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

Some of our best science stories from 2014. Comet landings, Ebola outbreaks, retracted stem cell studies, faecal transplant capsules and more!

Climate Change and Australian science policy
Microbiology
Retracted STAP study
Comet landing
Viruses
Other
Direct download: SoT_0173.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:24pm AEDT

Rosetta has analysed the water found on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and found significant differences compared to water on Earth. This may weaken the theory that comets brought water to an early Earth.
One of the most common minerals on our planet finally has a name. We've known Brigmanite exists for a long time, but it was a surprising source that gave scientists the opportunity to study it up close.
The New Horizons spacecraft has just been successfully woken up, and is on track to giving us our first up-close look at Dwarf Planet Pluto next year.
And the Dawn space probe has just taken its first low quality photo of minor planet Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt. Dawn is expected to arrive at Ceres in early 2015.
Traditional forensic DNA tests can't tell the difference between identical twins, but a new test may change that. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for early next year to determine whether evidence from the test is admissible in US Courts.
A three-year-old child died and several young children fell ill in Victoria, Australia after drinking raw milk. We discuss why unpasteurised milk is legally sold in Australia as 'bath milk' and why some people choose to drink it.

Direct download: SoT_0172.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:04pm AEDT

Is HIV evolving in to a milder, less deadly virus? A new study suggests it's taking longer for HIV infections to cause AIDS and that this is the result of mutations in the virus.
NASA's test launch and flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle was a success. This was an important step in an ambitious plan to send astronauts to an asteroid and then perhaps send astronauts to Mars.
Biologists at Santa Fe College in Florida have found that our desire to drink alcohol, and our ability to break down the ethanol, dates back about 10 million years.
Blood plasma from Ebola survivors contains antibodies that might trigger an immune system response in patients, a bit like a vaccine. This week the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that early next year it plans to begin clinical trials in Guinea to test if such blood transfusions are effective.
Researchers from North Dakota State University have used Fructose to make a new type of plastic that breaks down completely after just three hours of UV light exposure. It can then be fully recycled.

Direct download: SoT_0171.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:37pm AEDT

Professor Rob Morrison and Dr Deane Hutton are Australian science communication heroes. Together they hosted the children's science TV show Curiosity Show, which ran for 18 consecutive years from 1972 to 1990. Ed and Lucas caught up with them at TEDxCanberra to talk about the show and its recent new episode, what they've done since then, and their views on science communication and education.

 

Rob mentions Duck Quacks Don't Echo (UK) as an example of good current science television.

Direct download: SoT_Special_015_-_Curiosity_Show.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:51am AEDT

More details on Philae's rough landings, and the future of the first probe to land on a cometProfessor Monica Grady's reaction to the landing, the sound of the landing, and the comet 'sings'.
When a pair of scientists found their experiment contaminated from the DNA Isolation kits they were using, they set out to see if other experiments were similarly contaminated.
Researchers at Australia's James Cook University have discovered tiny zircon crystals on Vanuatu. But surprisingly, they seem to have originally come from Australia.
Scientists have descended into one of the three mysterious craters that have formed this year in Siberia, onto a frozen lake. The most likely explanation for the craters is a "catastrophic destabilization of Arctic methane stores due to human-caused warming".

Direct download: SoT_0170.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:07pm AEDT

Shayne and Ed are joined by Dr. George Aranda, curator of the Science Book A Day blog and co-host of the Big Ideas Book Club in Melbourne. George is running a Pozible crowdfunding campaign to investigate the use of 3D Printers in school education.
Scientists from University of Bern in Switzerland have developed a new approach to the treatment of severe bacterial infections without the use of antibiotics.
The prestigious Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books has been awarded to Mark Miodownik, author of Stuff Matters. The book is an enthralling account of Mark's love of material science, and the extraordinary properties of the materials in our everyday lives.
Cornell University’s Ruth Ley and her colleagues have identified one bacterial taxon, the family Christensenellaceae, as the most highly heritable group of microbes in the human gut.
And for the first time ever, humans have landed a probe on a comet moving at 50,000kph.

Direct download: SoT_0169.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:04pm AEDT

A team of bioengineers is trying to make artificial milk in a lab and without animals. They call it "Muufri".
In order to study penguins up close, without disturbing them, researchers from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique used small baby-penguin sized rovers. The rover - cleverly disguised as a penguin - was able to monitor penguins and even quick-tempered elephant seals without alarming the animals.
A man who had brain surgery for a serious medical condition unexpectedly found his arachnophobia cured.
It was a bad week for commercial spaceflight, after Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket exploded seconds after launch and then Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo broke apart during a test flight.

Direct download: SoT_0168.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:20am AEDT

Virologist Dr. Grant Hill-Cawthorne joins us to discuss Ebola. Everything you need to know about the current outbreak.
Researchers in Florida have noticed than in just fifteen years a particular species of lizard has grown larger, stickier feet as an evolutionary response to an invading Cuban lizard.
In the lead up to the attempted landing of Philae on a comet in a few weeks, the Rosetta probe has taken some readings. And now we know what a comet smells like, and it's not pretty.
A man with a completely severed spinal cord can now walk again, thanks to a revolutionary surgery using stem cells taken from his nose.

Direct download: SoT_0167.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33pm AEDT

Defence giant Lockheed Martin has announced it wants to build a truck-sized nuclear fusion power-plant in the next ten years. They just don't appear to have a plan.
The microbes in our guts have their own body clocks, and they too get messed up when we get jetlagged.
The giant kangaroos that used to roam the Australian continent were three times the size of their modern descendants. And new research shows they used to walk, rather than hop.
NASA's Messenger spacecraft has provided the first optical images of ice on the planet Mercury.
Mimas, one of the smaller moons of Saturn, may have an ocean of liquid water beneath its surface, after pictures taken by Cassini show an extra wobble in its rotation.

Direct download: SoT_0166-01.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:55pm AEDT

More artifacts have been recovered from the Antikythera wreck, the 1st century BC shipwreck discovered in 1900 off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera. None of the newly found artifacts, however, appear to be related to the mysterious Antikythera Mechanism, widely known as the first analog computer.

It had long been thought that volcanic activity on the moon stopped around a billion years ago. Now high-resolution images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) suggest there was activity as geologically recently as 50 million years ago.

The next stage in fecal transplants could be a simple oral pill. Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital have managed to put frozen fecal matter into capsules that can be taken orally. These capsules have a similar 90% success rate against Clostridium difficile infection.

In order to study energy trade-offs in voles, scientists had to shave 120 rodents before re-releasing the furry mammals back into the wild. And then they had to recapture them!

There's a symbiotic relationship that's developed over millions of years between brewer's yeast and fruit flies. Understanding this relationship could give brewers more techniques for making distinctive beers.

Direct download: SoT_0165.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39am AEDT