Science On Top
The Australian Podcast putting Science on Top of the agenda

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:15 Just weeks after the really big iceberg split from the Antarctic ice shelf, a new rift has formed. And the giant iceberg has already begun breaking up.

00:07:14 A new study into the migration of early humans to Australia dates their arrival back to 65,000 years ago. And it also finds they were more sophisticated in their use of tools than we previously thought.

00:15:06 Rare fossilised footprints of Tasmanian tigers and devils, as well as those of giant megafauna and flightless birds, have been discovered on Kangaroo Island, in South Australia. The footprints date back as far as 200,000 years ago.

 

This episode contains a brief exchange between Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox. The interview went downhill very quickly.

Direct download: Ed.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:56pm AEST

00:03:41 An enormous iceberg breaks off from Antarctica. But did climate change cause it, like many news outlets claimed?

00:13:34 Plants don't turn caterpillars into cannibals. But hungry caterpillars will turn cannibal if the plant doesn't taste nice.

00:21:53 Gene modification tool CRISPR has been used to encode an animated gif in the genes of live bacteria. DNA could be the digital storage device of the future!

00:34:03 Ravens are smart - they can use tools, and solve puzzles - and they may even be able to plan for the future.

 

This episode contains traces of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Mars 2020 Project Scientist Ken Farley during a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Space Subcommittee.

Direct download: SoT_0272.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:46pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:03 The Ancient Romans built sea walls with concrete that is still standing in many places today. What made their concrete so much stronger than modern concrete?

00:08:24 The chances of finding life on Mars grew even slimmer after a study found chemicals in the Martian soil are highly toxic.

00:15:54 Animals that use tools aren't uncommon, and neither are animals that make sounds to attract mates. But the Palm cockatoo could be the first non-human animal to do both - they use tools to make music.

00:28:47 In 1977 the Voyager spacecraft were launched carrying the Golden Records - gold-plated copper records containing images, sounds and music from Earth. And in one small segment of the record there's the sound of a man laughing. Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic wrote about her intensive investigation to track down who that man was and why his laughter is on a billion-year time capsule.

 

This episode contains traces of Al Gore talking about climate change on Triple J radio's Hack.

Direct download: SoT_0271.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Sean Elliott

00:00:48 Sean talks about his Roughbot project, a programmable robot kit that introduces students to coding and robotics.

00:04:47 Every year, 1.2 million blue wildebeest migrate across East Africa, accompanied by around 200,000 zebra and antelope. At one point in their mass migration, however, they have to cross the mighty Mara River. Those that don't survive the crossing end up being crucial to the surrounding ecosystem.

00:11:13 Chinese researchers have for the first time ever sent entangled photons from space to ground stations on Earth. This record-breaking achievement could be the first step of a revolution in communications and encryption.

00:23:49 Scientists in Uganda have noticed that the hunting behaviour of chimpanzees has changed since humans began studying them.

00:34:17 Two researchers from Princeton and Harvard universities have come up with a theory to explain the different shapes of eggs from different bird species. It's all about aerodynamics!

 

This episode contains traces of Arnold Schwarzenegger talking to senior US Navy officials about climate change.

Direct download: SoT_0270.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:04pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall

00:00:40 We welcome Lucas back to the show, and discuss his battles with depression. Lucas recently blogged about dealing with mental health in the workplace, and how different managers respond to cases of depression.

00:10:34 After three detections of gravitational waves by the ground-based LIGO detector, the European Space Agency has given the go-ahead for the LISA space-based detector.

00:15:42 A data visualisation takes a deep look at the statistics of human birth. And while we tend to think of it as being a random process, there's a large spike in births at 8am.

00:19:42 The New Horizons spacecraft has a new target - Kuiper Belt Object MU69 - which recently came between Earth and a distant star. This caused a huge (and highly successful) global effort to view it with ground-based telescopes.

 

This episode contains traces of banter between former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and former bankrupt casino-owner President Donald Trump.

Direct download: SoT_0269.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Jo Benhamu.

