StarTalk and Baba Booey Rock Comic-Con (Part 1)

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About This Episode

Join us from the floor of San Diego Comic-Con 2012 for the ultimate gadget geek-fest! Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews Gadget Gary (aka Gary Dell’Abate aka Baba Booey of The Howard Stern Show). He’s joined by Chris Hardwick, the Nerdist, and Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer. In Part 1, they dish on the coolest, and in some cases, not-yet-available-to-the-public, consumer technology: working sonic screwdrivers, wireless appliances that use inductive charging, a credit-card sized, 160GB Bluetooth memory drive for iPads, and an always-on, ear-mounted camera that can replay the last 2 minutes of your life. They’ll also discuss the psychology of “unboxing”, the puzzling science behind the Lytro camera that shoots now and focuses later, the reality of being a science geek, and the promise and peril of storing your information in “The Cloud.”

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: StarTalk and Baba Booey Rock Comic-Con (Part 1).

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  • Brian

    Yes, EMP would effect a hard drive. Hard drives have small batteries that DO provide power and thus the EMP will cause problems.

    • Jeff

      Thanks for the clarification, Brian. I didn’t realize hard drives had batteries. Do they ever run down? (I’ve never had to replace a battery in a hard drive.)

  • Most domestic use hard drives do NOT have batteries.

  • Brian

    Why is this audio only if their is video of the entire conversation?

    • Jeff

      Brian, the video is on The Nerdist Channel on YouTube. The audio podcasts are here and at iTunes. But you can also watch the video here in my blog post here. That said, we’re going to have a Part 2 podcast of the Comic-Con episode, and there’s no video available for that.

  • Jason

    Hard drives do not have batteries. They have capacitors, but that’s irrelevant. Perhaps you’re wondering what happens when your computer turns off and there’s data to write. In that case (a spinning drive) will often use the motor as a generator to power the drive while it flushes its cache.
    That’s not to say drives won’t be affected by an EMP. An EMP can generate >10kv/ft in a conductor. Wires in a drive (and connected to them) are certainly long enough for fry any electronic circuit in there. What I don’t know is whether the current induced in the platter will have any effect (my guess is not). You could therefore replace the electronics and still be able to access your data (if you can find an exact replacement).

  • Alex

    Hard drives do not have batteries, they are connected directly to a computer’s power supply. The data is stored magnetically on discs which makes it non-volatile, i.e. the data is not lost when the power is turned off. However an EMP will still disastrously affect the magnetically held bits, turning them into an unreadable mess. Not only that, but whenever you expose circuitry to strong enough magnetic fields you can induce damaging currents and voltages that will fry practically every component. This means even non-magnetic drives such as newer SSDs are not safe from EMPs.

  • Patrick Giyan

    Hard drives don’t have batteries, they do however store their data through electromagnetism. Motherboards, on the other hand either have a battery or a capacitor on them to store BIOS (Basic Input Output System) data. This is where the time, date and low level system settings are saved which allow the computer to turn on and start up your operating system (Windows, Linux, Mac O/S, etc.). A computer with out a working BIOS battery will work just fine, but you’ll need to edit the date, time and a few misc. settings _everytime_ you turn the computer on. 🙂

  • Anthony

    Every time I open a new game or electronic I immediately need to urinate.

    • Jeff

      Well, Anthony, that is a different response to “unboxing” than they discussed, but hey, whatever works.

  • Brian

    I am going to clarify. The more modern drives (not plate) use a battery method to maintain the volatile portion of the drive. Some plate based hard drives also use this battery-backed method to support their large amount of ROM that exists to make the drive work efficiently (ROM stores proprietary software that is very small). Since batteries DO run dry if not charged then the answer is yes in that it will run down eventually. But they are normally charged when placed inside a computer. Almost all external drives that are advertised as truly external drives (i.e. not internal hard drives in an outer casing) normally have a battery as well. Now, I personally used a photo camera EMP method as a stupid experiment years ago to test if it could work on computer circuitry when grounded and it did have a problem with my SATA drive as well as the rest of the computer (could have been a number of things that were my fault). This isn’t conclusive of anything BUT I would not allow my hard drive to go anywhere near anything that could interfere via EMP. The most comprehensive method and safest method to back up data (despite modern marketing attempts) is by optical discs. They are not affected by much and can be easily protected. I, personally, back everything I find important onto two sets of discs. Hope this is helpful.

