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Made You Think


Jan 10, 2024

“Modern economies will always be tied to massive material flows, whether those of ammonia-based fertilizers to feed the still-growing global population; plastics, steel, and cement needed for new tools, machines, structures, and infrastructures; or new inputs required to produce solar cells, wind turbines, electric cars, and storage batteries. And until all energies used to extract and process these materials come from renewable conversions, modern civilization will remain fundamentally dependent on the fossil fuels used in the production of these indispensable materials. No AI, no apps, and no electronic messages will change that.”

Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, we're delving into the intricate layers of How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smil. From dissecting the dynamics of energy to unraveling the building blocks of our material world, this episode takes us on a journey through the realms of numbers, magnitudes, and the underpinnings that shape our daily existence. Get ready to expand your mind and question the fabric of the world around us!

We cover a wide range of topics including:

  • The four foundational products of civilization
  • Why our food and nutrition isn't the same anymore
  • Intricate steps and nuances in global energy creation
  • What may be on the horizon for crypto this year
  • How much diesel is embedded into the production of a tomato?

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow Nat, Neil, and Adil on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

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(0:00) The news is out - Nat’s new book Crypto Confidential is available for preorder! We open the episode by talking about crypto, AI coins, and how BTC and ETH have established themselves in the world of crypto.

(6:53) In today's episode, we're discussing How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smil. We draw some similarities from some previous reads in the podcast such as Where Is My Flying Car? and another great from Smil, Energy and Civilization.

(10:20) Adil highlights some of the key points from the book, including the four fundamental products—ammonia, cement, plastic, and steel—that shape our modern world, shedding light on challenges in essential industries.

(14:19) Because we're so disembodied with how things are built and how people are fed, we’re able to indulge in things as a society that are not necessarily realistic in terms of decarbonization.

(19:34) Discussing nutrition deficiencies, we explore the disconnect between the food we eat and its nutritional value, raising questions about our reliance on technology over essential fields like soil science and food production.

(22:31) The impact of fertilization, nutrition deficiencies, and current farming practices. Nat, Neil, and Adil discuss alternatives for a healthier, more sustainable future.

(28:13) While more and more attention goes into technology rather than food science and soil science, we have seen an increased interest in nuclear energy. For many decades, we’ve been so highly focused on software rather than hardware. Are we due for a shift?

(31:21) We delve into a discussion on carbon capture, Bitcoin mining's energy-efficient possibilities, and cost-effective energy production.

(37:58) The life cycle of oil, Department of Energy's investments into different forms of energy, and the efficiency of gasoline vs. electric.

(42:01) In the book, Smil dives into the crude oil consumption per pound of different things you eat throughout its entire life cycle. From chicken to tomatoes, and seafood, too. 

(48:22 Is meat actually destroying the environment? It all depends on what you're replacing it with.

(53:57) Discussing Bill Gates' environmental ideals, we explore his support for climate-friendly technology and its potential to compete with fossil fuels

(57:14) Is there room for more crypto exchange platforms, and what else is on the horizon for this year in crypto?

(1:02:48) Similarly, what is the future when it comes to the world of energy and our country’s investment into it? Technology is often the cause of all problems in science fiction settings, whereas more positive sci-fi could help paint a better picture around technology and its future.

(1:05:59) Down the line for Made You Think, we'll have episodes on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Straw Dogs. Make sure to grab a copy of those books before these episodes come out and read along with us!

(1:13:17) The Goldsboro B-52 crash led to the accidental release of two nuclear bombs. The incident raised concerns about the safety of nuclear weapons and the potential catastrophic consequences of accidents involving such powerful devices.

(1:17:14) That wraps up this episode, thanks for listening! Stay tuned for our upcoming episodes, leave a comment or review, and preorder your copy of Crypto Confidential.

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS@adilmajid@nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

You can now support Made You Think using the Value-for-Value feature of Podcasting 2.0. This means you can directly tip the co-hosts in BTC with minimal transaction fees. To get started, simply download a podcast app (like Fountain or Breez) that supports Value-for-Value and send some BTC to your in-app wallet. You can then use that to support shows who have opted-in, including Made You Think! We’ll be going with this direct support model moving forward, rather than ads.

Thanks for listening. See you next time!