Notes on the Perfect Paradise (Ep. 380)

Recorded reside in Los Angeles. Clients embrace Mayor Eric Garcetti, "Earthquake Woman", Head of Port of L.A., and scientist with NASA's Planetary Protection Group. Collaborator Angela Duckworth, Actor Mike Maughan and Luis Guerra and Freakonomics Radio Orchestra World debut

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Stephen DUBNER: This week, Freakonomics Radio shall be recorded in the theater at the Ace Lodge in Los Angeles, California. Our exhibition is usually produced in the studio. Immediately, we not only have the pleasure of working with a dwelling audience, but in addition of reside music. So would you be welcome to have their world debut composer who hears our present each week: Luis Guerra and Freakonomics Radio Orchestra. And in addition be a part of us tonight as one among the hosts: Professor of Psychology at the College of Pennsylvania – he is additionally the writer of the nice guide Grit: Passion and Perseverance – are you welcome to Angela Duckworth. Angela, hey.

Angela DUCKWORTH: Hey Stephen.

Dubner: I 'm dying to know what you’re working, and we should always all know.

DUCKWORTH: I just lately made an eight-minute intervention. We asked college students to offer recommendation to different college students. So we didn't give them cash, we didn't give them info, we merely requested them to help other youngsters. They answered questions about easy methods to be directly, tips on how to get away from their cell phone in eight minutes. And then we adopted them all the time. And the college students, simply asking for his or her recommendation, obtained extra motivation and did higher at college.

DUBNER: So just tell different individuals what they need to do in their lives, will you do higher?

DUCKWORTH: It's not intuitive as a result of everybody does all of it the time. But on this specific case, how did we ask questions so.

DUBNER: I prefer it. Angela, as you already know, is usually performed throughout these reside performances, referred to as "Tell me something I don't know." And what we do, we deliver a gaggle of visitors from totally different backgrounds and disciplines on stage. And we ask them to tell us something notably fascinating about the subject. Then and I ask them some questions. And then the later dwelling audience chooses the winner.

The standards are very simple. No. 1: Did they tell us something we didn't really know? No. 2: Was it value understanding? And No. three: Was it Really True? And that is the genuine a part of this verbatim that you’d be a welcome real-time supervisor. He is the director of International Insights at Qualtrics, he is the founder of Five for the Battle, a campaign to eradicate most cancers: Mike Maughan. Hey Mike, for the first time in L.A once we do the show. Need to tell us about the little-known information about L.A.?:19659004] Mike MAUGHAN: So, L.A. is a singular place. It is illegal to drive over 2,000 sheep on the Hollywood Boulevard. Over the last two centuries, a surprising number of individuals have been arrested. There's a present shop in L.A's coroner's workplace – just bizarre. And whereas San Francisco would in all probability own it, L.A is taken into account to be the birthplace of the Web because the first broadcast was despatched to U.C.L.A. even to Menlo Park in 1969. Now, sadly, this is also the birthplace of the Swordsman and Animatron robots.

DUBNER: Win some, lose some. Mike Maughan, thank you very much. I feel it's time to start out. The primary guest tonight, would you be welcome – he is the mayor: Eric Garcetti.

Eric GARCETTI: Wow. Welcome to the City of Angels.

DUBNER: Mayor Garcetti, we at New Yorkers really feel that we received a fairly accurate image of the lives of California, especially Southern California. It’s principally earthquakes, forest fires and Kardashians. So I'm simply curious: is there one thing else right here, basically?

GARCETTI: Properly, we're taking a look at getting an animated Kardashian, so these two things will come together quickly. But no, it's pretty much the entire quantity of this superb metropolis. It's a very simple place, however I need to call it a type of imperfect paradise.

DUBNER: What do you consider incomplete elements?

GARCETTI: I feel our largest challenges are poverty; associated housing, homelessness; transport and transportation. And then I might say that the third factor we face is looking for out how we will implement pluralism and work for it. I feel we do a reasonably good job in comparison with other locations. Los Angeles I need to say it's a place where everyone knows themselves. Many individuals contemplate "diversity" and "inclusion" as phrases, I feel they are much less good. You understand, the hometown's buffet is different. "Inclusion" means somebody highly effective and consists of you. But "belonging" is a superb equalizer.

DUBNER: Let's speak a bit about visitors. Most people who find themselves not here, like we, once we consider L.A, think of it as a geographically large place that requires a substantial amount of dependence on automobiles, which suggests a whole lot of congestion. Once we take into consideration public transport, we consider sluggish buses and not many trains. So tell me the place this notion is true and flawed and what you do about it.

GARCETTI: Properly, we had the greatest public transport system before. Pink automotive and yellow automobiles. We will go through conspiracies about whether or not automotive corporations and oil corporations killed them.

DUBNER: Undergo these conspiracies.

GARCETTI: Properly, okay. Speaking about Roger Rabbit. Most frequently, it isn’t true that there was a conspiracy behind it. We’ve all the time been at the forefront of transportation, and motorways have really been used for a long time. It was 20 minutes anyplace. We built the future, the method individuals speak about unbiased automobiles now, how they spoke earlier than. We thought for some time that rail automobiles are so yesterday, just to eliminate all of them as a result of the automobiles are right here perpetually. It led to a problem or two.

