From Nose to Tail: Mysteries of the Mouth

RELEASED April 16, 2013
submit to reddit
Episode Summary
From Nose to Tail: Mysteries of the Mouth: Food goes on quite a fantastic journey through the human body and Stuff to Blow Your Mind is here to guide you on the way. Join Robert and Julie as they begin at digestion’s base camp: a world of smell, taste, saliva and gnashing teeth.

Robert:            This broadcast is brought to you by BASF, the chemical company.

Julie:    Welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind from

Robert:    Hey, welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind.  My name is Robert Lamb.

Julie:    And I’m Julie Douglas.

Robert:    And we are beginning a journey this week as the title indicates From Nose to Tail.  We are going to take a fantastic journey through the digestive system.  Along the way we’ve even talked to a special guest, and we’re gonna begin where it all starts, with the nose, with the mouth, with the entry point to the gastrointestinal highway.

Julie:    Yeah, and I really wanted to try to imagine this journey we’re about to take with something that was sort of a spectacular food.  Spectacular in the sense that it would really need a lot of digestive juices to break down.  And so immediately I thought about the haggis.

Robert:    Oh, the haggis.  This is sheep stomach stuffed with meat and barley.

Julie:    Yeah, it’s known as a savory pudding.  It does contain sheep pluck, it’s heart, liver and lungs.

Robert:    Obviously you were a vegetarian now, but have you had haggis?

Julie:    No, I have not.

Robert:    You’ve not?  So you gazed at it from afar?

Julie:    Well, you know there’s a Robert Burns’ poem.

Robert:    Oh, to a haggis?

Julie:    To a haggis, yeah.  It’s something that’s celebrated in poetry.  You have to sort of examine along the digestive tract right?

Robert:    Yeah, I mean you’re digesting to the digestive tract to a certain extent.

Julie:    Essentially because yes, traditionally this sheep’s pluck with is heart, liver and lungs, which is minced with onion, oatmeal, spices and salt, mixed with stock, it is all then dumped into the lining of an animal’s stomach where it simmers for about three hours.

Robert:    And really, everyone likes to have fun with the haggis, but there are a lot of different meats and tasty dishes even that come from organs and from the guts of animals.  You can make a very strong argument that we should be eating more guts.

Julie:    You could, I don’t know if you should.

Robert:    Well, there’s really a big ethical debate there to be had as well, but I mean from the standpoint of say a dog or a cat, that’s the starting place with the guts.  You go straight for the soft meats, you go for the organs.

Julie:    Yeah, and I can’t make fun of it too much because here in America we have something called TurDunkin right, which is the turkey, chicken and duck all stuffed in each other, wrapped in an enigma.

Robert:    Yes.

Julie:    All right, so what happens if you’re Robert Burns and you’re celebrating your favorite haggis, and you’ve got a fork full of it and you’re about to put it into your mouth?

Robert:    Well, you’re gonna want to smell it, I mean you are going to smell it.  There’s no mistake in that, but this is certainly the first step because ultimately when we were talking about taste and smell, we’re talking about chemical analysis.  Think of us again as less as the refined human divine being that is into tasting wonderful foods and reading art and listening to music.  Think instead of us as the evolved meat machine that needs to consume things to steal its energy so that it can keep going.

Julie:    Okay.

Robert:    So the first step is analyze matter to see to what degree it can be consumed and then turned into energy.

Julie:    Yeah, and it turns out that the nose is actually a really huge part of being able to taste something.  This is where it all begins, it’s called nasal-olfaction, and this is the smelling of the aromas from the outside of the mouth.  Now only 5 to 10 percent of the air you inhale while breathing reaches something called the old factory at the felium and that is located at the roof of the nasal cavity.

Robert:    So if you’re smelling something like across the room, you’re not necessarily tasting it?

Julie:    No, no.  The story here is that there’s something at play that is really dictating how you taste food and it’s called retro retronasal?olfaction?, and according to Mary Roach in her book Gulp, 80 to 90 percent of the sensory experience of eating is olfaction.  And when food enters your mouth and it begins to break down the chemical composition to these aromatic gases, they then drift up into the posterior nares in the back of the mouth where they connect with olfactory receptors.

