Hi all and happy new year! I’m Rebecca Watson, and I wanted to open my first video of 2023 with a welcome to new viewers and also a note on an important change for existing viewers: apparently, YouTube is cracking down on profanity, and they’ve been demonetizing previous videos that contain words like fuck, cunt, bitch, asshole, butt chugger, shitlicker, cum dumpster, ass weasel, penis plunger. Therefore, starting in 2023 I will be bleeping out my profanity. I’m not sure where YouTube stands on the abbreviation for my favorite scientific journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but I suppose we will cross that PNAS when we come to it.
While I’m talking about meta stuff, let me take a moment to encourage you to subscribe to this channel if you aren’t already and maybe to even become a patron over at patreon.com/rebecca. All patrons get many of my videos a day or two early and ad-free, plus access to a Discord full of cool people, plus an annual thank you card sent through the actual mail, PLUS the smug feeling of knowing that I could not make more than 100 videos a year without YOU! Depending on your level, you can also get to join in my monthly “ask me anything” livestream, a weekly newsletter packed with fun stuff that I find, a follow on social media, or your name in the end credits of every video. Wow, what a deal! Again, that’s patreon.com/rebecca if you want to join. That said, I know times are tough and I just really appreciate everyone who watches and enjoys my videos.
Okay, on to today’s video, which is one of my favorite traditions: goofing off for one video a year and dedicating it to psychic predictions for the coming year. But first, let’s check out last year’s predictions to see how we did for 2022.
If you’ll recall, I tried something new for 2022, because I failed so miserably to predict all the garbage that was 2020 and 2021. For 2022, I asked some of my smart scientist nerd friends for THEIR predictions, so that I could just sit back and judge THEIR psychic abilities.
First up was my friend Karen James, a biologist and specialist in DNA barcoding. She said, “In 2021, a million-year-old mammoth’s DNA was sequenced. In 2022 a paper will be published that pushes the oldest DNA to be sequenced back even further. It will not necessarily be a mammoth but some biological sample older than a million years will be successfully sequenced.”
Friends? We have a hit: HERE IS THAT PAPER. Buried under the permafrost of Greenland, scientists were able to find and sequence DNA fragments from 135 different species of trees, shrubs, and marine and land animals in a paper published in Nature just this month. I am flabbergasted. The mammoth DNA from last year set a record and this has nearly doubled it, and Karen NAILED IT. Step aside Miss Cleo, there’s a new psychic in town.
Next I turned to Phil “the Bad Astronomer” Plait, who predicted a few things:
“JWST will launch and deploy perfectly, but when the first images are sent to Earth astronomers will realize they forgot to take the lens cap off.”
Okay, that one didn’t pay off. Which is good. But screw it, let’s use this as an excuse to look at some of the pretty images that have been coming from the JWST!
Phil’s second prediction is “Elon Musk will tweet something ridiculous, a woman will reply, “Hey, that’s not nice” and 23,000 Muskbros will attack her viciously. They’ll then try to get her to buy their NFTs.”
That was a gimme but Phil gets extra points because it happened SO MUCH MORE than anyone could have guessed.
Prediction three: “Two small asteroid impacts will occur: One will utterly destroy the Lauren Boebert re-election headquarters and the other one will mildly singe an LGBTQ+ flag. QAnoners will claim the latter is an act of God but the former was from antifa.”
Sadly another miss. Boebert’s headquarters remained undestroyed and she even went on to win her seat by a handful of votes. Giant Asteroid for 2024, y’all.
Prediction four: “Planet Nine will be found in sky survey data, and astrologers all over the world will say, “Hey, I guess we were wrong” and then turn to selling NFTs.”
Okay, Planet Nine (a hypothetical planet that might be lurking on the outskirts of our solar system) was not found in sky survey data, BUT I will give Phil partial credit here simply because I DID find at least one astrologer pivoting to NFTs. I’m sure others will follow. But they won’t give up the grift.