However we're changing it. I mean, we've simply handed the largest American transport initiative at local degree. We’re going to build 15 fast transit strains directly. As we speak we are already the third largest railway line. However it's like profitable a lottery right now in LA. As in case you are fortunate to stay on this line and work there and it will possibly take you – you're like "Wow, I won." We need to do it greater than 5 %, which is at present.

Secondly, I feel we’ll remedy it by making an attempt to design higher communities. We used to differentiate between where we work, the place we play, the place we stay. And now we try to build communities where you’ll be able to really walk. Thirdly, we’re at the forefront of know-how, which we say yes when testing things here, whether or not it's a combined automotive and an unbiased car, be it Hyperloop or Boring Firm.

DUBNER: Was it Elon? 19659004] GARCETTI: Yeah, it was Elon Musk. When you take a look at your seats proper now, there’s actually a free Tesla key for everybody. You're a winner. You're a winner.

DUCKWORTH: It's inspiring to take heed to you. But if there’s one secular development that’s unquestionable when taking a look at the generations of young individuals who grew up in the 1960s compared to the 70s after which at the flip of the millennium, young individuals are getting more cynical and fewer dependable politicians and political establishments. What’s your message to younger individuals at the moment?

GARCETTI: Two Things. Diagnose it appropriately. I feel it’s – I'm going to get a real examine, shoot. Some polling corporations gather American trust in establishments yearly – 15 totally different establishments and solely three in America are over 50 %. The police are hardly, army and small businesses. So journalism, means underneath water. Not surprisingly, the White House is underwater. Congresses underwater.

Individuals don't belief massive establishments because we have now read so many tales about people who give them down. “I consider in God, however then I read the story of the clergymen. I believed in journalists and then came to this podcast. “Tales where your faith has simply been questioned. However in any case, my message is that there isn’t a policy that folks – like me. It isn’t about mayors or members of Congress or your president or governor; it's about you. You both use your personal energy or transfer it to another person.

And every single day at the local degree, I have this nice brotherhood and mayor both in the United States and worldwide, who haven’t any probability of arguing about the stuff. We now have to cope with international warming because we’ve got fires. We now have to cope with inequality as a result of it is on our streets. So don't simply depart it to the elected leaders, interact in participation, and don't give energy to Washington earlier than you even apply it.

DUBNER: Mr. Mayor, I understand that your metropolis has acquired a metropolis e-mail message to Gmail, so it's the first, I feel, the largest metropolis with their e-mail in the cloud.


DUBNER: Is it also true that you simply require all city staff to make use of the similar password that was "awesomemayor12345"?

GARCETTI: Yeah, I imply it's only a default password, you’ll be able to change it afterwards. But 92% of them aren’t. So I take pleasure in reading their emails.

DUBNER: Now that you simply speak about you so properly, LA was lately recognized as the greatest city in the United States that uses knowledge to regulate.

GARCETTI: as being the highest constructing in Wichita, however I'll take it. No, all boys, we’re proud that we’ve opened up our info and shared it with journalists and hackers, as well as with people who can use this info. I imply a constructive feeling for hackers who can come and do things to empower the metropolis.

DUBNER: Might you tell us one thing you've discovered through the use of administrative info that otherwise – either identifying an issue or concept

GARCETTI: So everyone is watching Chinatown, the huge film, how we stole the water from Owens Valley.

DUBNER: Owens Valley is what – who manages it? [19659004] GARCETTI: It is quite a lot of provinces which are run by the administrators, however Los Angeles, the metropolis of Los Angeles – I received this – our farm in the Owens Valley is greater than the complete LA metropolis and I noticed we would have liked to do one thing particular for the drought. And right here I found the statistics that 260 million gallons of water a day went to the rest room and our sinks to the Hyperion Water Remedy Plant proper subsequent to LAX. And we cleaned it so that we have been not polluted and then rinsed it to the sea. And it was about 3 times the equivalent of L.A.

So, what William Mulholland had deliberate to return to LA, we might primarily quadruple the quantity of water on this metropolis from these two sources simply by recycling 100 % of what we reported two months ago after working a number of years later. we do, and we achieve. However I mean, I feel that actually was one among the moments if I hadn't learn this number, I don't assume I might have made this choice, and I don't assume we might have made the largest change in infrastructure for 100 years.

DUCKWORTH: What did you like once you have been 16?

GARCETTI: My very own social group, which was a theater nerds or theater nerds.

DUCKWORTH: You have been a theater nerd.

GARCETTI: Yeah. There are ten of us here and all of us keep up a correspondence. Thanks for coming.

DUCKWORTH: Like a stage crew?

GARCETTI: No, I used to be on stage. And I used to be purported to be an lively activist. I imply, I was this unusual mix that displays this city. I imply Angelino – I have an Italian last identify, I’m half-Mexican, half-Jew. I used to be really human rights, and I discovered my place in these two issues, being in the world and making an attempt to attempt for human rights and to get into the stage when you’re afraid – I don't know, we will swear here?