So essentially we just have this fork full of haggis enter into the mouth, and all those aromas are going to the back of the throat and telling you how it is tasting before you’re even able to masticate it and chew it.

Robert:    So this is Step 2?  The meat machine has smelled the matter, found that it smells appetizing.  Now we shall touch it with taste buds and begin Phase 2 of matter analysis.

Julie:    Yes, and I love this quote from Mary Roach’s book, she says that taste is like a doorman for the digestive tract.  A chemical scan for possible dangerous, bitter, sour elements and desirable salty, sweet nutrients.  So she’s talked about some of the types of taste that we have on our tongue here, and that is the sweet, bitter salty, sour and [inaudible].

Robert:    The brothy, like teriyaki kind of a flavor.

Julie:    Yeah, and that is what is rolling around your tongue, so you have to start really thinking about the tongue here, and it’s not just a finger in your mouth directing food around right.  There’s a lot going on, the enzymes actually in the saliva begin to break food down, and we’ll talk more about saliva in a moment.  And they deliver them to this rough terrain on your tongue, which is covered in something called Papillae.  That is where you have your taste bud receptors, you’ve got a ton of them, you’ve got 50 to 100 taste cells in each taste bud receptor, and this I thought was really interesting when you compare it to catfish.  Because in the book Gulp, Mary Roach talks about the catfish as essentially one big tongue.

Robert:    It’s like a swimming tongue, it comes up and it’s rubbing up against something, it’s tasting it because ultimately when we’re talking about taste buds, these are just skin cells.  These are modified skin cells that have specialized for a purpose, and some animals do not have taste buds, as she mentioned the sperm whale for instance swallows stuff whole, so it doesn’t need a doormat.  Anybody can come in, there’s no age restriction, height restriction, etcetera.  Everyone’s welcome.

But then with humans, we are bringing things to our lips, so it makes sense for us to then have the taste buds inside our mouth, but the catfish is swimming around in the mud just tasting everything it touches.  The house fly as every knows, when it lands on something it’s tasting with it’s feet, there’s no need for it to transfer the material to a secondary source.

Julie:    It’s far more efficient right?

Robert:    Yeah, far more efficient.

Julie:    Especially if we would happen to just land on our food I’m sure the same sort of process would be at play.

Robert:    Could you imagine if everything we touch we tasted.  I’ll tell you, we would all have some very taste neutral gloves, and slacks in our life.  Marta would be a [inaudible] experience.

Julie:    Imagine you as this evergreen fly on Marta, our local training system.

Robert:    Well, every time I see somebody spit gum on Marda, whether they’re doing it appropriately into a trash can or inappropriately down into the tracks, I like to think imagine if there was a cursed piece of gum.  When you’re chewing it, it tastes just like normal gum, but when you spit it out, it basically becomes a taste receptor and anything the gum touches you taste for the rest of your life.

Julie:    That’s awful.

Robert:    Yeah.

Julie:    And I see that it’s a bit of a morality play going on here.

Robert:    Yeah, but it’s – and that would obviously be a crazy unrealistic sense world that you would then inhabit, but these real world examples here we’re looking at, the catfish, the housefly, they live in a sense world we can scarcely imagine because for us taste is this thing we only drag out when we need it.  We only unleash it on the world when we need it, but with the catfish the taste is its means of connecting with the world around it.

Julie:    Okay, so let’s imagine that this gum did sort of assume the place of a tongue right, this is poor discarded piece of gum at the bottom of the tracks here at the train station.  It would then send taste receptor signals to your brain still picking up on let’s say there’s a dog [inaudible] that peed on it.  Some of that uric acid to the brain, and then your brain would say oh man, I think that I’ve tasted this before.  Oh God, this is disgusting, or if you’re Robert Burns like oh, maybe a bit like a haggis.

That’s the cool thing that’s going on here is that our tongue is delivering all of these sensory implants here, and then your brain is doing a scan in trying to match its past history, but also trying to figure out whether or not it’s dangerous.

Robert:    Yes, and then of course you’re combining that with smell, which is even a larger database, but of course the sense of smell is interesting in that it’s not something we really think about consciously, it doesn’t really connect with us consciously, but it goes directly to the brain and it’s more of an emotional memory response, which is why you’re walking down the street you smell like a weird smell, and you’ll be like super nostalgic about it, and you don’t really know why.