Next up is my friend Gwen “Bug Girl” Pearson, who first predicted “Murder hornets will file a defamation lawsuit to be renamed “involuntary manslaughter hornet.”
Okay, I’m going to give another half point, here: in July of this year, the Entomological Society of America officially renamed murder hornets in order to “avoid evoking fear and xenophobia.” They shall now be known as the northern giant hornet.
Also, one new giant hornet’s nest will be found in Washington, and the WA Dept. of Ag will continue to do an excellent job of tracking and immediately eradicating it. Srsly, they are On It.
Well fortunately for us, they are more “on it” then Bug thought because apparently the northern giant hornet has been eradicated from Washington State!
“Biden will eat a coney dog made from black soldier flies in order to promote the diversification of our food supply chain.”
This did not happen and I am sad.
Third, Bug predicts “Fire Ants will invade Melania Trump’s server and disrupt supply of her “NFT amulets.”
This also didn’t happen and I’m sadder.
Fourth, she says “Jeff Bezos will discover a hornet’s nest in his fuselage and thus be prevented from getting his space penis up. Uh into space, that is.”
For this one I accepted any private space launch that failed due to insects of some sort, and I have to admit I wasn’t able to find a single engineer who would admit to a bug-induced failure to launch. Sorry.
Bug then predicted “Field test of CRISPR edited male sterile mosquitoes will be successful at reducing Zika transmission, but outcry over “frankenbugs” will stop the program.”
Good news: another half a point! In February, researchers released genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes in Burkina Faso for the first time, and while they didn’t get data on Zika (these were the kind of mosquitoes that carry malaria), they did find that the mosquitoes had a reduced lifespan and range.
And here’s even better news: the following month, data came in from a first-of-its-kind trial on the Zika mosquitoes right here in the US. Last year, researchers released the frakenbugs in the Florida Keys, and this year they found that there had been “significant progress” in reducing their population, so the EPA approved the release of even more.
That article DOES include the inevitable outcry from anti-GMO activists who are worried about “unintended consequences” but their objections have not been heeded and the program is continuing.
Finally, Bug predicts that “two species of bee and one firefly species will go extinct due to habitat destruction,” pointing out that there are currently emergency actions being taken to save at least one species of firefly in Delaware, near where I grew up (in the woods that were filled with fireflies every summer).
Okay, this one was pretty depressing to research. There are loads and loads of insect species that scientists suspect may be extinct but haven’t officially declared them as such, because insects are tiny and maybe they’re out there hiding somewhere! Let’s not give up hope! But looking at how many species haven’t been seen in years, like a bunch of California native bees that failed to show up in a census this year, it’s easy to feel hopeless.
But here’s the good news: the Bethany Beach firefly, that I mentioned in last year’s video, is still shining. If you want to help protect it, the Sierra Club suggests that people in the area “turn off porch lights when they are not in use or set outdoor lights on a timer, which can reduce light pollution. Light pollution is an especially important issue in firefly conservation because the night lights interfere with the firefly’s ability to use their bioluminescent lights to communicate with each other.
“Another thing people can do is stay on the trail in state parks. Going off the state park trails could lead to visitors trampling on freshwater interdunal swale habitat, crushing firefly eggs and larvae. Delawareans can also protect the Bethany Beach Firefly by encouraging Delaware policymakers to improve our endangered state species and wetlands protection policy. Lastly, people can help researchers with population tracking by recording sightings of the firefly through the iNaturalist app or Xerces Society Firefly Atlas.”
And that’s it! Not bad psychic hits from some very non-psychic scientist friends.
I went back and forth over whether to do a similar thing for 2023: I hate asking my pals to do work for me, but honestly? I learned so much from this exercise and I found it really fun, so I reached out to the same bunch again to see if they wanted to go again. And much to my happy surprise, they did! So here’s what my nerdy pals are predicting for the coming year.
