>> this is "techknow". a show about innovations that can change lives. >> the science of fighting a wildfire. >> we're going to explore the intersection of hardware and humanity, but we're doing it in a unique way. this is a show about science... >> oh! >> oh my god! >> by scientists. >> tonight, techknow investigates vaping. >> whoever bought this got way more than they bargained for. >> yes they did. >> it's everywhere... in clubs, street corners and cars. they say it's safe, it can help break the cigarette habit. >> if i had to say what is more dangerous; honestly, they're equal. >> but what's really inside those e-cigs? >> you never know what you're getting. >> dr. crystal dilworth is a neuroscientist who specializes in nicotine studies, she'll bring us the latest research. >> what happens to your lungs when those metal particles go
into them? >> marita davison is an environmental biologist. >> they're gonna be around the corner. they went through there really quick but we got 'em. >> she's off the coast of california where drones are taking some incredible images of migrating whales. >> as this technology becomes available to more people, we're gonna see more researchers using it. >> i'm phil torres, i'm an entomologist. that's our team, now let's do some science. >> hey guys welcome to techknow i'm phil torres, joined by marita davison and dr. crystal dilworth. now bigger and potentially more dangerous, that's the best way to describe what's happening the smoking alternative known as e-cigarettes, or vaping. >> it's an industry that seems to really be exploding i mean you're seeing it everywhere. and a part of me wonders if this might be because of some misinformation about vaping, that's my sense. >> and our dr. crystal dilworth,
you have your phd in nicotine studies so we've asked you to keep a tab on this. there's a lot academic research that's being done on the safety of use of these devices, but it can't really keep up with a growing industry. >> i enjoy the taste of it and not get the harmful effects of what smoking does. >> call them vapers, or foggers or competitive cloud chasers... all are welcome at crystal vapor, one of thousands of vape shops across the country. since techknow first reported on the "vaping" phenomenon in 2013, the industry has taken off like wild fire. revenue is estimated to reach 3.5 billion dollars this year, doubling since 2013. according to a recent poll 10 percent of all american adults are vaping. that's an estimated 20-million people. >> when it comes to kids, while conventional tobacco smoking among them is dropping to record lows e-cigarettes are a growing concern at the centers for
disease control. >> between 2013 and 2014 alone we saw a tripling in use among us high school students to the point it was about 13.5% of us high school students had used these products within the past 30 days. >> from the early generation of cigarette look-alikes techknow first reported on, personal vaporizing devices, known as mods have gone high-tech. vaping's come a long way baby! >> we've seen the shift move from pens and tanks, at least culturally, to what we call cloud chasing devices. went from mech-mods, mechanical mods to basically box mods is what's going on right now. >> it may sound confusing but the basic mechanics are pretty simple. there's a battery powered atomizer that heats up a liquid mixture known as juice...and turns it into vapor which the user inhales. when we first met researcher monique williams, she'd wrapped up a study that found harmful metal particulates in the vapor from earlier models of e-cigarettes... following the evolution of the industry she's updating her study. >> so the original study we had looked at a cartomizer style
e-cigarette and we had detected high amounts of tin, present in the cartomizer parts. >> are you still finding heavy metal particulate in the vapor? >> we are still finding that yes. >> that's really scary because that's going into people's lungs. what happens to your lungs when those metal particles go into them? >> inhalation of metal especially something like tin, can cause stenosis, and that could constrict the bronchioles and the airwaves in the lungs. >> across the hall at uc riverside they're studying one of those compounds. researcher iliana cordova is focused on nicotine concentrations in re-fillable e-cig liquids. in this case, the solution tested is "tennessee cured" by red oak, a fluid made by johnson creek enterprises, an online seller of e-liquids and accessories. >> we order a bunch of them and just run most of them just to test the accuracy of the label. and in this case this is 18 micrograms per milliliter, so this would be considered a high nicotine concentration. >> so the test here is we'll see
how much it's measuring from this peak and then we'll compare that to what's on the label. >> and as you can see from our control it was a lot higher. so we know for sure that it is nicotine. and in a recent paper that we published we found out that this specific sample was 59% higher nicotine than its advertised label. >> whoever bought this got way more than they bargained for. >> yes they did. >> techknow asked johnson creek enterprises about its nicotine labeling discrepancy. they offered this statement: while the company's stated claims point to a step in the right direction, the red oak sample that they manufactured with the 59% higher nicotine descrepancy was purchased online for the uc-riverside study in february 2012, well within the range of johnson creek's stated internal improvements in controls and accuracy. but they're not alone. currently, uc-riverside is