But taste receptors, the other thing that I wanted to mention that Mary Roach points out is that we don’t just have them in our mouth.  We have taste receptors in the gut, in the upper esophagus, in the voice box, but the tongue buds are the only ones that are hard wired to our consciousness, which is good.

Julie:    Right because otherwise you would be picking up on taste like bile, but correct me if I’m wrong.  When you have these receptors sensing things, it’s more to try to figure out if there’s a bitter component to that, more so with food to make sure that it’s not something that’s dangerous.

Robert:    Yes or in some cases too, it’s tied into the hormonal responses as well.

Julie:    Right.

Robert:    But then also it’s easy to say oh well, if I had these taste receptors activated in my gut, if they were actually hooked up to my conscious mind, then I would be probably thinking oh, that tastes gross.  But I could only imagine it if you could consciously taste with your gut, then the right things would taste right you know what I’m saying.  It’s easy to get caught up in taste when we’re thinking about not only taste as a human experience, but taste in other animals, other species.  To think of it from this other closed mind and perspective of the things that taste good to us, and the things that don’t taste good to us.

But then ultimately, as we said at the start, it’s chemical analysis.  It’s analysis of matter to see if it is appropriate for transforming into food.

Julie:    And it’s true, and all of this chemical process is happening on your tongue, which by the way is the hardest working muscle in your mouth.

Robert:    Yes.

Julie:    Because even when you’re sleeping it’s still pushing saliva around and making sure that everything is working properly.  And I can’t help but keep thinking about the tongue parasite.  Do you remember Cymothoa exigua that takes over a certain fish’s tongue.

Robert:    Yeah, it replaces it.

Julie:    Replaces it.

Robert:    Eats it out, and then just squats there on the tongue stomp.  Kind of connects in, and then becomes the tongue.

Julie:    It becomes the tongue, and I can’t help but think it probably does not care about taste at this point, but surely it has some sort of sensory device in place to make sure that whatever it’s picking up isn’t dangerous for it.  A tongue within a tongue.

Robert:    All right on that note we’re gonna take a quick break and when we come back we will do some more exploration in the mouth.

Julie:    Or nashing of teeth.

Robert:    All right Julie, you know how this goes.  You have this enormous file that we need to send.  It’s just a [inaudible], and you have to somehow squeeze it through the email to the recipient.  But it’s too big to attach right?  Or say it’s a confidential file, and you’re not really comfortable just throwing it up there, attaching it to an email and sending it on.  Or you’re out of the office, and you need to access a spreadsheet or Powerpoint presentation and is on your work machine.  Someone’s gonna have to get it to you, and they’re gonna have to attach it to something.

Well, there is a solution to all of these problems, and it is called ShareFile, brought to you by Citrix.  The powerful tool that millions of professionals rely on everyday.

Julie:    That’s right, do you remember last week when I sent you that spreadsheet of my cat’s nicknames?  ShareFile, that’s right.  Because the cool thing about this is that unlike other services, ShareFile, which is designed specifically for business use, and allows you to send files of almost any size, access your files from any computer or mobile device, and ShareFile enhances your workflow easily and securely and by the way that Excel spreadsheet of cat nicknames was business related.
Robert:    Yes.  And you know what, we love it and we think you guys would get a kick out of it as well.  Certainly if you have a small business need for it, so we want you to try it, want you to try it for free and this is how it works.  You can get a special risk-free offer, and it’s a full 30-day free trial.  All you have to do is go to, click on the radio microphone and enter our promo code stuff, S-T-U-F-F.  Remember, visit, enter the promo code stuff, and start attaching some enormous files.

All right, we’re back, so again, we’re at base camp for the intestinal journey that goes from snout to sinker as they say.  So we’ve talked about the tongue.  We’ve talked about smell and how that plays into the chemical analysis of matter that we are going to transform into energy.  So it is time to talk about the teeth and talk about the jaw, our means of mastication.

Julie:    Yeah, and before we can even talk about that I have to give a little shout out to the old Ordovician period.

Robert:    Oh yeah?

Julie:    Yeah because this is when our early vertebrae ancestors actually transformed their gill archers in to jaws.  We’re talking about 480 million years ago, but if that had not happened, we wouldn’t even have the ability to nash our teeth and to break things down and be so successful as a species right?

