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

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph and Lucas Randall.

00:01:12 The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi "for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy".

00:06:43 The Nobel Prize in Physics was divided, one half awarded to David J. Thouless, the other half jointly to F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter".

00:11:06 The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines".


This episode may contain traces of Nobel Committee member Thor Hans Hansson explaining topology with his lunch.

Direct download: SoT_0246.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:02pm EDT

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, and Lucas Randall.

The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make us laugh, then make us think. We take a look at this year’s winners: from rats in pants to collecting flies!

You can watch the award ceremony here.


00:01:28 REPRODUCTION PRIZE was posthumously awarded to Ahmed Shafik, from Egypt, "for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males".

00:10:18 ECONOMICS PRIZE went to two researchers from New Zealand and one from the UK "for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective".

00:19:27 PHYSICS PRIZE was presented to scientists from Hungary, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland "for discovering why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones".

00:28:19 CHEMISTRY PRIZE was given to Volkswagen, "for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested".

00:31:54 PEACE PRIZE was given to a team from Canada and the USA "for their scholarly study called 'On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit'".

00:38:25 MEDICINE PRIZE — five German scientists "for discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice versa)".

00:42:37 PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE went to scientists from Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and the USA "for asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers".

00:44:36 BIOLOGY PRIZE was awarded jointly to: Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.

00:51:42 LITERATURE PRIZE went to Fredrik Sjöberg, from Sweden, "for his three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead".

00:54:30 PERCEPTION PRIZE was picked up by Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

Direct download: SoT_0245.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33pm EDT

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Jo Benhamu.

00:01:00 The rattle of the rattlesnake's tail has long been something of a mystery for evolutionary biologists, because there's no 'half-shake'. Well a study by David Pfennig at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may suggest they started off shaking their silent tails, but over time developed a rattle as a signal to predators.

00:06:54 The long awaited results of a 10 year prostate cancer trial were published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study looked at 1,643 men diagnosed with early prostate cancer, and found that those who actively monitored their cancer instead of immediately starting treatment had the same minuscule risk of death as men who had either radiation therapy or surgery straight away.

00:21:05 Shu Lam, a 24 year old PhD student at Melbourne University has developed a star-shaped protein that can rip apart the walls of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – and kill them.


Jo Benhamu is a clinical trials coordinator in radiation oncology.


This episode may contain traces of Blue Origin's successful test of a crew escape module.

Direct download: SoT_0244.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:09am EDT

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

00:00:52 A new study has found that as well as affecting the tides, the gravitational pull from the moon and the sun can affect Earthquakes.

00:06:47 A genetic study of giraffes has found that there isn't just one species, as previously thought. In fact there are four distinct species, some as different as polar bears are to brown bears.

00:15:40 A video showing the evolution of bacteria to resist antibiotics has gone viral, because it is such a clear demonstration. It is unlikely to change the minds of evolution deniers, though.

00:20:54 The Gaia space telescope has released the first catalogue of more than a billion stars. This is the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.

00:33:34 Long-term studies of Ebola survivors have revealed that the virus lasts a lot longer in victims' bodies than previously suspected. And in some people, it can last for up to 18 months after all symptoms have cleared.


This episode may contain traces of Stephen Colbert talking about Giraffes.

Direct download: SoT_0243.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:06am EDT

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:00:37 The FDA has decreed that triclosan and triclocarban must be removed from all antibacterial soap products by late 2017. This is not because they're dangerous, but because they're ineffective.

00:07:38 The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has launched "perfectly". If successful, this ambitious mission will be the first time NASA has retrieved samples of an asteroid.

00:23:37 A new study of Lucy - the bones of a human ancestor from 3.2 million years ago - suggests she may have died from falling from a tree.

00:30:22 The Juno probe in orbit around Jupiter has taken some extraordinary photographs - the first ever photos of Jupiter's polar regions.


This episode may contain traces of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson describing a Tim Tam Slam.

Direct download: SoT_0242.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:02pm EDT

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


00:00:51 A genetic analysis of the leather coat and fur hat worn by Otzi the iceman has not only revealed what animals he was wearing, but also why.