DUBNER: Positive.

GARCETTI: Terrified of s.

DUBNER: I imply, it's your city. You shouldn't ask us should you might swear.

GARCETTI: You possibly can swear at present.

DUBNER: Thanks. I respect it. Talking of the vote, Luis Guerra, the chief of our band, apparently has a number of parking tickets.

GARCETTI: Oh, I do know. And I thank him for them. Maintain it, man. We’d like income. Extra firefighters, longer hours in our library. Hold parking.

DUBNER: So I need to ask you. In 2020, there can be about half one million democratic candidates, certainly one of whom shouldn’t be you. Nevertheless, lots of them are less seen than you. So why not? And don't take it for those who don't like your mind, give me an atypical answer about loving your current job and if you wish to serve your term. As a result of we know that this doesn't stop anybody else.

GARCETTI: I can only speak about myself, however it should. See that in politics, individuals typically stay a lot of their profession in the future that they ignore the current and what they’ve. And this isn’t just about politicians, all of us. We're all the time like "Cool, I got an Apple iPhone 8 when 9 is coming?" It is one thing we have now to self-discipline ourselves, and I went by means of it, and I assumed I might have something I might add to it. However it is rather troublesome to be C.E.O. and when you have conscience, don't drive it into the metropolis. If academics cease, as we did in January, breaks down or the earthquake comes, God denies. Life is long and we’ll find the future.

Dubner: Subsequently, what I’ve learn, the administration type appears to be actually compared to the cooperation command and management or public sale. The facility we see in Washington quite a bit. For those who might magically rely on one change in a federal government that may do extra cooperation or at the very least less direct indifference, what would you do?

GARCETTI: So in DC we have now this mentality to be reversed and replaced. As quickly as I can get into the authorities, I will simply overturn all the things the last individuals did and substitute it with my philosophy. And we see a compromise as a type of dirty word, and I feel it's actually poisonous. At an area degree, we will't afford to do it.

You recognize that we raised the minimal wage right here in L.A, however we also decreased the city tax. Think about it a second time. In case you are a democrat, it is best to increase both of this stuff. In case you are a Republican, you need to rely each. However we know that extra money for people who intend to spend it on Essential Road is sweet for the financial system, in addition to a reduction in urban enterprise taxation based mostly on gross revenue, which is anti-business.

So if I might change one thing in Washington, it’s utterly radical, but I’d have the ability to eliminate political events utterly. I feel our founders have been planning groups, not parties, and that is the most damaging thing we have now now.

DUBNER: Yeah. Please inform me. So I simply need to ask you – this is a fair tastier concept for most people than you. But even when individuals enter into the greatest intentions – who I consider they typically do, they need to serve the public curiosity – that once you get the incentives in your system, somewhat than the longevity that we would like you to participate in a number of short-term serious about empowerment and re-election. So, from an financial perspective, I might see that the incentives can be higher matched, for instance by financially rewarding the chosen officers by establishing some revenue that may pay in the long term if the tasks they are working on really work [19659004] GARCETTI: Here's a means you’ll be able to sell it . Speak about redistribution by speaking about the concept of ​​frontloading. The thought is state wealth funds. So it isn’t a prize for a politician or an elected official, however for all of us the place I might even have a contribution. If we are capable of do one thing with some profit, we’ll make 20% of it public good.

Nevertheless it's not only a evaluation that’s after that. I might say that we might come again to state establishments with free schooling. Not just what we’ll discover out later by taking extra money from very rich or corporations, but truly one thing that is ranked first. So I might have an incentive.

Because I feel it’s a caricature that the chosen individuals are getting increasingly unfastened. I mean, we continued the Olympics and gained the Olympics and Paralympics in 2028. And individuals are like: "Well, you don't care about the Olympics, and you're not even a mayor if there's a cost." And I say, “No, I'm going to be worse than the mayor. I'm going to be a taxpayer living here in Los Angeles. ”

DUBNER: Most economists claim that when cities or regions use a serious public occasion, corresponding to the Olympics or conventions, the World Cup, and so on, that, usually, for tax functions, it seems that the metropolis just isn’t good. I know that L.A. has efficiently made the Olympics earlier. You in all probability assume it could work once more here. Why? Why L.A. is it totally different – is there an infrastructure?

GARCETTI: It's our infrastructure and the method we do the Olympic Games. So we've had it twice earlier than. In 1932, we turned one million dollars to victory. In 1984, we introduced a totally new mannequin with sponsorship and the Olympic Video games. The US Olympic Committee broke and made tons of of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's infrastructure. And other people do issues like building a new railway in Sochi. Properly it's not the Olympics. It was $ 50 billion or any rail that folks put to the Olympic Video games as if they have been the pure value of the Olympics –

DUBNER: It's a boondoggle. And also you get your boondoggles in the early levels to allow them to –

GARCETTI: Higher, higher than that. We have been delayed till 2028, let Paris go first in 2024 and negotiated for $ 160 million. Thus, $ 16 million a yr has doubled the number of youngsters receiving swimming courses. And African People, the Latino youngsters, more than half of them do not know the best way to swim, and it is the second leading killer of youngsters beneath 12 years of age.

