and it totally speeds up the creative process because look what are you doing with in creation myth. You're turning it into something usable something necessary that one can't do without this theory that you've just laying out like makes the most censor me like you can see shit. You can see things growing from it like that. Is the Aha like we're talking before. It's like Sede exactly it creates a lot of potential for more life but there's still a pretty fundamental question here. There are lots of ways of reading myth and the issue should be what are you learn about myth you might not have learned otherwise we have this idea that sometimes creation has to be like poof something out of nothing in myth they call that creation X. Niilo and I guess these myths focusing on Poop. I feel like they kind of tell us that we can view creation as being something out of something so I think it is transformative. It's taking shit and it's turning it into a building block a plan you know what comes out of it. Everything comes out of it well then in the astro biological sense like thinking about if something like shit or microbes whatever could seed life on earth and we have to think about the thing that came before it and we have to think about how maybe the earth isn't this kind of special Eden where all the magic happened and life started and thrived and this kind of similar thought scientifically like we have to think about what preceded the earth earth. I just didn't pop out of nowhere. There was an antecedent there was another place with life before it and that's why we have fair and that's a shift and you know the major accepted scientific explanation for the Arjun of life on earth is that it just sorta spontaneously started here but if we do go back to the moon and we find that any of that bacteria is still alive. It's sort of makes it seem like some of these creation. Myths may be had it right in a way that science might not yeah but if they even have the right idea have like the I mean there's just a gas I mean even if it is a guess it points to something bigger <music>. Maybe it's just this impulse to say. We don't think of creation as something that comes from one spot we actually in creation is just transformation. Maybe creation doesn't really even exist. I like that. Have you better to me the universe and spirals out a creation myth that starts on planet or here from was bang. There's life here is actually a lot simpler than thinking about how life travels from planet planet even like across solar systems thinking of all the things that have to happen for the web of life to spread across the galaxy is amazingly more complex in any story that has ever been told if it has happened. I think the story of life becomes so much more spectacular and the origin of it might even further and further back then we can possibly ever see because even that becomes even unspeakable to think about how broad and how intricate and complex the real truth of life is the greater her universe Brian Resnick reports on science for Vox. No I'm Hassenfeld reports on all sorts of shit for today explained Irene Noguchi The show's Executive Producer Shapiro's the engineer bridge McCarthy Halima Shah an ominous Assadi produce the show Alex and will read are the interns and the mysterious various break master cylinder is definitely from outer space. Thanks to math you spell Berg and brother John for help with today's episode. I'm Sean Ramos Firm. Today explained is produced in association with Stitcher and we are part of the VOX media podcast cast network <music>. Thanks again to after the fact for supporting the show today the after the fact podcast comes from the Pew.