evaluating a new batch of liquids from a variety of vendors and the initial results continue to suggest large discrepancies in nicotine labeling throughout the industry. >> just based off all the research that we've done, you never know what you're getting. it could be higher nicotine concentration, it could be lower. and although lower might sound better, that's gonna mean that you need to smoke more to get what your body's normally used to. >> researchers are also concerned about the content of the hundreds of flavored liquids that fuel vaping. >> our number 1 seller is looper, from animal. and this is a cereal fruit loops flavor, with a little bit of milk. >> a lot of these flavors that are being regarded as gras g-r-a-s, "generally regarded as safe", that is a term that is given to flavoring products that can be ingested. what's happening to these flavoring products when they're being aerosolized at these high temperatures and inhaled into the lungs. you have chemical reactions that can break them down into a lot more toxic chemicals known as carbon yield compounds, prime example being formaldehyde
that's a very common one everyone's heard of formaldehyde. and everyone should know formaldehyde isn't good for you. >> so in head to head comparison, e-cigs versus conventional cigarette, which one do you think is healthier. >> my opinion, i think they're both dangerous. >> i think the narrative that most people are missing is that the public health opponents to vapor have lumped in vapor with the evil tobacco folks that they fought back in the 80s and the 90s and so they've decided that this is the exact same thing. >> cynthia cabrera is the executive director for the "smoke free alternative trade association" called sfata, a vaping lobby group. >> we need to dispel the idea that these vapor products are the same as combusted tobacco product because they are not, so we need to look at anytime that anyone is using a vapor product, they are not smoking and that's a win for everybody. >> these electronic cigarettes they don't contain the over 7,000 plus chemicals that
conventional cigarettes have and that's always a plus. but on the flip side they do have their own set of compounds that you're being exposed to. >> unfortunately we're going to have to wait for the longevity studies, but if i had to say what is more dangerous, honestly they're equal, to me they're equal. >> the food and drug administration, which regulates tobacco, is still reviewing vaping regulations. travis padgett has been smoking since high school, today he vapes to cut down on tobacco use. >> for me it was kinda sorta of a different way for me to get my nicotine. >> now a micro biology major at uc riverside, travis, is vaping for science, participating in a study that measures his intake puff duration, volume and frequency. >> when you get out of here you are going to have a science degree, why not wait for science? why vape now before we know if it's safe? >> well, it's either i vape or i smoke cigarettes and we already know cigarettes are bad. >> it's a roll of the dice. >> exactly, it's a roll of the dice.
>> the people that are choosing vaping over conventional cigarettes are choosing the unknown over the known. they know that conventional cigarettes are going to give them cancer, there's a chance that vaping is better, and so they're rolling the dice with that. but they're still gambling with their own health. >> and sometimes adults are making more informed decisions but then you have all these kids trying it. >> well absolutely i mean adolescence, they're still in a stage of brain development they're not as capable as adults of making good decisions. and they're uniquely susceptible to addiction. >> and usually we've got regulations in place that help protect for specifically those kind of cases but here it's so new, the regulations haven't kept up. >> obviously that's a major concern, all of the regulations or protections that we've developed for tobacco products conventional cigarettes, are not there when it comes to vaping. >> well guys fascinating topic and i'm sure crystal you'll keep us up to date on this, but coming up next marita i understand you went whale watching. >> i did i got to go whale watching using drones in the sky. so a little bit like spying but
it's a great way to observe whales that we normally wouldn't be able to see and we don't really disturb them at all. >> and we'll check that out after the break. >> we want to hear what you think about these stories. join the conversation by following us on twitter and at aljazeera.com/techknow. >> being a musician, there's no demand... >> world renowned artist lang lang >> the moment you're on stage, it's timeless >> american schools falling flat... >> there are no music class in public schools... >> and his plan to bring music back... >> music makes people happier... >> every tuesday night. >> i lived that character. >> go one on one with america's movers and shakers. >> we will be able to see change. >> gripping. inspiring. entertaining. talk to al jazeera. only on al jazeera america.