And the foremost explanation why L.A. can get away from it and different places are proper to keep away from having to construct an Olympic village, we use U.C.L.A., so we only lease these rooms. We've acquired all the infrastructure, the costliest mankind's historic stadium built with out public help in Inglewood right here on the ramps and chargers. We use it. We’ve a Colosseum, we’ve a Staples Middle, so we only lease unimaginable Sporting alternatives that we have already got right here. We now have a velodrome, we have now tennis courts. So, most other cities are sensible to go away a bid, however we hope that the Olympic Video games will need to construct so many new things.

DUBNER: The morale of the story is the Olympics only in the Los region


DUBNER: There’s one question I want to ask you, and we ask this to many essential individuals: What is it that was believed to be true for a long time, until you’ve gotten came upon that you simply have been flawed?

GARCETTI: Properly, I discussed it just a little. I consider that I used to be certainly one of the democrats who all the time thought that you would never decrease your taxes. And I feel that I’ve seen in apply that corporations make selections on the foundation of the taxes. It's undoubtedly one.

I feel one other thing – I assumed you would reject individuals's fears, and let's say at a City Hall assembly, where individuals don't need homeless shelters in their neighborhood, that it was okay to say "wrong", or that somebody is racist about one thing or this, and another. And I noticed over time that it’s worthwhile to understand individuals's fears that they often come from a real place, and until you perceive it, you’ll be able to't change it.

DUBNER: Mike Maughan, Mayor advised us so much about issues from Los Angeles. All the things we need to deal with?

MAUGHAN: So fascinating things. He was categorized as one in every of America's prime five databases, though he was married to an unimaginable Amy Wakeland.

GARCETTI: Thank you. I stated I was under no circumstances knowledgeable.

MAUGHAN: I needed to say considered one of the fascinating variety. There is a great analysis that simply showed that it is itself in L.A., not Los Angeles, as a result of it is the 63rd most versatile metropolis when it comes to race and ethnic variety. It strikes to the eighth most numerous metropolis when it comes to revenue, schooling, language, business, class, age, faith. and so forth.

Probably the most fascinating factor I feel you’re talking about is how the hometown's buffet also has variety. You need to know that in Canada some buffets supply jelly deer nose. In Japan, you will get tuna balloons. However the most impressive was the man in Springfield, Massachusetts, who ate all the variety and kicked off the buffet by spending more than seven hours on the spot consuming over 50 kilos of meals. So it's potential to get all the variety directly.

DUBNER: Because of Mike Maughan and thank you particularly to the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcet. The subsequent visitor is a seismologist at Caltech and is the leading authority in earthquake danger. Would you be welcome to Lucy Jones. It was so fascinating to me that folks clapped earthquakes. So inform us one thing we don't find out about earthquakes, beginning there.

Lucy JONES: I feel most individuals consider California as a place with numerous earthquakes. The truth is that we don't have enough. Now perhaps it's simply one thing seismologist says, however we will take a look at geology and see what number of we must be, and especially the last many years have been notably quiet. We name it the drought of the earthquake, and its solely downside is that it results in complacency. Individuals assume we have now to be ready and we have now to keep in mind that in the long term we’ll get extra.

DUBNER: Very fascinating. So for 20 years, this schedule might be not vital when you consider earthquakes, yes?

JONES: Greater. Properly. And if you wish to see really fascinating conversations, see geologists making an attempt to make statistics. Many of us wrestle about how you can do it right and claim it. However should you go into small enough earthquakes, you’ve got a whole lot of them, and it is statistically vital that the final 20 years are relatively quieter than in the last century.

DUBNER: A quick two-part query. I would like you to tell us about the earthquake forecasting and the way it has modified in current many years. After which joined to what you possibly can inform us about the huge earthquake, let's say in California next we say 10, 20 and 50 years?

JONES: Okay. I'll begin with the final one and just say that the nice earthquake in San Andreas 7.8, 8, something like this, is certainly inevitable. Give me sufficient time.

DUBNER: Time, we're speaking for many years, centuries, what?

JONES: Properly, properly. So we common 150 years –

DUBNER: Can I just say that you simply sound slightly too passionate about the chance

JONES: I can't create my very own experiments I’ve to attend for the nation to provide me. And I came right here in the first decade, we had a variety of earthquakes. We had Whittier Narrows, we had Northridge, we had Loma Prieta, after which the subsequent 25 years at the finish of my profession, nothing. I miss them. But I perceive that not everyone else.

The problem is that the sample is admittedly random. I may give you velocity. I can make the earthquake local weather if you need. But what we don't have is a storm. You realize when the rain is coming tonight and my iPhone says that 50% probability of rain will begin at 11:00, because they will measure the clouds coming. There’s nothing that is coming to an earthquake, or if there’s, it happens for each earthquake and there’s a mean earthquake every three minutes in southern California.

DUCKWORTH: What do you mean it's random? Do you really imply it’s random?