00:07:07 Zebra finch mothers sing weather reports to their eggs, and the embryos alter the speed of their development accordingly.

00:12:16 Tasmanian devils, nearly wiped out by a devastating facial tumour disease, may be showing signs of resistance to the cancer. This could have a dramatic impact on conservation efforts.

00:20:07 Traces of supernova ash has been discovered in fossils created by bacteria on Earth, which could explain an extinction event 2 million years ago.

00:23:04 Russian scientists have detected an unusually strong spike in radio signals from the vicinity of a nearby star. The internet says it's aliens. Actual scientists say it probably isn't.

00:30:46 The "EM Drive" - a space drive that appears to break the laws of physics - has "passed peer review". But what does that actually mean, and does it mean the drive could be the engine of future spacecraft? Answers: Not much, probably not.


This episode contains traces of SETI astronomer Jill Tarter on Science channel's "Through the Wormhole", describing the first small steps in the search for alien intelligence.


Direct download: SoT_0241.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:35am EDT

00:00:38 A planet-that-in-some-respects-probably-resembles-Earth-a-little-bit has been found orbiting the closest star outside our solar system, Proxima Centauri. Astronomer and astrobiologist Dr. Jonti Horner gives us the details about our nearest distant neighbour, Proxima Centauri b.

00:45:33 Thanks to continental drift, Australia's moving Northward by 7cm every year. As a result, it's now more than a meter from where the maps say it is. And when your self-driving car relies on GPS, that could be a big problem.


Dr. Jonti Horner is an astronomer and astrobiologist based at the University of Southern Queensland. On Saturday, 24 September 2016 he will be giving a talk, "Exoplanets & Life Elsewhere", at the Melbourne Planetarium.


This episode may contain traces of Shepard Smith announcing the discovery of Proxima Centauri b.

Direct download: SoT_0240.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:09am EDT

00:00:42 106 Million years ago, supervolcanoes in Australia hurled rocks more than 2,250km away. Such eruptions would have been among the biggest ever on Earth.

00:03:47 These volcanoes are part of a previously unknown trail created by a hotspot underneath Australia, which formed new volcanoes as the continent moved over it.

00:10:49 The long-standing view that life first began in "primordial soup" that was struck by lightening may be about to be overturned. The theory that the first living cells were born deep in the ocean in warm, hydrothermal vents is now gaining traction.

00:18:17 The Europa Clipper is NASA's ambitious mission to send a probe to Jupiter's sixth-closest moon, Europa. Europa is one of the best candidates for life in the solar system, but the mission is now facing serious possible budget cuts.


This episode may contain traces of veteran newsreader Lee Lin Chin opining on the lack of Facebook love for Australia's premier scientific organisation, the CSIRO.

Direct download: SoT_0239.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EDT

00:00:50 Olympic athletes are using suction cups to suck their skin up into a cup. But is there any science to cupping? (Spoiler: not much, but some. Well, sort of.)

00:10:30 Promising animal trials suggest Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness could all be treated and possibly even cured, with one relatively safe drug.

00:13:53 An international team of scientists have discovered that the liquid found in the brood sacks of a particular type of cockroach is a highly nutritious source of protein. One day we might be feeding our babies cockroach milk!

00:18:26 Headlice are becoming resistant to the common insecticides we usually use. But a simple, 3,000 year old treatment could be the solution.


This episode may contain traces of Peter Alexander talking about cupping on NBC News.

Direct download: SoT_0238.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:50am EDT

00:00:53 Jupiter's moon Io, the fourth largest moon in the solar system, has a volcanic atmosphere that collapses every day.

00:09:07 A survey of fifty houses in North Carolina as found a correlation between household income and biodiversity. The wealthier the household, the greater the variety of insects found inside.

00:13:46 Data from the Dawn spacecraft reveals that Ceres, the largest asteroid in the main asteroid belt, is not the dead lump of rock we thought it would be. In fact, it may have a still warm radioactive interior.


This episode may contain traces of newly elected Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts and his thoughts on carbon dioxide.

Direct download: SoT_0237.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46am EDT