Robert:    So the next time you wake and your jaws sore from nashing your teeth all night then you can thank these ancient critters.

Julie:    Yeah or if you’re listening to us right now, grabbing some lunch or some dinner keep that in mind.  And also keep in mind, this is really cool, and again this is revelation from the book Gulp by Mary Roach that the way you chew is unique to you.  Help me just to grab this little quote here.  It says there are fast chewers and slow chewers, long chewers and short chewers.  Right chewing people and left chewing people.  Some of us chew straight up and down, and others chew side-to-side like cows.  Your oral processing habits are a physiological fingerprint.

Robert:    Yeah, it’s crazy, I never thought about that.  I mean I obviously I watched enough police investigation shows to know that everyone’s bite, their bite marks are individual to them and can be used to figure out exactly who bit who, but the chewing as well.  We each have a chew fingerprint.

Julie:    Yeah, would just say you have any unique chewing characteristics.

Robert:    No, I get the job done, but that’s about as much as I think about it.

Julie:    Well, I know I chew on my left side just because I have a dental problem on my right side that I haven’t taken care of, but it’s kind of interesting to know that everybody has a different kind of chewing rhythm going on, and I think that speaks this idea that our teeth are so much more sensitive than we realize in doing this job.  They can actually detect a grain of sand or grit 10 microns in diameter, and Mary Roach says that a micron is 1/25th thousand of an inch.  And if you shrink a coke can until it was the diameter of a human hair the letter O and the product name would be about 10 microns across just to give you an idea of how sensitive your teeth are to what’s in your mouth.

Robert:    Yeah, it’s crazy when you think about it.  I often think back to the comparison between say a chimpanzee’s muscles and the human’s muscle.  A chimpanzee has more brute strength, like tremendous more brute strength than a human, but a human has more dexterity, and when you look at the human mouth there is so much delicacy to what we can do with it, and just so much unnerving power you know, and you think about the things we stick in it, fingers, what have you or just the fact that our teeth are touching each other.

If you’re like me, had any experience grinding your teeth at night, you know how self-destructive the system can be when it’s not working properly because it’s a powerful set of jaws you have there.

Julie:    Yeah, and your teeth are sitting there sort of like the levy of your mouth too because if they weren’t there then you’d have a bunch of saliva drooling out like a one year old does.  So yeah, that’s very cool that the teeth are that sensitive, and then your jaw muscles are that sensitive too.  As you said, there’s a lot of power going on there, and in terms of pressure per single burst of activity, the jaw muscles are the strongest muscles that we have.

Robert:    Yeah, and you don’t even think about them being muscles for the most part.  Even when they’re kind of sore.  Like I challenge anyone out there who’s not driving right now to reach up and kind of gently massage their jaw muscles to remind yourself that they are there, and you really start to go oh, wow, there’s actually some stiffness, some soreness up in there, and there’s just a lot of muscle.

Julie:    It feels delightful by the way.

Robert:    It does yeah.  Do it if you need to relax, rub your jaw muscles a little bit.

Julie:    And then of course you’ve got all of the mechanics going on, so you’ve got all of that pressure per single burst going on.  If you’re chewing something and its really amazing that you have that amount of pressure and yet your jaw can sense and ease up at the precise moment that it needs to, to make sure it doesn’t come crashing down together.

Robert:    Like you can pop a grape, you can crush a nut in your mouth, and not then destroy the teeth that are crashing together anything.  I believe Mary Roach also points out that any time you’re crunching something in your mouth like there’s a tiny sonic boom taking place inside your skull.

Julie:    Yeah, she calls it the physics of eating, and it’s really cool because your brain, it’s trying to get all these auditory clues about what’s going on as well, so it’s taking in input about the taste, the smell, but then yeah, you’ve got the cellular walls of say like the grape you said popping in your mouth, breaking down, making that sonic boom and telling you this is something that’s really fresh.  It’s a fresh produce, it’s not rotting and on its way out, and its not harmful.  So even something like that, a tiny little detail is being processed.

Robert:    That’s why we like crunchy things.  That’s why people can eat potato chips all day because there’s the crunch, even though the potato chip itself is horrible for you, the crunch is communicating with your primordial wiring and you’re thinking oh, fresh food, fresh food, fresh food as you can’t stop popping them.