JONES: Yeah, statistically as a lot as we will say it's really random. You assume now, okay, we're building a fault. Earthquakes ought to happen when stress is built. The problem is that earthquakes truly happen with a lot much less pressure than the breaking pressure of the fault, and that is as if it goes unstable, we go to a different state, and the dynamic friction is far weaker than the static friction. And so the timing is managed if you happen to get a bit of break from some fault and it becomes unstable.

DUCKWORTH: Does it imply that there’ll never be a time once we can actually predict earthquakes?

JONES: I feel we by no means predict earthquakes. Observe qualifiers now, I'm a scientist, I don’t say absolute. The essential worth is: do the order of magnitude and the order of the seventy in the similar approach? In that case, there’s nothing predictable. You don't need me to foretell them. And so far as we will say at this level, they and the seven begin the similar means.

DUBNER: I do know you're enthusiastic about the next massive earthquake as a result of it keeps you busy, which isn’t a nasty cause to want an earthquake. But most individuals would in all probability say more about main earthquakes for apparent reasons: lack of life and injury and still. So speaking a bit of, I assume what you call the management of earthquake dangers. Tell us one sensible thing and one silly factor that California has achieved to regulate the earthquake danger

JONES: That basically sensible thing that mayor Garcetti did was take heed to me. He referred to as me to the Metropolis Corridor. We had an extended dialog. We have been capable of create a collaborative challenge the place the US Geological Survey, as an employer, put me in the Metropolis Hall and together we create a flexibility plan. The two largest issues typically – we all know what dangerous buildings are falling down and we have now approved repairs. House owners need to spend money on repairing these buildings, in order that they don't kill individuals.

DUBNER: What kind of money are we speaking about for retrofitting?

JONES: Billion. I imply, it's about 15,000 buildings.

DUBNER: And the house owners pay, proper?

JONES: And whether it is an house in a rental house, it is divided into 50/50 tenants, however they don’t seem to be allowed to put the whole value to the tenants. Concrete or business buildings, the proprietor pays for it and he can change his lease as needed or he might choose to tear it.

DUCKWORTH: Can I ask you that seven are inevitable? Like Superman, the first film I imply, what does this appear to be?

JONES: I truly watched this film with a class of geologists. We have been thrown out of the theater. We will take a look at geology, and Los Angeles will move to San Francisco. In just five million years, we are a suburb of San Francisco. And that’s inevitable. And it gained't stop. The disc's tectonics continues. The question is: are we going to take the subsequent step tonight or next yr or 50 years in the past

DUCKWORTH: And these insurance policies that construct the right infrastructure, are seven levels of earthquakes? [19659004] JONES: Completely. We do fairly nicely in six. Clear. We’ve had six who don't kill individuals. So we are creating it steadily. I mean, all the things is relative. We might undoubtedly be a metropolis that would stand it. We will't stop all the injury. We will do a better job with our water system and the whole lot. This Los Angeles aqueduct, from which he spoke, crosses the San Andreas fault in a picket tunnel inbuilt 1908. Tunneli on yhdeksän metriä halkaisijaltaan ja odotettavissa oleva vikapoikkeama on 12 jalkaa, joten se ei ole maanjäristyksen jälkeen

DUBNER: Okei, herra Awesome pormestari, mitä te olette tehneet siitä?

JONES: He suunnittelevat teknistä ratkaisua nyt.

DUBNER: S—. Kuinka paljon suurempi on kuolemantapahtuma Kaliforniassa tapahtuvassa maanjäristyksessä, sanotaan, New York?

JONES: Ei paljon. Meillä on paljon enemmän maanjäristyksiä, mutta sinulla on paljon huonompia rakennuksia. Tutkimuksessa kerrottiin, mitä odotettua rahaa menetetään eri kaupunkialueilla. Los Angeles on nro 1, San Franciscon nro 2, Seattlen nro 3 ja New York on nro 4.

DUBNER: Ymmärrän, että Kaliforniassa ei tarvita maanjäristysvakuutusta ja että noin 15 prosenttia kiinteistöjen omistajista ota se.

JONES: Voi, tämä on erilainen poliittinen kysymys kuin tiede, mutta se aikoo vahingoittaa talouttamme erittäin huonosti. Voit tarkastella San Franciscoon tapahtunutta tapahtumaa vuonna 1906. Se oli ainoa kaupunki, joka oli tärkeä länsirannikolla vuonna 1905. Tämä maanjäristys tapahtui ja tuhosi koko kaupungin. Seuraava vuosikymmen on Los Angelesin historian suurin vuosikymmen. Ihmiset luopuivat San Franciscosta ja tulivat etelään. Heidän taloudensa laski vuosikymmenten ajan, ja voit väittää, että San Francisco ei koskaan palannut asemaansa.

DUBNER: Mike Maughan, Lucy Jones sanoo, että iso on tulossa, eikä hän voi odottaa. Did you turn up any details which are value revisiting?

MAUGHAN: There’s in principle this sliver of land between the fault in the ocean the place that may break off after which L.A. would slide previous San Francisco, in order that’s an actual factor. I’d guess on that.

JONES: In 5 billion years.

MAUGHAN: Yeah, nicely positive. But what’s time? On a constructive notice, earthquakes are the only pure disaster not affected by climate change. Fortunate us. A number of issues to add: we are on this earthquake drought. We’re additionally in a drought of ethical management, human intelligence, and good Nicolas Cage films.