>> it isn't easy to talk openly on this base. >> and america's war workers. >> it's human trafficking. >> watch these and other episodes online now at aljazeera.com/faultlines. >> brittany menard's decision to take her own life last year. sparked a national debate. >> brittany didn't wan't to die the brain tumor was killing her, she simply took control over how that process would go. >> now see what her husband is doing to keep his promise to change "right to die" laws nationwide. america tonight only on al jazeera america. >> welcome back to techknow we're about to talk whales. they are giant, majestic creatures, that are intelligent, complex, but they're also threatened by a variety of man-made environmental conditions and in some cases they're in danger. >> right many attempts have been made to observe these creatures in their natural environments but a lot of the traditional methods, like planes or helicopters, are really noisy
and invasive, or can be really expensive, which is prohibitive. >> but now there's a new method that's relatively silent, it gives us a pair of eyes in the sky to study animals like whales. and we caught up with a team off the coast of california that's using drones for a use that's a lot more peaceful than what we're used to. >> most times when you see images from a drone...something is exploding. usually devastation from the air. these are the military drones in service around the world. closer to home in california, as techknow featured in 2013, they're also used for important peacetime missions like assisting fire-fighters by mapping out hot spots during raging wildfires. much has been reported about the use of drones especially when it comes to military applications. drones may even become the delivery system for consumer goods. but today, off the coast of san simeon california, researchers are using drones like this one here behind me for spectacular
use, all in the name of science. >> this is the piedras blancas light station, this is a very unique piece of property because it sticks out into the migratory corridor of the northbound gray whale cows and calves. >> a picture perfect location for researchers to fly a science drone to get an unprecedented birds-eye view of what swims below. >> to the right of 6, but in the distance home line... >> i gotcha... whoa there it is. >> for 22 years, wayne perryman and a team from noaa have been here from march until may, counting and collecting data on gray whales migrating north...from the breeding grounds of mexico...to the arctic...a trip of 6,800 miles. >> this point is kind of a focal point for them and we're able to see them very very well, they pass often within a 100 meters of the beach so it's a great place to count animals. >> gray whales swim close to land as protection against their main predator...
killer whales. even so it takes a sharp eye and strong binoculars to spot the northern migration. once they do, "it's go time" for a one of a kind unmanned aircraft named mobly. >> to the right, to the right, ok now move, they're in the middle of the frame. >> they're right there. >> keep on going up. >> hold on hold on. >> they're surfacing in the middle of the frame. >> good. >> come down a little bit. >> hows that? >> they're moving to the right i see them underwater. >> noaa scientist and pilot john durban is tracking a mother and her calf from a distance of about three quarters of a mile out from where he stands. john's wife and co-researcher, holly fearnbach, is under the towel that shades a control panel giving her a real time video feed that aids in guiding the flight. >> so when they come up next i'm going to move out to them ok? >> picking up more kelp at the very right edge. >> should be perfect, lets see where they are. >> now it's split second timing for john to remotely trigger the camera to take high definition photographs of the whales.