Julie:    As you layer on process food after process food into your mouth.

Robert:    Yeah, and it really gets into why texture is so important.  In our 3?D printing episode, actually Part 2 of the 3-D printing episode I believe we talked about some of the challenges of printing food, and how they basically sort of table the physical printing until they can get the taste sensations right.  But like that would be one of the big challenges making sure that you have the right array of Christmas and other textures.

That’s why for me sushi is so amazing because you have so many different textures going on in the food product.  It’s not just the taste, but the textural – it’s not just the taste, but the textures you experience as you eat it.

Julie:    Yeah, and there’s a great chapter that is sort of tangential here, but it talks about pet food.

Robert:    Oh God, that is an amazing chapter.

Julie:    Yeah, it talks about the palatines that are added to it.  The palatines are what make it enticing to cats and dogs.

Robert:    Yeah, its like a liquid layer or in some cases it’s powered on, and one of the other guys that she talks to, he was previously in the Cheetos business I think, or the Fritos, one of the O’s of chips where of course you have a standard sort of corn mush, dried puff of a thing, but then it’s coated with some sort of delicious dust or liquid to make it into a non-stop snacks and station.

Julie:    Right, so they get the texture first.

Robert:    They get the texture first, and if you just eat the un –

Julie:    The naked Cheeto.

Robert:     – yeah, just the naked Cheeto, then it’s gonna have no flavor, it’s just like eating cardboard, but you put the flavor on it, and people can’t resist it.  And it’s the same thing with pet food.

Julie:    And I think its so interesting that it goes back to this idea of our brain clocking the physics again of the food.  Is the food ripe, is the fruit good, is the produce fresh, is it gonna make that sonic boom that my brain knows is healthy.  And then somehow that’s what got warped into the process food landscape.

Robert:    That chapter’s been one of my favorites that I’ve read in the book thus far.  It also helps sort of show how every animal live in a different sense world and how silly it is to apply an individualized human taste expectations to other things.  For instance, the palatine for cat food that Mary Roach tastes, she says it basically has no flavor, but it’s the flavor coating that drives cats bananas.  So the thing that cats love tasting the most, we can’t even really perceive.

Julie:    Which is funny when you think about those, I think it’s Fancy Feast, those commercials where they serve up the meal to a big white fluffy cat in a crystal bowl.  You know we can’t help but project a cat like you want 15 different flavors, you want choices.

Robert:    And no, cats don’t want choices.  As she points out, cat owners can also attest to, cats don’t want it mixed up.  They want the same thing, even domestic cats that are eating wild animals.  Mary points out that they tend to be either burgers or mousers.

Julie:    And it helps to dictate what their preferences and food choices right?

Robert:    Yeah, exactly.  To your point too, the whole thing about the dog food, cat food industry is your selling a product for animals, but you’re selling it to humans, so you have to find that crossover between the two tastes.  You have to find stuff that smells gross enough that dogs love it, but not so gross that humans don’t want to be around it.  You have to market to humans who want the best healthy food for their pet.  They have it in their mind that they need a steak dinner, when really they just want to eat their delicious guts out of something.

Julie:    Or on the other side of that where there is vegetarian Kibble available for cats and dogs.  When in fact, especially for a cat you know the diet is a [inaudible] diet.

Robert:    Yeah, 100 percent Conover, OG Conover.  They don’t want veggies.  They’ll nibble on a little wheatgrass and they near vomit, but that’s about it.

Julie:    But it’s real interesting to see if from this side, the marketing side and the psychological side.  One of my other favorite chapters that Mary Roach has is sort of an ode to saliva, and I thought was wonderful because really, it is a big player.  Not just in breaking down our food, but in other ways.  So I wanted to talk about that a little bit.

Okay, so another really great chapter that Mary Roach has is basically a ode to saliva, and I’m glad that she has this chapter because there’s so much going on in your saliva, and we had touched on it briefly when we talked about regurgitation celebration, and we talked about vultures.

Robert:    Yes.

Julie:    But it is an amazing substance.

Robert:    Yeah, we’re talking about spit here of course, and as everyone’s else spit is not just water, I mean it’s 98 percent water, but there are some other important things going on and to think about it like you know what is it for?  It’s not just a matter of keeping your mouth wet.  It’s also about giving the food wet, breaking down the food a little bit in your mouth before it goes down.

