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

Our top stories of the year.

Good science:

Eighty children get chickenpox at Brunswick North West Primary, a school that calls for 'tolerance' of vaccine dodgers

The Vaccine Lunacy - Disneyland, Measles and Madness

NASA is now "pretty sure" those weird white patches on Ceres are salt

Earth Stole Water and More from the Young Moon

New Horizons: Pluto may have ice volcanoes

Stem cell treatment halts MS progression in 91% of patients

A Vomiting Machine Shows How Viruses Spread in Puke

Children exposed to 4 key bacteria are less likely to develop asthma, study finds

Viruses join fight against harmful bacteria

Bad science:

No woman 'totally straight', study says

No need for men to get flush-faced about faeces in beards

So processed meat has been classified as carcinogenic. Here’s what you need to know.

Flawed study overstates link between fluoride and ill health: experts

Direct download: SoT_0211.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:54pm AEDT

Fast Radio Bursts are sudden, very short but very intense blasts of radio waves that have so far defied explanation. But now the most detailed study so far has provided some clues to the origins of FRBs - they MIGHT come from starquakes. Probably not aliens.

While bees are certainly the most efficient pollinators, a new study suggests that other insects - like flies, wasps, beetles and butterflies - are just as important for the success of the world's crops. It's like having a backup plan for bees.

There are around 900 species of tarantula, and most of them are the usual black or brown colour. But there's more than a few of them have vibrant blue colourings - and we don't really know why.

An international team of scientists has found that the development of agriculture in Europe - around 8,500 years ago - signalled the start of some significant changes in the DNA of modern humans. There were changes in height, digestion, immune system and skin colour and a host of other evolutionary steps.

Direct download: SoT_0210.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:47pm AEDT

Chinese scientists have found bacteria that are resistant to one the 'last resort' antibiotics. The gene for this resistance has been found in 15 percent of meat samples and can spread to other bacteria very easily.

Biologists at Tufts University have induced flatworms to grow the heads and brains of other flatworm species, without altering the worm's genome.

Researchers have sequenced the genome of the tardigrade, or 'water bear'. This tiny but nearly indestructible creature has the most foreign genes of any animal studied so far - roughly one sixth of it's genome comes from other species.

Direct download: SoT_0209.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:34am AEDT

For the first time, neurosurgeons at in Canada claim to have found a way to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to the brain, crossing the famed blood brain barrier.

Women infected with hookworms seem to have decreased fertility, while women with roundworms seem to be more fertile. Because parasitic worms are weird.

There's some growing evidence that suggest repeated vaccination against different flu strains might diminish the flu vaccine’s effectiveness. You should still get the shot, though.

Compass is a clinical trial comparing 2.5 -yearly Pap test screening with 5- yearly Human Papillomavirus (HPV) screening. It is the first large scale clinical trial internationally to assess these screening tests in an HPV vaccinated population

Direct download: SoT_0208.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:57pm AEDT

A study of 345 women by The University of Essex concludes that no woman is"totally straight". Well, it's a bit more complicated than that.

In Australia, forty volunteers are about to have hookworms injected into their bodies to see if a radical treatment can alleviate some of the symptoms of coeliac disease.

Two possible ice volcanoes have been identified on the surface of Pluto thanks to New Horizons' study of the minor dwarf planet. Instead of molten rock, these volcanoes would eject slushies of water ice and nitrogen, ammonia or methane.

Scientists may have solved a long-standing mystery about moon rocks, and why they have a lot less volatile elements like potassium, sodium, and zinc than rocks on the Earth.

Dr. Cassandra Perryman is a psychologist at University of Queensland, and you can follow her on Facebook here.

Direct download: SoT_0207.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:05am AEDT

The first case of a human falling ill from cancer cells contracted from a parasitic tapeworm has been reported in Columbia.

And in an unrelated story, a Californian man has had a live tapeworm removed from his brain in a potentially life-saving operation.

The Rosetta probe orbiting 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has surprised everyone by detecting large amounts of molecular oxygen on the comet. The finding suggests molecular oxygen was present when the comet was formed soon after the birth of the solar system, 4.6 billion years ago.

Stanford University researchers have discovered how jellyfish actually swim – and it's not how previously thought. They make a region of low pressure ahead of themselves, essentially sucking themselves forward. Lucas mentions Smarter Every Day's video of a balloon in a car.

Direct download: SoT_0206.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:41pm AEDT

The World Health Organisation has officially classified processed meat as "carcinogenic", and red meat as "probably carcinogenic". However, this doesn't really tell you anything about the level of risk associated with meat. You're probably fine.

Electric eels can deliver a strong shock, but they can deliver twice the shock by curling around and trapping their victim between head and tail.

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved an impressive new kind of treatment to help combat skin cancer: herpes. That's right, herpes.

 

Direct download: SoT_0205.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33pm AEDT

Researchers have found neurons in nematode worms that help them learn when to prioritise mating over eating. This does not necessarily have anything to do with humans.

A large team of scientists have published a paper about a strange star, KIC 8462852, which has an unusual pattern of dimming and brightening. One possible - though remote - explanation they have proposed is a Dyson's sphere.

Thanks again to some zircon cyrstals, researchers may have found evidence of ancient microorganisms that lived at least 4.1 billion years ago. If confirmed, the discovery suggests that life originated on Earth 300 million years earlier than previously thought.

Direct download: SoT_0204.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50pm AEDT

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015 was awarded jointly to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar "for mechanistic studies of DNA repair".

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 was awarded jointly to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald "for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass".

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 was awarded with one half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi ?mura for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites and the other half to Youyou Tu for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.

Scientists diving near the Solomon Islands have discovered the first biofluorescent reptile ever recorded.

Biological engineers at MIT have developed a new mix-and-match system to genetically engineer viruses that target specific bacteria. This use of bacteriophages could be an important weapon in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Advanced multi-layer CT scanning technology has enabled researchers to examine the remains of people found at Pompeii, and led to some surprising discoveries about their health and how they died.

Strange bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres had mystified astronomers since they were first seen earlier this year. But new spectroscopy studies suggest they are probably salt deposits, not ice as previously speculated.

 

Note: We had lots of technical difficulties with this episode. Most of Mick's contributions needed to be re-recorded separately, and there was a slight hum at times. We've done the best we could, but the audio might be a little dodgy in parts. It's not particularly noticeable, and doesn't really affect the experience. Please forgive us!

Direct download: SoT_0203.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50pm AEDT

Dark streaks seen on the surface of Mars are likely to be periodic flows of liquid water – something previously though almost impossible.

The tongues of the long-tongued bumblebees in Colorado are shorter than archived long-tongued bumblebees from forty years ago. This appears to be an adaptation to climate change and while it's good news for the bees, it could be bad news for the flowers they feed on.

Four kinds of gut bacteria have been found to havea strong preventative link to asthma. But there's a catch - it's only significant in the first three months after birth.

We're fairly certain that a massive asteroid collision with Earth wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But another theory suggests extensive volcanic action was already doing that, and maybe the asteroid just helped things along.

Helen and Lucas have been to see the blockbuster film The Martian, and they liked it!

Direct download: SoT_0202.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:22am AEDT