00:00:40 An archaeological site in a Moroccan cave has long been known to have specimens of early humans. But an recent study has dated some of these bones to over 300,000 years old. If correct, that would make them the oldest fossilised remains of modern humans ever found - and it would change our understanding of the spread of humans out of Africa. For books to help explain evolution to young children, we recommend Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet and Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came To Be by Daniel Loxton.

00:10:34 In the latest send-animals-to-space experiment, flatworms were studied on the International Space Station. And things got weird - especially with one worm that grew two heads!

00:15:42 Recently a lot of scientists have been suggesting that we're currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction - and we humans are the prime cause of it. But Smithsonian paleontologist Doug Erwin argues that we're not there yet. Things are bad but to call it a mass extinction isn't really accurate.

00:19:42 And are humans hard-wired to look at faces? A study shines a light on what babies see in the womb.

 

This episode contains traces of John Oliver talking about vaccines on Last Week Tonight.

Direct download: SoT_0268.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18am AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday

00:00:40 There's a lot of talk about the supposed health benefits of sourdough bread. But a new study seems to suggest that some people may be better off eating white bread, and others may have more to gain from sourdough bread.

00:10:34 A group of about 1200 giant bumphead parrotfish have been caught in the act of mating off Palau in Micronesia. It's the first time they have ever been seen doing so in such large numbers.

00:15:42 A strain of the lactobacillus bacteria has been extracted from yogurt and used to slow down the growth of 14 multidrug-resistant bacteria.

 

This episode contains traces of a message from French President Emmanuel Macron to American climate change researchers.

Direct download: SoT_0267.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:59am AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday.

00:00:39 Baleen whales - the toothless filter feeders - used to be around 10m long. Then 3 million years ago they started to grow to the enormous size they are today (blue whales can grow be 30 metres long!).

00:07:08 A new study has found that gastric bypass surgery disrupts the gut microbiome so significantly, that patients have a completely different bacteria makeup in their guts after surgery. And the new gut flora appears to promote weight loss.

00:14:14 An increase in the number of baby dugongs on the Great Barrier Reef indicates a revival of seagrass meadows following the devastation wrought by Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

00:18:11 Newly developed recognition software is helping underwater drones search for submerged mines and even map starfish colonies. Not only do the drones pilot themselves, they use pattern-matching to identify points of interest and relay that back to humans.

 

This episode contains traces of meteorologist Kait Parker at The Weather Channel responding to Breitbart's misrepresentation of climate data.

Direct download: SoT_0266.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:21pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Dr. Helen Maynard-Casely.

00:01:03 The first results from the Juno spacecraft are in, giving us new and surprising insights into the largest planet in our solar system.

00:09:39 Some media reports of flooding at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault were somewhat exaggerated. Some water got in at the front door, which happens every year, but the seeds were never in any danger.

00:14:36 Have you ever seen a flamingo fall over? Probably not. Turns out they're extremely stable, especially on one leg. A pair of biologists set out to find out why.

00:22:11 The first steps have been taken towards space-based baby-making, with healthy mouse pups being born from sperm that went to space.

00:29:28 Please help support the show by pledging on Patreon!

 

This episode contains traces of astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson talking with President Trump, after breaking the US record for the most time in space. Dr. Whitson was already the world's most experienced spacewoman and the oldest woman in space.

Direct download: SoT_0265.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:42am AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday.

00:00:41 Rare childhood cancers are, of course, rare. But that means limited access to tissue samples making them harder to study. But the archives of London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children could be a previously unconsidered repository of 165 year's worth of samples.

00:05:34 There's a species of bacteria that seems to use quorum sensing to switch on or off its attacking abilities. And that's how it infects animals where normally it would only thrive in insects.

00:12:44 For the third time since 2012 a study has looked at whether the famous Stradivarius violins made in the early 18th century are actually better than their modern counterparts. They aren't.

00:21:55 A new study suggests that the microbes in our guts may initiate disease in seemingly unrelated organs, and in completely unexpected ways. In particular, our gut bacteria may be linked to brain lesions that can cause strokes.

 

This episode may contain traces of morning television presenters discussing the 'scientific benefits' of eating snot, as reported on the ABC's Media Watch program.

Direct download: SoT_0264.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:04pm AEST