Basically it’s involved in creating the bowless.  So again, think about to the human body as the meat machine that must transform other matter into energy, so it has smelled the food and found it appetizing.  It has tasted the food and found it appetizing, so the next step of course is to chew it up, break it down into smaller pieces, get it all nice and wet and mucky, and transform it into a package that can then be sent down the gut highway.

Julie:    And this is the bowless right?

Robert:    Yes.

Julie:    This ball of food that’s massive, masticated mess.

Robert:    Masticated meat pudding if you will.

Julie:    Yeah, the haggis right.  So what I love about what it’s made up of is that it’s just so wildly different, so yes it is mostly water, but you do have electrolytes, you have antibacterial compounds, enzymes, which we’ll talk about and then mucous really.  And the reason why you have this mucous in your saliva or this mucous is because you need it to be a fiscus.  You need to be able to travel well because it could then deliver all of those flavors and bits and morsels of your food to your tongue to give it again what it needs to tell your brain hey, this is what this is because if you had a dry tongue you wouldn’t be able to taste anything essentially.

Robert:    Sorry, I was thinking about my tongue as it sits there.

Julie:    Let me tell you about other, I think super hero properties of saliva, it helps to return Ph levels to normal in your mouth, and that’s really important because of course you’ve got enamel in your teeth.  You don’t want it to be eaten away by something, so let’s say that you drank something like orange juice, which is very acidic and the Ph levels are high, and you drink it morning, noon and night, couldn’t get enough of it.  Thankfully, when you do that, the saliva actually increases, and it helps to reduce that Ph level and make it safe inside of your mouth for your teeth actually to exist and not just crumble away.

Robert:    Yeah, I mean it’s important really to give your mouth a little me time sometimes.  By what I mean by that is you’ve eaten breakfast, you’ve brushed your teeth and all that.  You’ve used mouthwash and it’s been 30 minutes since you’ve had your mouth washed and maybe even an hour.  It doesn’t mean you need to jump right back into snacks, and then brush your teeth.  Like let your mouth have a little just normal time to sort of settle.

Julie:    Especially when you consider that your mouth or actually your palliative gland produces about three pints of saliva a day, and 70 to 90 percent of that saliva is something called stimulated saliva.  So it’s working overtime trying to break things down for you.  Yeah, it needs a little me time.

Robert:    It’s important stuff, just don’t spit it on the train station.  That’s another thing, if people aren’t spitting gum, then they’re just spitting.  Yesterday a dude was on the train seated.  The train came to a stop, he got up from the seat, went up to the doors when they opened, spit out of the train and then returned to his seat, which on one hand he was nice enough to spit out of the train at a stop, but still it’s like how, what needed out that bad.

Julie:    Well, you know what’s interesting, and this comes up in Gulp, in the book, is that it is cultural, so if you go to certain countries, they find it disgusting to spit into a cloth because lets say they’re trying to hawk up presumably some flem from their body and spit that out.  They think it’s disgusting to keep that in something, so why not just spit it out, why would you collect it in the vessel.

Robert:    Yeah, I guess, and certainly people, I see people that seem to think that on public transportation, they spit it just directly onto the tiles.

Julie:    Right, and then they’ll have excuses because they’re from a different country or maybe they’re from another country and they think they’re just doing the thing they’re supposed to do.  The other thing I want to talk about in terms of spit, and yes don’t go spit it everywhere because it really is kind of like a liquid gold.

Robert:    I guess it’s very macho too, like we’re mentioning in the Corn and the [inaudible], a recent broadcast, Rita [inaudible] McCarthy book with a bunch of cowboys in it, and they were just spitting like crazy.  Every line of dialogue somebody spits.

Julie:    But every time they do that these wonderful enzymes are being released, and unless they’re being used for a purpose, and they’re splattering to the ground, and these enzymes aren’t doing anything.

Robert:    Yeah, it’s like a waste of important resources, which is why I like in the Dune Universe among the Freeman.  I like to spit you know.  That’s the big deal if you’re gonna spit or weep or something because it’s a precious liquid you’re leaving there.