>> i think they're gonna be around the corner, they went through there really quick but we got them. >> okay. >> we did well there huh? >> yep. >> this is really a tool we have for flying a camera. we're trying to make inference about size and shape of whales by taking photographs, its called photogrammetry. so this is our camera and we want to get it above the whales. >> mobly was built by don leroi (le roy) at a cost of $25-thousand dollars. it may look like a hobbyist's dream project but in fact it's packed with many high-tech systems to do science. >> its called a hexicopter because it has 6 motors and 6 rotors. if it's not being told what to do, it wants to hover, it wants to be stable in the air. >> the high-definition photos taken from the eye in the sky gives scientists a better look
at the overall health of the whales. >> if a female has been eating a lot and she's fat, her width relative to her length will be different than a female who hasn't eaten very much. so we can take just those two measurements and with those two we can get an index of condition... index of fatness for that female. >> perryman says this season many of the north bound, lactating, female gray whales observed, appeared more robust than in previous years. data that is important for many reasons. whale health gives scientists a snapshot of the balancing act between food sources, natural predators, even climate change. >> we're getting to the point now where we really can talk about how climate change in the arctic is impacting this population. now that there is less ice and it's thinner there's more photosynthesis going on in the winter time because light can penetrate and we want to understand that dynamic of what's going on. >> recently, john durban and the noaa team took mobly to canada
to study killer whales. taken from 100 feet above, this video...the first of its kind... gives scientists a clear picture of the health of northern resident killer whales. in these images, the whale on the right appears robust and in good health while the whale on the left is thin and in poor health. scientists believe this whale later died because it was no longer spotted with its pod. >> found the little guy? okay. now the big guy should be here somewhere. >> killer whales are important because they're competing with us for fish. we're trying to understand are they getting enough food. as this technology becomes available to more people we're going to see more researchers using it. it's safe for the researchers, it's safe for the animals i think it's a win win. >> from an emotional perspective, just being able to see these incredibly beautiful species out in their natural environment, we'd never be able to do that otherwise. >> and we don't have to disturb them to see them. >> but in terms of the overarching story, as scientists
you can collect data on two things, what is and what's changing. and it seems like this method allows them to collect data that's sort of speaking to both of those objectives. they're studying what is now and when things change we'll know. >> yeah and i mean that also speaks to the importance of having these long term data sets right. because you have to be able to establish a baseline, which i think they're doing very well. we know with 22 years of data and now with the changes of climate change, you know that's a really powerful set of data to give us a sense of what's on the horizon. >> well when we come back phil you know i refer to my car as a trashcan on wheels, but you're story is kind of like that. >> yeah i mean we'll be talking trash but a slightly different type of trash and i think you guys will be surprised what's being used to make cars these days. we'll have that story after the break. >> we're here to fully get into the nuances of everything that's going on not just in this country but around the world. >> ...as if there were no cameras here,
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>> and we're back here on techknow. phil you are going to tell us about a unique tour you took of a little unusual lab in detroit. >> yeah you know it was basically a lab full of trash and ford invited us to check out the ways that they're making the auto industry a little bit greener. >> so clearly a lot of environmental incentives here at play? >> yeah you know obviously when you use recycled materials over new ones you're going to be saving a little bit of money. but they've also found some new ways to solve some old problems, using some very cool methods so let's take a look. >> it's taken over a century but today car manufacturers are getting into high gear when it comes to going green. from hydrogen fuel cell cars to electric plugs-in and hybrids...mileage is going up...and with at least ten percent of a vehicle's environmental impact in the assembly process, manufacturing is going green too.
companies like toyota, gm, volkswagen, ford and honda are all stepping up eco-friendly methods with "zero waste" factories diverting millions of pounds from landfills, re-using water, recycling sludge and going solar powered. and its not just assembly -- take ford -- 85 percent of its cars are renewable, recyclable or compostable. everything from recyclable aluminum bodies and engine parts to soy foam seats and fabrics made from 5 million recycled plastic bottles. and this is where the ideas percolate: the materials research lab at ford headquarters in dearborn michigan. >> what would you say is the craziest thing that you guys work with? >> what do you think those are? >> they look kinda gross. >> yeah so these cigarette filters and its a cellulose acetate fiber and so we're looking at that fiber as a reinforcement for plastics. >> debbie mielewski started the lab back in 2001 with soy foam.
>> oil was about $40 a barrel and so nobody saw a reason to use plant based materials, even though there was an environmental improvement. when we launched our soy based foams, oil was about $150 a barrel and so suddenly what was a very poorly received idea, was very well received. >> instead of a petroleum base the foam in every seat in north america is made of michigan soy. and now, the lab is testing algae oil with its more global reach. plastics researcher ellen lee gave techknow the first public look at this newest experimental foam. >> i'm gonna have you add in a surfactant, this one, and that kinda acts like the egg in a mayonnaise to blend everything together. and then i'm gonna have you add the blowing agent which in our case is water. i'm gonna mix this up then we'll see the foam start to react.