DUBNER: Mike, thank you and Lucy Jones, thank you a lot for becoming a member of us.

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DUBNER: Welcome again to Freakonomics Radio Reside. My co-host is Angela Duckworth. Our stay reality checker is Mike Maughan and we’ve received stay music tonight from the Freakonomics Radio Orchestra, which incorporates composer and bassist Luis Guerra; on drums, Mike Longoria; on guitar, Jimmy Messer; on horns and strings, Dan Weinstein; and on keys and good vibes, Kahlil Sabbagh.

Our next visitor is government director of the Port of Los Angeles: Gene Seroka. Gene, I understand the Port of L.A. is the largest container port in the U.S., bringing in about 37 % of imports. Is that about right, for starters?

Gene SEROKA: Mixed with Long Seashore, we usher in 37 %, however we account for a few fifth of all the visitors that moves in the United States.

DUBNER: Okay, so I’d love you to tell us something we don’t find out about the Port of L.A. and us being neither port individuals nor L.A. individuals, that might be pretty much anything.

SEROKA: One among our largest exports is air.


SEROKA: Empty containers.

DUBNER: Oh, is this about China?

SEROKA: We’re fairly dependent as a nation on imports. So we’ve obtained a stability of about two imports to each one export, and the stability of these containers we work round the clock to get back to Asia to allow them to get the next round of imports.

DUBNER: So that is containers deadheading their approach again to China to fill up to ship us extra stuff.

SEROKA: That’s precisely it.

DUBNER: Gotcha. Okay, so what are the mechanics, let’s say, and logistics and costs of delivery full stuff vs. air.

SEROKA: Properly in the event you’re delivery plenty of air you’re dropping cash. So you need to be sure to have round-trip economics, bringing imports in and exports out. And even when it’s a must to overreach and get somewhat extra market share in an space that you could be not have the relative power in.

DUBNER: I am interested in the empty versus full ships. How has that ratio changed over the last no matter, 5 or 10 years?

SEROKA: It’s remained fairly constant. We as a country have outsourced our manufacturing since the late ’70s, early ’80s, and us as shoppers need to go discover the product as shortly as we will, and we’re going to maintain doing that because the worth factors are so great. However what we’ve seen is that right now, the largest export from the United States to Asia is waste paper.

DUBNER: I assumed that was altering — that China is accepting a lot much less waste from us for recycling.

SEROKA: Yeah, the Inexperienced Fence Policy, this predated all the debates which are occurring between Washington and Beijing in the present day. But the concept is strictly as you stated, Stephen, to attempt to clear up the waste products that we ship again to China. Now wastepaper goes back, gets refined, and it makes those corrugated bins that ship our TV’s and our washing machines again here to the U.S.

DUBNER: Massive query. We’re in the center, perhaps, of a historic confrontation between the U.S. and China on commerce and tariffs. I’m curious to understand how this entire political chapter has been affecting enterprise at the port.

SEROKA: The numbers at the port at present are at document highs. You look beneath the hood, it’s just a little bit totally different just lately. We’ve seen a whole lot of imports advanced to get underneath the tariffs or taxation, and we’ve seen a paucity of exports — or actually a precipitous drop of exports — as a result of the retaliatory tariffs and the incontrovertible fact that those items aren’t as marketable as they’ve been in the previous.

DUBNER: A drop in the exports as a result of they don’t need the stuff to get there with the uncertainty of understanding what the retaliatory tariffs can be, or just as a result of it’s already taken effect here?

SEROKA: Slightly little bit of each.

DUBNER: Yeah. When things are going on in D.C. or Beijing, when there’s disagreements and so on. Your logistics should run on a really, very, very long time-frame. And I’m curious to know when the butterfly flaps its wings in a type of locations, how lengthy it takes to get to you.

SEROKA: Yeah. Realistically speaking, it takes about six months of thought that goes into bringing cargo again right here to Los Angeles. So there’s a merchandiser somewhere with an enormous retailer in the Midwest that says I need to buy 20 million widgets. They put an order right into a manufacturing unit. These items are manufactured. They’re put into the supply chain and moved all the means by way of and get right here to L.A. So once you and I determine that we need to log on and buy something and get next-day delivery, all of that has taken about six months of thought beforehand.

DUBNER: I perceive that the port caught greater than 1,500 kilos of meth that was being smuggled to Australia. So my first query is: Isn’t meth really easy to make and shouldn’t Australians have the ability to make their own? Was that query not in your purview as a—

SEROKA: No, I wouldn’t claim to be an skilled there.

DUBNER: Okay. Let’s speak about contraband usually. I’m interested in port safety. So tell us what you’re what you’re prepared to about individuals doing what they shouldn’t be doing together with your ships coming in or out.

SEROKA: Yeah. Port safety is one in every of the largest features of what we do on a every day basis. We now have considered one of the nation’s only sworn-in civilian police forces. They work immediately with all the allied businesses and picture, from the F.B.I. to the C.I.A., Secret Service, all types of parents, to share intelligence and try to stop the dangerous guys. There might be something from stepping into our techniques to seek out out where our money is flowing, how financial institution accounts are used both right here and abroad, to get ships to move in the flawed course and cause havoc. All of the above and rather more.