Julie:    Yeah because saliva has anti-clumping properties, that discourages bacteria from rounding itself up and [inaudible] teething gums and creating colonies and it also is something that helps to heal wounds quicker.  So you’ll see again in other cultures, like for instance in Greece you’ll see someone sort of spit on their kids wound or apply spit in other areas and that’s because again, these antimicrobial properties that exist.

Robert:    Well, you mentioned in a previous episode, I believe it was the Vulture Vomit, about the studies that are going into looking at some other issues of food.  Human mothers who choose their food for their children, and the idea there is that the spit is the key to it.

Julie:    Well, yeah, you’re the human blender for them, but also you’re coating something that could be highly allergenic.  You’re coating those proteins with that saliva, and you’re making it less allergenic for the child.  So in a way it’s protecting the child as well, but I wanted to leave this area of this topic by looking at our laundry detergent because this is a great little tidbit that came up in the book, and I thought it was great.

Mary Roach had said okay, if you were saliva, has enzymes like amylase, which breaks down starches to sugar.  Lipase, which breaks down fats, and proteins, which breaks down protein, it sounds a lot like what’s going on in your laundry, your laundry detergent, and she did confirm that in fact two of these are actually used in laundry detergent, and she says that laundry detergent is essentially a digestive tract in a box.  So powerful is that saliva.

Robert:    Wow.

Julie:    I’m not suggesting everybody just start spitting into the washing machines now.

Robert:    But if you happen to have a little stain on your shirt, don’t hesitate.  Rub a little spit into it, see what happens.  All right, well there you go, there is base camp for the journey through the human body.  Hopefully we’ll come back and continue this journey in future episodes and take you the rest of the way.  It only gets crazier from here.

Julie:    So when you say crazy, I think you mean flatulence?

Robert:    Well, that’s gonna happen eventually, but it’s just a whole world.  It’s a Lord of the Rings journey ahead of us in the human body.

Julie:    All right, I’m up for it.

Robert:    All right.  Well, on that note, let’s call over the robot and get a little [inaudible].  All right, as I’m reading this we have received some emails regarding Part 1 of the 3-D Printing of the Gods episode, but Part 2 has not currently aired yet, so the emails that I have that respond to that, just bear in mind that they haven’t heard Part 2.

So first, want to mention that we heard from a listener by the name Alyssa.  Alyssa writes in and says hi Robert and Julie.  Just listened to your 3-D Printing episode.  It’s interesting stuff, some of which I really hadn’t considered before.  [inaudible] dress was amazing, and the potential for custom fitting is very cool.  I have a comment in particular about the article on War Hammer Miniatures that Robert cited.  I haven’t played War Hammer in particular, but I started playing D&D, that’s Dungeons and Dragons for you novelists out there.

In the late 1970s I worked in a gaming store in the early to mid?1980s, and I feel pretty comfortable saying that the article missed the point about miniatures.  Not only have people always painted them, there’s always a long history of altering them.  In some cases, we’re sculpting them to amazing degrees.  With files and in epoxy, and in some cases blow torches.  We’re talking about lead miniatures here, not the resin, which games were [inaudible] pieces today.

True, I don’t know anyone who built one from scratch, but there are all sorts of people who have unique miniatures, which don’t resemble the base models at all.  It’s not nearly the game changer you portray it as, at least in the field of miniature gaming.  Likewise, as far as customizing all sorts of things in the MySpace affect, I think it’s odd to assert that this begins and ends with 3-D printing.

All sorts of people can and do customize off the rack clothing for example and have done so for years.  There are even people who make their own clothing from scratch.  You might say that 3-D printing makes it easier to do that, but even without ever actually having played with a 3-D or CAD file, I’d be willing to bet it still takes skill and patience and trial and error to get it right.

Although 3-D printing provides new and interesting materials to play with, and it make spark a fad and really individual and funky clothing for a while, I find it hard to think that it will actually enter a new era of mass individual expression.  Most of the masses just don’t want to put in that much work.  If they did, they wouldn’t have waited for 3-D printing to do it.

What it will do is provide a different type of outlet for that really small fraction of the people who like to make and/or customize their stuff.  Cool.  Some interesting thoughts there from Alyssa.  Now I do want to note that we have an article that I cited.  They do go into the customization a little bit, certainly with miniature gaming today and its earlier days as well.  You’ll have individuals who buy the miniature and the miniature, at the very least comes unassembled and unpainted.  So there are various style choices that are gonna come there, especially if it has multiple parts.