>> whoa, and there it goes. >> it's baking into a cake. >> so you can see all the gas bubbles already forming. >> we use this to kind of evaluate our formulation and how fast it comes up. >> why is it important that this reacts fast? >> how fast you can make each part is really important for manufacturing because you wanna be able to make things in a timely manner. >> are we talking a matter of minutes per foam seat or seconds? >> less than a minute. >> ford is aiming to make their plastics at least 20% bio-based. >> is this actually making the plastic stronger? >> yes, it does. these parts are lighter in weight, i can show you one that is made from hemp versus glass and it's about a 30% weight reduction. so if we continue to do this, we will improve fuel economy as well. >> ford says its already diverted more than 30 million pounds of plastic from north america landfills with materials as diverse as wheat grass, coconut hair, shredded jeans and millions of dollars of old greenbacks.
>> what a lot of people don't know is money isn't actually paper. it's a blend of cotton and linen. so, we're trying to grind it down into a smaller, finer grind. >> research engineer guiseppi lacaria showed me how it's done. >> so let's grind some money. >> we're gonna use a cryogrinder. there's a shuttle that goes inside, and using magnets, it turns the magnets on and off and it'll move the shuttle back and forth between the two metal ends. it'll smash the money using liquid nitrogen around it. >> and why do you put liquid nitrogen in there? >> so liquid nitrogen will just cool the money down to a brittle so its easy to smash. and we'll turn on the machine. >> look at that. powdered money. >> then it's melted in with plastic and formed into pellets. >> you melt 'em down, and then you form them into things like this, and this is a coin tray. >> that is a coin tray. >> ford's putting money back into your vehicle. >> what is this? >> tomato fibers, so these are actual skins, leaves and stems
from the tomato plants from heinz's ketchup production. they process millions of pounds of tomatoes every year and they have a lot of leftover. >> why is this a good product for you guys to use? >> we can use this to reinforce our plastics to make them stiffer. but then at the same time reduce our impact. >> the lab is in the very early stages of testing the tomato-based possibilities making samples by melting and mixing plastic, extruding it into pellets and molds for testing. >> you had mentioned part of the test is actually the smell. >> you know if they're driving along, they may not want to smell tomatoes because they might get hungry. >> so what's your big end goal for all of this? >> we all have kids and we wanna make sure that there's a green nice planet for them with materials that they can continually replenish. i don't want them to depend on petroleum as their only source of materials.
>> sitting between you guys is of course $10,000 worth of cash, but unfortunately it is old cash shredded, would normally go to the trash. but in this case, they're re-using it and making coin trays out of it. >> this idea of closing the materials loop. you know, going as much as we possibly can towards 0 waste in manufacturing. it's not just lip service anymore, it's happening and it makes total business sense. >> i think it's so interesting to see the cross industry collaboration, like heinz ketchup and ford motors, these aren't really two companies i would think would work together in this way. as a chemist i think a lot about green chemistry, like you want all of the by-products of your chemical reactions to be used in further reactions, and that's kind of like how i think about it. but, this is really creative. >> and that's why you're dr. crystal dilworth. >> that's why i am ha ha ha! >> i think for me in the past my only ketchup and car interactions were when i spilled ketchup in my car. >> i think we've all been there. >> from the california coast all the way over to detroit, we've covered a lot of ground today guys, and covered some pretty interesting topics. so thanks for that.
we'll have a lot more for you next time on techknow, we'll see you then. >> dive deep into these stories and go behind the scenes at aljazeera.com/techknow. follow our expert contributors on twitter, facebook, instagram, google+ and more. ♪ islam is sentenced to death, we will bring you more on the trial of the son of the former libyan leader moammar gadhafi. ♪ hello again, i'm in doha and also to come on the program a new tactic in the fight against i.s.i.l. and they agree on a buffer zone inside syria. each side blames the other for continued fighting in yemen two days into a supposed ceasef