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

Ed, Shayne, Lucas and Dyani look back on the big science stories from 2013. From pubic lice to meteor impacts, crowd-funding to HIV cures, we revisit some of our favourite news items.

For all the stories we mention, check out the show notes for this episode at scienceontop.com/130

Direct download: SoT_0130.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:51pm AEDT

Dr. David Hawkes' Name The Virus crowdfunding project is a huge success - and it got him a spot on national TV. But is crowdfunding just a passing fad?

Comet ISON was billed as the "Comet of a Lifetime", but was more fizzle than sizzle. But even though it burned up in the sun, it's mysterious approach could give astronomers valuable insights into comet behaviour.

An amazing result from a mice experiment in Atlanta suggests mice can 'inherit' memories from their fathers, and even their grandfathers.

Researchers have successfully sequenced the oldest known human DNA - 400,000 years old - and uncovered further mystery about human ancestory.

The male contraceptive pill could be a step closer thanks to an unusual approach taken by Australian scientists. Instead of looking at hormonally controlling sperm production, they are looking at controlling the release of sperm at orgasm.

China has launched Chang'E 3, a probe with a rover set to land on the Moon. If successful, China will be the third country ever to land a craft on the moon.

Direct download: SoT_0129.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:26pm AEDT

Jo Benhamu joins us to talk about a new trial she's conducting to improve radiotherapy for prostate cancer.

More progress resurrecting the extinct gastric brooding frog.

Scientists in Spain have received funding to test whether an extinct mountain goat can be cloned from preserved cells.

The temperature of the lab could potentially skew results of mice-studies. The mouse immune system is stronger at warmer temperatures than most labs are kept at.

NASA has plans to send plants to the moon, to grow in a 3D printed miniature greenhouse.

We pay tribute to Frederick Sanger, a two-time Nobel Prize winner and the 'father of genomics'.

Direct download: SoT_0128.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 9:16pm AEDT

Launch of the MAVEN probe to Mars, to investigate what happened to the red planet's atmosphere.

Richard Lenski's long-term evolution experiment shows no sign of stopping. One of the longest continously-running scientific experiments demonstrates that bacteria evolves and at an increasing rate.

The 'clean-rooms' where spacecraft are built are  the most sterile places we can make. But a new species of bacteria has been found in two such clean-rooms - not exactly thriving, but not dead either...

It's well established that modern dogs are an evolutionary off-shoot of wolves, but there's a lot of debate about when and where they branched off. With theories suggesting China, Europe and the Middle East as being the sites of the separation, it's an ongoing question.

Direct download: SoT_0127.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:54pm AEDT

Blinky the crab is a mutant freak. It has three eyes instead of two, and an antenna-like structure on its head. But the reasons for Blinky's deformities are a bit of a mystery.

Researchers have linked specific human actions to changes in global warming. They found warming slowed down in the nineties, which they believe can be partly explained by the 1987 ban on CFCs. They also found that warming slowed during the Great Depression.

New-born babies deliberately suppress their own immune systems to allow beneficial microbes to colonise their gut.

Asteroids 'dead' rocks in space. But recent images have shown one to have tails - six of them!

A fossil of a 'coupling' 165m years ago shows two insects loving each other in a very special way. The fossil seems to indicate that the genitals of modern froghoppers are the same as their ancestors', but their favourite sexual position may have changed. 

Direct download: SoT_0126.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:38pm AEDT

The RAVE (Radial Velocity Experiment) study finds that our galaxy, the Milky Way, is fluttering like a flag. Sort of wobbling.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, adult elphants were culled extensively in South Africa. It was feared that if there were too many elephants they would destroy the habitat. A recent study of the young elephants that were spared shows substantial social and psychological trauma, decades later.

Astronomers have crunched some heavy maths and statistically, there could be as many as 20 billion Earth-like exoplanets in our galaxy.

A study of tail-wagging dogs finds that a dog's heart rate and anxiety levels increase when it sees another dog wagging its tail to the left

With India's successful launch of the Mangalyaan probe to Mars, some people are suggesting this could be the beginning of an India-China 'Asian space race'. Others are criticising the AU$77m project in light of India's widespread poverty.

Direct download: SoT_0125.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:54pm AEDT

Name The Virus is a crowdfunding initiative to develop new viral vectors to help understand the brain and its disease.

A species of South African dung beetle has given up the ability to fly to instead gallop across the sand grasping bits of poo.

Why do some people have blue eyes, or big noses, or wide mouths? Some regions of the genome previously thought of as 'junk DNA' control the activity of genes for facial features.

The practice of recording bird calls and replaying them to lure birds into view is frowned upon by many bird-watchers, but some people still do it. A new study shows that it can stress birds out and harm them.

The strains of human papillomavirus that most commonly affect black women are different from those targeted by the HPV vaccine.

Direct download: SoT_0124.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:14pm AEDT

A new study shows that while the brain is asleep, it washes away buildups of wastes and toxins.

In the early 90s, about 60,000 jellyfish were born in space. When they came back to Earth, things didn't quite work out.

A test of alleged yeti samples uncovers an extinct polar bear/brown bear hybrid.

A new law of biology: all mammals pee for about 21 seconds. Yes, a team of scientists walked around a zoo with a stopwatch.

A new strain of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that produces one of the deadliest neurotoxins we know of, has been discovered. Researchers have taken the unusual precaution of whithholding key details of the bacteria's genome.

Direct download: SoT_0123.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:58pm AEDT

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013 was awarded jointly to James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof ”for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells”.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 was awarded jointly to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider”.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 was awarded jointly to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel ”for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”.

A new study shows that even without training, elephants can understand pointing.

A protein found in the venom of the Chinese red headed centipede could be a total painkiller.

Direct download: SoT_0122.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:21pm AEDT

In rutting season, stags roar a lot. Deep roars - the deeper the better for warding off competition. And that could have something to do with the human larynx, which is lower than most other animals. It could also explain why Barry White's voice is so popular with women.

New research from the UK shows that diesel fumes are confusing bees and preventing them from finding flowers. But the fumes aren't affecting the bees directly, rather they change the smell of flowers.

A study of ballerinas suggests that with extensive training they change their brains to allow them to spin without being sick.

South Korean scientists have engineered bacteria that produce short-chain alkanes, key components of gasoline.

Direct download: SoT_0121.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:40pm AEDT