Likewise so you can then do various things to it.  You can use some putty, some various other materials to change it and make it into the thing you want, customization.  So to a point, that is an important part of the miniature hobbyist.  And also again, worth noting that yes, we do have the ability to alter our products already.  You can buy clothing off the rack and then alter them if you have the skillset to do it.  But I still think it’s gonna change things, so we’ll see how it goes.  But most of the sources I was looking at, maybe they were overselling the idea in some cases, but I think it really a little bit of game changers.

Julie:    I think it was a good analogy for looking up the macro and micro of its abilities to change the sort of objects we put out in the world.  That’s just me talking from my allergy medicine.

Robert:    I also want to mention I think we received at least one comment from someone who wasn’t sure exactly where we stood on this whole exchange of ideas that we see on the internet and we get to see them preprinted.

Julie:    So we bought intellectual property just as an idea that here’s another way in which intellectual property has not been defined to such a degree that you might have some people who are taking advantage of it, maybe not, we don’t know it’s just a question mark.

Robert:    Yeah, that’s the thing about freedom is that freedom gives you the power to create things.  It also gives you the ability to do some less advantageous things and the example I was making in the podcast was that certainly with the internet now, you can go out and you can steal something that is somebody that is pretty solid intellectual property.  And then with the age of 3-D printers, we’ll be able to steal a physical object more or less, so that was sort of the analogy you were making, but certainly not every form of sharing on the internet is stealing.

Julie:    Right, and I think we’re still at a point where we’re trying to figure out what is stealing, what is sharing, what is fair use and as we had planned in the podcast before often times technology is way ahead of those sort of issues anyway.

Robert:    Cool, and then I have just three quick Facebook comments I wanted to read.  This person comes from Meg.  Meg says, listening to the 3-D Printer podcast while at work as a miniature painter for Private Here Press, this is the first podcast I’ve listened to at work that’s been relevant to my job.  Looking forward to hearing more from you guys.

We also heard from Critter, I don’t think this is Critter Jones, unless Critter Jones has a new last name.  So maybe we have two listeners named Critter, either way, I like that.  Critter writes in and says hi Robin and Julie, I just listened to the interview with [inaudible] Tyson, and it blew my mind.  I just love hearing him talk and so many of the questions were in the realm of what if.  It was interesting to hear him take them on.  He’s so intellectually on honest.  I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, please have more scientific guests on as often as you can.  I love to hear you speak with Brian Cox, certainly, perhaps about the dark matter energy and Oliver Sax, leprechaun [inaudible].  I found them to be fascinating people to hear, thanks and keep up the mindful work.

Julie:    Well, thank you very much.  Yeah, actually we have an interview with Mary Roach on the books here, so pretty soon we’ll roll that out for you guys and you enjoy it as well.

Robert:    If everyone like the interviews and they perform well, certainly we love talking to experts, so we’ll try and bring some more on the podcast and maybe some video stuff as well.  And finally, we heard from Chuck, and Chuck in responding to the 3-D Printer says –

Julie:    Josh and Chuck?

Robert:    No, not Josh and Chuck, different Chuck.  There are more Chucks just like there are more Critters out there.  Chuck says cool episode guys, but please get the firearms terminology right.  Unless you are talking about black powder pistols, all guns are semiautomatic.  I think the term you wanted to refer to was fully automatic.  It’s a difference between pulling the trigger and firing one round and pulling the trigger and firing multiple rounds.

Julie:    That totally was not Chuck Brand.  I actually thank you for the distinction, that’s really important.

Robert:    So there you have it.  We thank the robot as always for bringing them over to us.  And if you would like to reach out to us and share your thoughts on the mouth, on the tongue, on case, on how cat’s case.

Julie:    Haggis.

Robert:    Haggis, anything we talked about in this episode and let us know.  You can find us on Facebook and Tumblir, we are Stuff to Blow Your Mind on both of those.  You can find us on Twitter, where our handle is blowthemind, and be sure to visit our new web site.  We have a web site at

Julie:    And you can always drop us a line at  For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit

[End of Audio]

Duration: 40 minutes

you might also like

Recent Episodes
Browse Our Podcast Archive   »