DUBNER: And who’s doing that?

SEROKA: Dangerous guys.

DUBNER: Mike Maughan, Gene Seroka, who runs the Port of L.A.

SEROKA: America’s port, Stephen.

DUBNER: Oh, America’s port. Gene Seroka has been telling us about the ins and outs of the port. Anything value calling our attention to?

MAUGHAN: So you mentioned that in January, the port caught plenty of meth that was being smuggled to Australia. The medicine have been hidden in metallic packing containers labeled as loudspeakers. Now to Stephen’s point, making meth apparently isn’t that onerous. Don’t fear, I opened an incognito browser to take a look at this. There are 4 main methods to make meth in the U.S., but they’ve a completely totally different technique that the Mexican cartels use. So it all relies upon on the taste you like. Final month, a large Australian newspaper ran a headline that claims, “Meth remains our country’s illicit drug of choice!” Exclamation point; they’re very thrilled about it. So there you’ve it.

DUBNER: Gene Seroka, thank you a lot for becoming a member of us tonight. It is time now for our last visitor. She works at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. And she or he is specifically with a NASA division referred to as Planetary Protection. Would you please welcome Moogega Stricker. Moogega, welcome.

Moogega STRICKER: Thanks.

DUBNER: It will seem that your division, Planetary Safety, has one thing to do with preventing off— let’s say potential asteroid strikes that may devastate the earth. Is that true?

STRICKER: That’s the actual number-one thing that folks often assume. However it’s incorrect. So what I do is I focus on the microbial scale, and defending different planets from humans, ensuring once we discover different planets, our bodies, asteroids, that we don’t contaminate it with life that we discover on Earth. Particularly if there may be life that exists there.

DUBNER: It’s so fascinating that we’re more concerned about polluting other planets than ours.

DUCKWORTH: Did we do something incorrect with the earlier moon landings?

STRICKER: You already know, the astronauts once they came again from the moon, they splashed down in the ocean and if there was one thing on the outdoors of the container that basically might hurt people, we might have been lifeless right there at splashdown.

DUCKWORTH: But what do you do, although? Like, you’ll be able to’t undergo a automotive wash on your approach again down from area.

STRICKER: What you want to do if you convey something again —people back or samples again — that you must do lots of great artistic engineering to have capsules within capsules or a sterilization gadget as a way to forestall something dangerous to return again to Earth.

DUBNER: So is this principally about Mars 2020, what you’re working on?

STRICKER: Yeah, so my job is particularly targeted on Mars. Mars 2020 goes to go to the floor of Mars, gather samples, and for the very first time, package deal them in a approach that they will come back to Earth. We’ve never had a pattern return mission from Mars.

DUBNER: Okay, so let me ask you this. You don’t sound like a very excited individual, I’ve to say — however what would actually, actually super-duper excite you about Mars and getting stuff again?

STRICKER: Yeah. Probably the most thrilling and ultimate objective is, we’re looking for life. And to be able to discover signs of life and truly definitively discover a smoking gun, that may be just an exciting dream come true, because it might reply the question: Are we alone in the universe?

DUBNER: So what do you truly do in your job?

STRICKER: So a day in my life can be sitting in a really small room with a bunch of engineers, scientists, and say, “Okay we’re going to plug in the face of the rover onto the body of the rover,” and earlier than we do this, planetary safety, do it’s worthwhile to pattern the hardware? So we might go in with our sterile swabs, our wipes, and we might truly scrub or swab the precise surface and go to the lab and see what microbes are present on this element.

DUBNER: What do you consider the microbes that you may encounter elsewhere? And what are the both risks or probably advantages of these?

STRICKER: So part two of my job, planetary safety, is once we deliver samples again, we’ve got to ensure that it doesn’t harm humans.

DUCKWORTH: So how do you do this? How are you going to tell?

STRICKER: So one technique that was truly achieved is — for the moon rocks — is feeding it to chickens. I’m unsure why they selected chickens however it’s simply a type of exams. How do you prove that you simply’re not going to kill anybody?

DUCKWORTH: So I imagine that this is such a selected profession that not a whole lot of women and boys assume that they’re going to grow up to be a part of the planetary safety lead for Mars. So how did you find yourself here?

STRICKER: I truly didn’t know planetary protection existed till I was working on my Ph.D. So I used to be working on plasma sterilizations they usually had a venture that used plasma to sterilize spacecraft surfaces. Because it’s really robust. You’ll be able to imagine whenever you’re innovating these new materials and new spacecraft, a number of these aren’t able to going by way of high-temperature warmth sterilization processes. In order that they need different various methods. Plasma was a type of options. So as an undergrad I studied physics, and before that I used to be just the little child that watched Carl Sagan‘s The Cosmos and that really put me on the trajectory of, I want to be an astrophysicist, this is what I want to do. And instead of playing in the summertime, I would take classes. Started college at 16 and I’m identical to this is what I need to do. So, get out of my method.