Biologist and DNA specialist Karen James has humbly declined what she considers an easy opportunity to predict that an EVEN OLDER ancient DNA discovery will be announced, and instead is going with “someone will resurrect (either as cells, embryos, or actual young) an extinct species. They’ll try to justify it by suggesting it is ecologically relevant, but it will not truly be.” Okay, that last bit might be true but it WOULD also be very cool. Relevance be damned, someone breed me a pygmy wooly mammoth.
Dr. James also says “Ancestry dot com will merge with Twitter and charge $8/month for “Twitter Blue-Gene,“ which will provide a (scientifically bogus) validation of one’s race or genealogy of choice to win arguments against SJWs.”
That is…honestly I can envision it. “This user is verified to be 1% African and therefore is allowed to say the N-word.”
Next up, astronomer Phil Plait takes a swing:
“JWST will see an unambiguous gay pride flag in a distant galaxy. NASA will still refuse to consider changing the observatory’s name.”
Okay, if you guys aren’t aware, the “JWST” stands for “James Webb Space Telescope,” which has been the subject of controversy for YEARS, since individual scientists, the Royal Astronomical Society, the American Astronomical Society, Nature, New Scientist, and Scientific American have all begged NASA to change the name considering that James Webb oversaw NASA at a time when the agency was purging gay employees and may have been actively complicit himself. So. Fun! Anyway, Dr. Plait also predicts that in 2023:
“Elon Musk will buy the ACLU and shut it down.
“Lauren Boebert will be arrested on felony assault charges.
“Astronomers will discover 422 new exoplanets.
“Globally, 2023 will be the 4th warmest year on record, just edging out 2022.
“My book, “Under Alien Skies”, will become a national bestseller, and a TV series will be optioned based on it. Sadly, I will be replaced as its host by an AI that will generate images of an astronomer waving their hands a lot and saying things like, “… while the view from here is amazing, of course you’d be dead in seconds.””
I will add my own prediction that the AI host will be male with a goatee, glasses, and suspect hairline. Just sayin’.
Finally, we have my entomologist pal Gwen Pearson, who, blessedly, gave contextual references for each of her predictions!
“1. The National Butterfly Center will be attacked again and close (again) for an extended period in 2023.”
In case you missed it, Dr. Pearson points out that last year, the Butterfly Center was threatened by QAnon conspiracy theorists who claimed it was run by “left wing thugs with a sham butterfly agenda.” On a side note, if anyone can make me a shirt that says that I would very much appreciate it, thank you.
“2. PETA will take up the defense of Spotted Lanternflies, hindering USDA and state agencies’ ability to control the pest. Alicia Silverstone tries to pose nude with 10,000 lanternflies, but eventually walks off the set covered in honeydew.”
Fans of this channel will immediately understand the context of this one and honestly this prediction has a really good chance of coming true in my opinion.
“3. For a second year, no Northern Giant Hornets (aka “Murder Hornets”) will be found in the Pacific Northwest.”
Well okay, that is technically just re-upping her prediction from last year but I’ll allow it. I’m a benevolent YouTuber.
“4. The National Park Service request for people to stop licking their toads will be expanded to millipede licking.”
Okay, this one made me laugh AND learn, which is the best thing a thing can do. She points out that in November of last year, the NPS released a plea on Facebook:
““As we say with most things you come across in a national park, whether it be a banana slug, unfamiliar mushroom or a large toad with glowing eyes in the dead of night, please refrain from licking,” the agency wrote. “These toads have prominent parotoid glands that secrete a potent toxin. It can make you sick if you handle the frog or get the poison in your mouth.”
There’s a bit of a psychedelic fad happening right now, which led to this statement not only to protect people who might consume more frog sweat than they realize but also to protect the frogs themselves, who are at risk of a population collapse.
Meanwhile, a BBC documentary revealed last year that lemurs are getting high on millipedes. So, you know, new possible drug, y’all. That said, those lemurs and millipedes are in Madagascar, so I’m not sure if the US NPS has much to worry about.
Still, who knows what 2023 will bring us? Stay tuned to find out how my cadre of nerds does this year!