    On another note, I think the best gadget that is enroute is a product called SafeSmart or SmartSafe (sorry can’t quite recall). I can’t recall all of the details but it is a crypto based app on smart phones that allows for rights management onto anything networked to the device. Meaning, I could allow a friend to use my car only from 2pm to 4pm allowing them to turn it on without a key as well as lock and unlock the doors using their personal smart phone. After which it would shut off access and they will no longer have that ability. This can be done for houses and pretty much anything that can or currently uses single or multi layer digital security measures.

  • Jason

    Brian, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Take a hard drive apart. There is no battery there. Also, it’s platter, not plate. SSDs store data with capacitance (thought not discreet capacitors) and need no batter to keep the data. They will eventually lose their data through leakage, after many, many years. Standard ROMs store their data with a physical change in the chip. The too need no electricity to keep their state.

  • Brian

    I’d also like to add that battery backed method is used for the caching mechanisms of many hard drive types (although not all of them). Fun to read others comments. Yes, there are plates that have nothing to do with current. But hard drives have circuitry and firmware dictating how plates are read from and written on. They are programmed similar to robots. That circuity is powered by the power supply BUT the circuity based data (i.e. ROM or cache) can be lost without continuous power. The question is “How do hardware manufacturers keep hard drive firmware on the hard drive without power?”. The answer is “They Don’t”. They always supply a small amount via a battery backed cache or similar method for ROM OR by an alternative method fairly new super conductor method for complex storage such as RAID.

    In response to the motherboard NOT needing the BIOS battery. The motherboard carries no mechanical functions that resemble a plate based hard drive nor hybrid based hard drive. Mechanical functions of a hard drive must have a program in order to function. The data is transmitted more as an agent and nothing more. The hard drive performs the leg work of actually writing and reading the data. Motherboards are nothing more than circuitry.

    I could write 100 pages on this but there is quite a few books out their that are fairly affordable that sum all of this up far better than I can. There are other reasons for the battery backed method to include continuity of data, data loss prevention, etc,… Super fun topic.

  • Hi Neil!
    I discovered your site a few months ago (through your posts on FB) and love your shows so much I’m going through all the archives – I just listened to your show at the Neptune in Seattle. I think I may have hurt myself laughing during that one.

    I love your mix of comedians and scientists. I’ve never found a show with such a mix of guests. It makes for fascinating – and hilarious – interviews. I know you recently polled to see what interest women had in your site. I couldn’t really answer the questions since I had just discovered the site. But you seem to have a good mix of men and women as guests. And regardless of who you have as guests, I am loving the shows. Even the show on salt!

    Keep looking up!

  • For your information

    Most hard drives do not use a battery (SSD/Mechanical.) How do I know this? I worked in a clean room for a few years repairing hard drives. On the other hand there are a hand full of hard drives (older) that do use a battery.

  • Craig Messerman

    Was the Kingston drive he was talking about the Wi-Drive? If so it’s wifi, not bluetooth, but I wish it was!

    • Jeff

      I don’t think so, Craig. Gary was pretty specific. It’s an item he’s currently testing for Sound + Vision Magazine.

  • AndyJ

    After a little searching, it seems that the Lytro camera uses microlenses behind the primary lens to help obtain enough information about the light field to allow any focal point to be selected in the resulting image. This obviously leads to big files but who cares with how incredible that is!

    • Jeff

      Thanks for the clarification, AndyJ.

  • And you can buy Lytro camera from their website

  • I rarely write responses, but after looking at a few of the responses here StarTalk and Baba Booey Rock Comic-Con (Part 1) | StarTalk Radio Show by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Could it be simply me or does it look like some of the remarks look like they are written by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are writing at additional online social sites, I would like to follow everything fresh you have to post. Could you make a list of the complete urls of your public sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

    • Jeff

      I couldn’t tell if this was spam or not, but since you so rarely write responses, I wanted to encourage that practice and I’ve approved it, Arthur. But I want to defend our fans who comment here on our site. They are for the most part intelligent and literate, and by the nature of their ability to type their answers, far from brain dead. As for our other sites, if you look at the top of the page, you’ll see icons linking to all of our social media presence. Keep on commenting!

  • Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked
    submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say great blog!

    • Jeff

      Sorry you had a problem, Gabrielle. Please repost your comment.

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