DUBNER: So can I ask you, though, simply to be clear, there are some individuals at NASA who’re protecting us from the asteroids?

STRICKER: Yes. Don’t fear, they exist. They’re doing their issues.

DUBNER: Can you give me some element on that, whenever you say they’re doing their issues. And in addition you’re referred to as Planetary Safety. Which I discover to be a very deceptive title, I’m not going to misinform you. So what are what are they referred to as?

STRICKER: They’re referred to as Planetary Protection.

DUBNER: Yeah. All proper.

STRICKER: Because they’re defending towards the asteroids, the impacts.

DUBNER: So let me ask you this. If you find microbes — whether or not in your lab or perhaps somewhere the place a spacecraft is being assembled, no matter, and you try to determine the microbes, do you ever find something that hadn’t been beforehand identified?

STRICKER: Yeah, it’s actually nice. So the old-school days, again when Planetary Protection began, it was very culture-based. Meaning we might take a sample. We might grow it up in the lab and based mostly on whatever grew, we might determine it. And now that we’ve fast forwarded to DNA-based evaluation, we’ve seen a lot extra. In the event you take a look at the soil, zero.1 % of microbes in the soil are even capable of be grown in a lab. So it’s only a tiny sliver what exists. So yeah, we discover so many new things there are literally tons of of latest species that have been discovered just in our evaluation on this spacecraft meeting facility.

DUBNER: No kidding.

STRICKER: Over 100.

DUBNER: And then, once you make that discovery, do you attempt to find it elsewhere on the earth?

STRICKER: Yeah. That’s the great thing about DNA sequencing and databases which are accessible worldwide. There was one microorganism we found in our clear room and the similar sort popped up in some lake or a collapse China. So we’re 23andMe-ing all of the bacteria that exists around the world.

DUBNER: And what does linking that info truly get you? How does it advance the science, or what does that enable you to try this in any other case wouldn’t have been potential?

STRICKER: So for example, a whole lot of the medical-devices business, whenever you go in and also you get a colonoscopy or an endoscopy, and also you need to make it possible for they clean it off and the whole lot is stored nice. We found that in the strategy of sterilizing these units, they use one thing referred to as a biological indicator. That is the hardiest, strongest champion of microbes that if we kill that, we’ve killed the whole lot else. And so this biological indicator has changed over time because we’ve found these new microbes. And in our clear room, we’ve discovered a microbe that knocked off that organic indicator, that gold commonplace.

DUBNER: So I’ve learn that you simply once appeared on a reality TV show referred to as King of the Nerds. That is true?

STRICKER: You’ve gotten a very nice researchers.

DUBNER: And we’ve additionally read that part of the competition was to compose and perform a nerd anthem, and that your anthem was referred to as “Nerds are King.” Is that this all true?


DUBNER: So I consider that our band has discovered “Nerds are King” on-line, they usually’re prepared to again you up in case you are prepared to sing it. Are you good with that?

STRICKER: That sounds great.

Singing: You name me a nerd prefer it’s a nasty factor, but the world is our kingdom, and nerds are king. Representing for the geeks who get put down. Nerds are the new cool and we run this city.

DUBNER: Mike Maughan, fact-check that.

MAUGHAN: That was good. Okay, so, I feel the most fascinating factor I discovered was just the option to apply for a job in Planetary Protection. Underneath job qualification it lists the following things: frequent journey, it doesn’t point out that it’s to Jupiter and Saturn. There are only three technical qualifications that you simply want: one is advanced information of planetary safety; two, demonstrated experience planning, executing and overseeing parts of area packages of national significance; three, demonstrated expertise in diplomacy, in all probability because you never know when you must negotiate with aliens.

DUBNER: Thank you so much, Moogega Stricker. That was just nice, thanks, and will we please have yet one more spherical of applause for all our friends tonight. It is time now for our reside viewers to inform us who their favorite visitor was tonight. Perhaps it’s the visitor that you’d most like to listen to from in a future studio episode of Freakonomics Radio. Let’s keep in mind the criteria: Did they inform you one thing you did not know? Was it really value understanding? And was it demonstrably true? So who’s it going to be?

  • Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles,
  • Lucy Jones, who each calmed and frightened us together with her earthquake experience,
  • Gene Seroka, who runs the Port of L.A., America’s port, or
  • Moogega Stricker, who helps shield numerous planets from numerous microbes and in addition composes anthems to nerds.

Okay, the audience vote is in. Once once more, thanks a lot to all our friends presenters. And our grand-prize winner tonight for telling us about planetary protection, Moogega Stricker. Onnittelut. Moogega, to commemorate your victory we’d wish to present you with this Certificate of Impressive Information. It reads, “I, Stephen Dubner, in consultation with the great Angela Duckworth and Mike Maughan, do hereby attest that Moogega Stricker told us something we did not know for which we are so grateful.” And that’s our show for tonight. I hope we informed you something you did not know. Large because of Mike and Angela, to our friends, to Luis Guerra and the nice Freakonomics Radio Orchestra. Thanks particularly to all of you for listening this week and every week to Freakonomics Radio. Good night time.